Anju Pant is the Head of Human Resources Development in Bank of Kathmandu who has more than 2 decades of banking experiences with training exposures from national and international esteemed institutions.
Ms Pant has done her MBA from Tribhuvan University. Right after her completion of her MBA she had joined a commercial bank i.e. Lumbini Bank Limited in 1998. Lumbini Bank was later merged with the Bank of Kathmandu in 2016. Along with being a banker, she is a motivator, mentor and trainer for those youngsters who aspire to pursue a banking career in Nepal. She voluntarily shares her experiences through various Banking Training Institutions and Business Colleges in Nepal for young scholars.
Being the Head of HR she marks a quote that “Most people chase success at work, thinking that will make them happy. The truth is that happiness at work will make you successful.” She further adds that the organization is also a family and happiness at work also makes it successful. And as someone who has worked in handling business aspects of the bank, being in the HR department for four years, managing the staff and handling their grievances, Ms Pant is content with her job which if equated to monetary values says it's worth crores.
1. How would you like to introduce yourself personally and professionally?
I would like to introduce myself as a normal Nepalese woman, a proud mother of a daughter, a wife and so many relations bound with me in the family where I obtain real happiness. Professionally speaking, I have been in the banking career for the last 22 years. I would like to think of myself as dedicated successful banking professional.
2. How did you start your professional journey? Were you clear that you wanted to become a banker from the very beginning?
I wasn’t clear about what I wanted to pursue as a career in my schooling years. I had thoughts about studying science and becoming a doctor. I completed my ISC and after not having many opportunities, I switched to studying business. Then I completed my BCom and MBA. I got married while I was doing my BCom and I completed my MBA post marriage. Being a business student my interest eventually started growing towards banking. From my family, my brother in law was in a reputed position in Nepal Bank. So I was also inspired by him to pick banking as my career choice and I took some banking courses. Speaking of my family, they have been supportive of my career since the very beginning. Then I applied to Standard Chartered Bank and unfortunately did not get selected. I had taken some computer training and joined as a computer science teacher for high school level. I worked as a teacher for four years over there. The computers weren’t as advanced as they are now. I learned some programming and had the feeling that I might opt technical field as a career path as well. Afterwards, in 1998 I applied to Lumbini Bank. I worked in the regional-based bank in Narayanghat for four years. I started my banking career as an assistant and now here I am working as a Head of HR Development for Bank of Kathmandu 22 years later. This sums up my professional journey.
3. We came to know that you were previously in one of the leading B Class Banks in Nepal. You are leading the HR of an A-Class Commercial Bank today. What differences did you find for A and B Class commercial banks?
The Bank you are asking about would be Lumbini Bank which was always A-Class Bank. So there would be no differences in transitioning since all the banks I have worked for previously and I am working in currently are A-Class commercial banks.
4. How do you focus on addressing your work-life balance? Do you think maintaining the balance between one’s work and family is more challenging especially for women?
Yes, it is a very challenging thing to balance one’s professional and personal life. It’s also a matter of choice. I have been able to balance it for twenty-two years now which was also possible because of my dedication and the support of my family. I share my experiences with my associates to inspire them to achieve work-life balance. Since I am interested in sports too, I take some time off my schedules to engage in some sports activities. I enjoy listening to music as well. I prioritise things based on their importance. I encourage my staff to take leaves that they deserve to pursue their hobbies and spend time with their family. Things are changing now. In the present context, we can see both husband and wife going to work and their kids being understanding of the working culture. Compared to how things used to be, more people have achieved work-life balance now. Work-life balance won't be an issue if you have a supportive partner and plan. So attaining a work-life balance largely depends on your partner and your family as well.
5. As a country rich in diversity, how do you focus on managing the diversity of the employees in your organization?
At the time of hiring, we hire candidates based on their potential and competency so that they are flexible irrespective of the background they come from. It is better to focus on the fundamentals so that inclusivity comes along with it. Our working culture is that we work in teams so we don't have much problem focusing on managing the diversity in the organization. We have 90 branches from eastern to western Nepal. And it can be difficult to shift and adjust for people from a branch in the far east to another branch in the far west. But candidates are also required to be flexible. We also have the motto of the right person at right time. The productivity of the branch also comes into question while recruiting new staffs. We try to hire diverse staffs and assemble a team to work in achieving the goals. There are places in Nepal with no proper road accessibility where banks still operate and have hired women staff who have proved their flexibility as well.
6. As we can see more women professionals climbing the rank at banks and financial institutions around the world, do you think there’s still a lack of representation of women in a senior position in Nepal?
Everybody wants to see themselves climb higher rank in the banking profession and people should also have that ambition to move up the ladder of success. People should keep trying and not let failures discourage them. I credit my dedication and managing capability for being able to maintain a career for over two decades. Despite having ups and downs, I consider my career a success. And I am hopeful that I will be climbing the rank as well because of my hard work but I will also be okay in case the senior position doesn’t come to me. I think younger generations can take inspirations from my generations who have established themselves even with limited opportunities and education. If we look at the current scenario, we have 46% female representation in our bank. We have been seeing more than 60% female participation in each recruitment time. Out of the 46% female staffs, we have some who have the potential to climb ranks in days to come as well. I feel blessed as someone who had the opportunity to pursue a career even after getting married because many women still do not have what I had. Parents are more progressive now which a good thing. We have more women in senior positions now compared to the old times and eventually, there will be even more in the future.
7. Having had experience in the Training & Development sector, how do you make sure that your employees are well-trained to improve their performance and develop the necessary skills required to stay competitive in the market?
One thing is that learning is a continuous process. While hiring, we hire staffs based on merit and competency. We also do provide technical knowledge to them regarding the banking sector. Before training our staff we do the training need assessment which is done by the supervisors or staffs themselves. We analyse where they lack the required knowledge and where they have advantages too. After that, we prepare a training calendar. We plan on schedules and what sorts of training to provide the staff. But technical skills are not enough in banking jobs because everyone has to work under the policies formed by Rastra Bank. it is important to make sure the training focuses on making the employees aware of the policies as well. Now we can train our staffs in the remote parts of our country virtually. We are hopeful that the training will help our staff increase their productivity and set their career path. We have been conducting various types of training currently such as stress management and leadership training etc.
8. Working in the industry of Banking and Finance in Nepal, how do you make sure that the recruitment and selection process is free from unconscious biases, favouritism and nepotism which seems to be highly prevalent in our society?
Unconscious biases, favouritism and nepotism were prevalent and are still prevailing in Banking and Finance sectors in Nepal. We are no strangers to that. Having said that, I don’t think it does the trick as it used to because banking jobs are merit and performance-based jobs. We have a recruitment committee and recruitment policies. Along with that, there are multiple interviews that candidates need to go through to get selected. I don't think nepotism plays into recruiting candidates now even when we outsource them from a third party.
9. As per the regulation of Nepal Rastra Bank, banks in Nepal are still operating during the COVID pandemic. During such a dreadful situation of continuous rise in active COVID cases, how are you focusing on maintaining optimum health and safety of your employees meanwhile not compromise the productivity of the employees?
During the first wave, we were in a little bit of a pickle and didn't have strong contingency plans since the pandemic was very new to all of us. We had to continue providing services to customers and clients at any cost being essential service providers. The other responsibility we have had is boosting the morale of employees. We prepared a covid operation manual as part of our contingency plan which entailed the protocols for staffs and everyone associated with the bank and so on. Moreover, it consisted of plans for treatment of covid infected employees, isolation plans and more. We also came up with a plan to have alternate staffs ready to go in case one party gets infected so that there is no interruption occurs in our jobs. Likewise, we split locations to lower the risk.
Similarly, we created a working environment for people who had travelling issues at the nearest branch. We also provided incentives to staffs ranging from assistant to senior managers last year. Because of all this, we had continuous workflow in our banks. During the second wave, we adopted the same plans since we were given warnings. We have managed hospital beds and oxygen in case it is needed for our staffs but thankfully we have been able to stay safe so far. We have made our staffs aware that we are here for them no matter what kind of circumstances may arise. The HR department will check in regularly with our covid infected staff and supply them with required things such as food, medicines and so on. On top of that, we have been doing motivational and stress management sessions. We are in touch with medical professionals as well.
10. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in banking? Also, could you give them some insights on how to land their ideal banking job?
Banking is a really good career option for students who are studying management and business studies right now. Apart from academic knowledge, you need to have integrity, honesty and patience to apply for banking jobs. Some people think of banking jobs as monotonous looking from the outside but it is not that. So after you have completed your masters and developed a mindset then you can pursue a career in banking. In financial institutions, transactions are happening constantly so you need to be someone who can maintain high integrity to land your ideal banking job. The nature of the job demands dedicated candidates so interested students should keep that in mind as well. Make sure you follow the economic-related news and have a learning habit. There are a lot of rules that you need to abide by once you start working so the learning never stops even for bankers. Hence if work on the aforementioned things then you can become a successful banking professional, your future and retirement life will also be secured.