Hassan Asghar Finds Success in the Challenges

As Bremer Bank’s SVP and CISO, Hassan Asghar makes sure he and his team are always ready for the next challenge that may come their way

When Hassan Asghar joined Bremer Bank in 2017, he was assigned the task of building a security program from the ground up and contributing to the leadership team. While he has made great progress in his nearly four years there, Asghar says the work he and his team do is never done.

Hassan Aghar Bremer Bank
Hassan Aghar, Bremer BankPhoto by Ragnhild Hjeltnes

“I can never feel at ease,” he states. “We’re still constantly learning and evolving, and 2020 has been a weird year with more remote work because of COVID.”

These challenging times have seen Asghar and his team do some of their finest work.

“Even during the pandemic, we didn’t see any disruptions or significant impacts on our environment. Being able to get that all done while keeping everything secure, while also progressing with our digital transformation efforts that we’re working on was, I thought, really impressive,” Asghar explains.

That success is a testament to Asghar’s leadership and his staff.

“You can’t be successful without a strong team, so having all the right people, including the ones we onboarded from outside, was important,” he notes. “And then there’s partnering with our IT counterparts, with our risk management, operations, communications, and others so that everybody gets what we’re trying to do and we’re all on the same page.”

He adds that the diversity within his team is vital to its success. His group, which is almost evenly split between men and women, includes people who come from different nations, speak various languages, and bring a variety of skill sets to the table.

“It’s a team of people from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of experiences, from really seasoned security professionals to interns who converted to full-time employees,” Asghar states. “I strongly believe in getting different perspectives, and we make sure that everybody is heard.”

Asghar was born in Pakistan and came to the United States on a student visa, graduating from Luther College in 2005. He began his career at Deloitte and worked in the IT risk and audit space, where he developed an interest in technology implementation and cybersecurity. Then he worked for MoneyGram, where he learned about IT audits and became the IT audit manager while also consulting the security team.

“It’s a team of people from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of experiences . . . I believe in getting different perspectives, and we make sure that everybody is heard.”

That led to his job at Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group, where he oversaw IT risk and the compliance function. He was extremely happy with the opportunity and the team he built at the company, and he was nominated to and successfully completed UnitedHealth Group’s Executive Development Program.

“It was a really, really good experience, just a great company and a very well-run organization,” Asghar says. “I didn’t think I was going to leave. Then the opportunity at Bremer was presented, and after meeting the Bremer executive team and learning more about Bremer’s purpose, values, and involvement in the community, I finally decided to make the move.”

Throughout his career, Asghar has developed an effective approach to leadership that is focused largely on streamlining processes and being customer centric.

“Number one, I would say I love to make things simple; I don’t want to overcomplicate things,” he confirms. “Any time we can simplify, that is something I cater towards. I always care about whoever at the end of our day is our customer. If our customer is an internal partner or an external partner, we want to make sure that we are doing what it takes to meet their needs.”

He also relies on his team and encourages them to continue growing and learning.

“These folks are extremely smart,” Asghar states. “I want them to stay curious. I want the teams to not just listen to what others have to say and say ‘yes’ if they don’t believe it. I want to hear their perspectives and use that as a tool to better meet our business and customer needs. This industry is always changing, and we can never be static, so we have to make sure that we’re adaptive and agile.”

That approach has made Asghar and his staff ready for any challenge that comes their way.

An Immigration Journey

When Hassan Asghar came to America from Karachi, Pakistan, he had about $120 in his pocket.

“I came here on a student visa,” he remembers. “My first semester, there was a tuition fee of about $6,000 which I brought as a cashier’s check, but the rest was something I had to figure out.”

He managed to pay for school through loans and multiple jobs, and after graduating, he started working at Deloitte, which sponsored his H-1 visa application. After being on an H-1 visa and continuous progression in his career, his next employer, MoneyGram International, sponsored his green card. After eighteen years of being on multiple visas and a green card, he became a US citizen in January 2019.

“I’m grateful for having the opportunity,” Asghar explains. “I feel I was lucky to be in a good position and have good support. My parents and family, colleagues, mentors, friends, always encouraged me, and I never lost sight of my goals and my desire to continue to get better.”

RSA Security would like to congratulate Hassan on his recognition as a leading CISO in the financial services industry, and for his trust and partnership with RSA Archer. We are excited to help you get to the next level of security.