Suku Radia (’74 accounting) is one of Des Moines’ most prominent business leaders, having served a decade as CEO of Bankers Trust, Iowa’s largest independently owned bank with assets exceeding $4 billion. Previously, he was chief financial officer of media giant Meredith Corporation and managing partner of KPMG, both based in Des Moines. He retired in 2017.
Radia’s success began more than 40 years ago as an international student at Iowa State who was unable to return home.
“I came to ISU in 1971 and commenced classes two days later,” he recalled. “I was the fourth generation of Indian descent born and raised in Uganda but after only a year in Ames, dictator Idi Amin evicted my family, along with the rest of the Indians. They received refugee status in the United Kingdom where they still reside.
“I was broke and became a man without a country. I graduated top of my class in eight quarters and had $4.87 to my name when I started working at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. I qualified as a CPA.”
Radia’s many awards since those days include the Des Moines University’s Glanton Scholarship Award (2011), United Way’s Tocqueville Society Award (2005), Mr. Habitat for Humanity (2006), American Diabetes Association Honoree (2008), Iowa Council for International Understanding-Passport to Prosperity Award (2009), Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2009) and the Immigrant Spirit Award (2015).
In 2010, he was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame and was also named the OneIowa Business Leader of the Year. He has been convocation speaker at Iowa State University (2000), Drake University (2008) and Simpson College (2012), and has chaired 18 nonprofit boards.
The Des Moines Business Record named him Most Influential Business Leader six consecutive years and Best CEO three consecutive years.
Radia also is a long-time supporter of ISU and the Ivy College of Business. He is the past recipient of the ISU Alumni Merit Award (2012) and the Ivy College of Business Citation of Achievement Award (1995). He serves on the ISU Foundation Board of Governors and is a member of the Ivy College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council.
“My advice is simple: Take care of family first and strike a balance between your career and your civic life. There are no shortcuts and become a life-long learner.”
He lives in West Des Moines with his wife, Dr. Mary Radia, a rheumatologist. They have a son and two daughters.