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Aptitude and attitude: The 2A’s of banking

Anil Keshary Shah started his banking career in 1991 as an assistant in the then Grindlays Bank (currently Standard Chartered Bank). After dedicating 13 years at Standard Chartered, he left the bank at the peak of his career as the chief operating officer and joined Nabil Bank as its general manager and eventually went on to become the CEO. In 2009, he moved to Mega Bank during its inception as the CEO. In February 2018, Shah came back to Nabil to embrace the same designation.

In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Shah talks about what it takes to become a better leader and how to deal with criticisms constructively. He also shares his strategies on motivating employees to work better. Excerpts:

You have been a part of the banking sector for 27 years now, what kind of leadership skills must a leader acquire to run a large organisation?
As you step up the ladder in this sector, one needs to understand that technical skills can be formed as a foundation but eventually you need to work on your people skills. This is only more important in the corporate pyramid of success. When you become a CEO, 95 percent of the skills you need are people’s skills. You need to identify the strengths and core competencies of people, how to place people in jobs that require those core competencies, how to motivate teams towards the vision and mission of the organisation and how to make a 1,000 people work towards the same goal. The more you develop people skills along with your technical skills the higher you rise. Therefore, I tell everybody it’s not only the aptitude, but also the attitude that counts.

What sort of strategies do you apply when motivating your employees?
Many people try to generalise motivation. Not everyone is motivated in the same manner. Every individual is different. If I like my tea with four spoons of sugar, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world will like it the same way. We can identify motivation in that manner too. What motivates me may not motivate somebody else. You have to make the time and effort to find out what makes a person tick. For some people it is money, for others it’s position, for some it’s independence and for others clear direction. Whether you are leading three people, 30 people or 300 people, you need to understand what it is that makes your employees tick. Second, you mustn’t assume that everyone will have the same strength and competencies. Everyone is different. You need to find the core competency and put them in a job where they  can shine; then motivation just follows. So, as I said, it’s the people skills that matters.

As a CEO of a large organisation like Nabil, it is next to impossible to micro-manage everything. How do you ensure that there is uniformity among your employees?
In most of the institutions I find that they are quite individual-centric; however, that is not how a bank or any leading organisation should work. A bank works under a rigorous system. If there is no system, it will always be difficult to maintain uniformity. We have a performance contract where roles and responsibilities for each and every employee are well defined. Everything is well monitored here. It’s the system that drives the organisation, not the leader.

How can institutions maintain their brand image over the years?
The brand image is built or depleted by each and every member of the organisation; all are responsible towards maintaining the brand image. In a service industry like ours, building a brand image is a continual process.

In the banking sector, offering impeccable customer service is a must. What sorts of trainings are provided to employees at your organisation to ensure they become better at providing great service?
At Nabil, we are relentlessly trying to improve our services. We are never satisfied because providing better services is also a continual process. However, we focus on two factors: aptitude and attitude. The person at front should be technically sound and for that we offer soft skill trainings and team building exercises. As a CEO, I hardly get to meet customers; my job is to delight the team. If someone like me in a senior position delights them, then the chain works effectively, they can move to delighting the customers more efficiently.

Having worked in this sector for decades, how do you handle criticism and how can you become a better mentor to the team?
When somebody is criticising me or my organisation, I use it as an opportunity to work on my shortcomings. You need to take constructive criticism positively and put the ego aside and reflect upon it. In our country, everybody wants to give and hear good news, one needs to learn to listen to bad news too.  In my career, I have learnt more from bad leaders than the good ones. They teach you what not to do.

What advice do you have for the youth wanting to join the banking sector?
You need to set realistic goals, there are no shortcuts. Hard work is mandatory; you need to put in your sweat and blood. Don’t have excuses for your failures because there are Nepalis excelling globally too. You need to consistently work hard. Hard work is the ultimate key to success.

Published: 2018-07-09 09:04:31