These days, any banker worth his salt will be able to show off a battle scar or two sustained during the 2008 economic crisis.

More senior bankers might be able to recall tales of past economic booms and busts, perhaps dish out stories of the 2000 dot.com crash, the 1997 Asian financial crisis or Black Monday in 1987.

But how many can say, like Citi Private Bank global chairman Deepak Sharma, that they helped prevent a bank run in the thick of a war?

In 1990, as Iraqi tanks began rolling into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia's banking sector was in a "total panic", he recalls. When news broke in the middle of the night that war had begun, the Citi team had a meeting at 3am to discuss what they would do the following day.

"I said to my staff that tomorrow we're going to have people coming in and wanting to exchange Saudi riyals to US dollars. What do we do?"

The bank's vault had enough US dollars to last a day or two at most. Airports were closed and there was no way of airlifting cash into the country.

His staff suggested rationing the amount of cash each customer could withdraw or raising the conversion rate so that it would be costlier for people to buy dollars - and Citi would make more money in the process.

Indeed, these were what most other banks in the country did. But Mr Sharma, who turns 60 in April, went in a different direction.

"I thought to myself, this is a matter of psychology. People are just scared. Even if I rationed the cash, it is a question of whether it would last for one day or three days, so it didn't make much of a difference," he recounts.

"So we said, behind every teller, stack up the dollars to the top so that when anybody walks in, they can see them. Don't change the rate and don't place a quota."

Nerve-racking though it was, his bold move paid off handsomely. "The next day, for the first few hours, I saw the cash going out like nobody's business. It was scary. But by evening, people were withdrawing money from other banks and putting it with us."

In fact, Citi Saudi Arabia came out of the Gulf War stronger than ever, with a huge increase in deposits, Mr Sharma says.

As he nears the end of a 38-year career with Citi, Mr Sharma justifiably counts this experience as one of the highlights of his time with the bank.

And certainly, he has had many memorable experiences. Mr Sharma, who recently announced his retirement, has served in six countries for Citi since joining the bank in India at 22.

He has held management positions in various units of the banking giant, from operations and technology to investment management, before eventually being named global chairman of the private bank in 2009.

His bosses saw potential in him early on. Just a year after joining the bank, in 1977, he was sent to South Korea to run the treasury there.

"I had no experience in banking, leave aside treasury, as my background was in nuclear chemistry. And I had never known where Korea was on the map," he quips.

"That is one of the things which I cherish most about Citi; it stretches its talent. It allows one to grow."

Despite the fierce competition for top talent across many industries today, Mr Sharma says some companies now tend to shy away from such risk-taking, which could in fact help them win and retain talent.

"Today people would ask, does he have any treasury experience? Does he know Korea very well? Does he understand all the rules and regulations? There'll be 25 different checklists administered by six different people.

"I think organisations need to be able to take risks on talent, give them stretch assignments, then mentor and develop them. They should not be afraid that such talent may make mistakes. Close and effective supervision is key here and that's how we develop people."

And so he is immensely proud of the talent with whom he has worked along the way, such as DBS' head of wealth management, Ms Tan Su Shan, who was previously at Citi. Ms Tan took over from Mr Sharma at the end of last year as co-chair of the Private Banking Industry Group.

"Here we have a hugely talented person who is taking higher and higher responsibility. To me that was a sense of achievement," Mr Sharma says.

Even as he retires - his last day on the job is April 30 - Mr Sharma plans to stay involved in the private banking industry.

In fact, he is still brimming with ideas about what the industry needs to do to keep pace with clients' changing needs and an evolving regulatory environment.

After all, he believes the sector is on the brink of a major growth spurt, as greater economic liberalisation and financial deregulation, such as the gradual easing of foreign exchange controls in China and India, will open up opportunities like never before.

But with some extra free time on his hands, he will also be able to spend more energy on Indiapore Trust, a foundation he co-created with his wife, prominent surgeon Susan Lim, which funds children's education across Asia.

For several years, Dr Lim was in the media spotlight as she battled accusations that she had overcharged a patient, a member of the Brunei royal family. She was found guilty of overcharging by a disciplinary committee of the Singapore Medical Council, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Sharma says he still believes the court made the wrong decision and he would have appealed the decision on the grounds that the judgment was wrong in law and wrong on evidence, if he could have. "But unfortunately, there is no provision in law for me to do so and therefore, even though I do not agree with the judgment, I accept it."

Dr Lim, who is known for performing the first successful liver transplant in Asia in 1990, and who has been involved in stem cell research, is his biggest source of inspiration and continues to be so, he adds.

"What she has accomplished, what she has done for her patients, for Singapore, and her commitment and self-discipline, it is just unbelievable."

And though he cannot claim to have saved many lives as his wife has, Mr Sharma says he hopes he too has left a mark on the lives he has crossed paths with while at Citi.

"I would like people to remember that I dealt with them with humility, that I was able to contribute to their personal and professional goals and aspirations."