Narayan Prasad Khatiwada is the HR Head of Sanima Bank Limited who have had various training exposures and experiences of working with different universities and banks in Nepal during the course of his career that spans over a decade.
Mr Khatiwada completed his MBA from Shankardev Campus in 2057 BS as one of the top ten in the country and Mphil from Kathmandu University in 2017 AD securing the first position in Finance. He worked as a lecturer in Kist College and Universal College for two and three years respectively. He also possesses the experiences of working as Dy. Manager at Nepal Bank for five years and Senior Officer at Global Bank for two years. He is currently involved as a senior manager at Sanima Bank and is also the main trainer of credit facilities there.
As a person with so many credentials earned as a coordinator and partaking in numerous training, Mr Khatiwada is still as honest and humble and has not let his success shake his integrity. He always manages to prioritise his work and staff. Coming from a small village with dreams of making it big in Kathmandu City, he has proved himself as an exemplary HR Head through his hard work and devotion.
1. Can you share with us how did you start your career and what according to you are your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
During my student life, I was pretty much aimless. And it stayed the same way during my college years even though I was a rank holder student. One of my friends had applied on my behalf at a reputed bank. And one day while wandering through Bagbazar, my friends and I noticed applicants gathered in front of Padma Kanya College for the exam. We had our exam cards with us so we decided to sit for the exam without any preparation. We were able to solve all the questions using our common sense since they were all easy. Turns out, I passed the exams. Then I got a call from the bank for an interview. Despite being weak in computer, I was able to convince the hiring managers that I had the potential. Hence I got selected. I was ecstatic and so were my family members because a boy who had come to Kathmandu from a small village with hopes of being a great person had landed his first job. During the initial phase of my job, I tried to resign from the job many times because I had options. But my supervisors convinced me to stay and I did despite the availability of jobs in sectors other than banking.
Bankers have a significant role to play in the progress of a nation. I have learned the value of money and always spend my money wisely. Society tends to think that I’d be doing much better in other field but I am happy to be working in the banking sector. Banking jobs do require more knowledge, skills and labour but they can also be your accomplishments eventually. So, whatever I have gained so far are my achievements.
2. What is your vision for the HR department of Sanima Bank Limited?
My CEO selected me as an HR Head understanding my traits and calm nature. I think of the organization I work for as my family. After joining the HR department, I came up with a short term and long term vision. My short term vision would include increasing financial benefits such as salary and allowance, home loan, vehicle facility to my staff. I have plans to make the organization the best workplace in the industry. Further, I am trying to assure all my colleagues that they should not think of something else for financial gain. Likewise, my long term vision would entail implementing the system developed based on business volume and environment to determine the actual need of the staff in the workplace. Moreover, there is also the focus on increasing productivity by regulating the optimum level of staff. The balance between workload and productivity is to be fixed. Branch and Departmental categorization are to be done so that the staff can align their own goal with the organizational goal. Each staff’s career path is to be developed. In short, the HR system is to be driven by the system.
3. A banking career is also known as one of the most secure careers in Nepal comes with rigorous duty hours, what strategies have you adopted to ensure employee wellbeing?
As said above, we are working in a direction where all employees can feel secure financially. Lots of opportunities can be explored here. Our employees do not need to worry about financial issues related to housing, education of their children and retirement life. Similarly, with the connection they have made over the years, they can start businesses in their retirement life. Balancing professional and personal life is not that tough for bankers. Children nowadays have an understanding that their parents are hard-working and busy. This makes them focus on their study. They have also grasped the importance of money which is why they develop a habit of saving from an early age.
4. How do you measure the happiness of your employees? Are there any mantras to make employees happy?
Happiness is difficult to define. It depends on the perception of each individual. As an HR Head, I get to interact with almost all staff and I know for them happiness can be the availability of freedom to express their concern with the HR Department and above. They want their issues to be addressed. If such an environment exists, staff feel happy. Happiness does not relate to financial position only. There is no such financial ceiling that guarantees happiness. But the work environment does matter. We have given our best to keep our staffs happy. We have whistleblowing policies along with communication guidelines in the organization. Our staff can report any issues to the upper level and even to the CEO and they will be handled with the utmost attention.
We are welcoming of staff and their concerns irrespective of their job position. We have managed to create an open and transparent environment to share one’s idea to make our organization better or put up their grievances for discussion. Further, we have star excellence awards in which we encourage our staff to participate and win the award. There is competition among the staff who have contributed to the organization by introducing their new ideas. Our CEO and DCEO organize a party for the staff who are rated “Excellent” in the annual performance appraisal. We have a transparent promotion and retention policy. There is no place for nepotism and favouritism in our organization. We believe in the performance of any staff for the growth of their career. These are the examples which are prerequisite to make the environment homely and we believe that our staff are happy with us. Our low attrition rate also indicates that our staff are happy. In addition to this, some staff have come back to re-join our organization because of the outstanding work environment. It is a continuous process and we have a lot more to accomplish in this area as well.
5. The banking sector is one of the most system and process-driven sector in Nepal, is there any space for one's creativity and innovation in this sector?
I also think that the banking sector is one of the most system and process-driven sector in Nepal. But it does not mean that it is perfect. To quote Gautam Buddha, “If one spends their whole life studying about one thing there still is room for improvement.” There are a lot of aspects that need improvements in the banking sector. The promotion system is not system driven. A robust model that can determine the number of employees to be promoted is to be introduced in the industry. The number of staff to be promoted at different level is fixed by the management without considering its future impact. Additionally, staff are to be promoted also depends on the business volume which should be justified from the perspectives of branch and departmental categorization. The banking sector lacks the use of statistical and econometric models. Different studies are to be done to further make it a system-driven industry. Methods to increase staff productivity at different level is to be developed. The Nepalese banking industry depends on just lending and solicitation of deposit. The conventional banking practice still prevails. So, a strong transfer system is to be developed. In nutshell, lots of innovation and creativity are to be carried out in the banking industry for making it the best.
6. What differences do you see between HR Departments of the banking sector and other sectors?
I see vast differences between the HR Department of the banking sector and other sectors. Bank has to carry out business taking a calculative financial and economic risk. Therefore, more talented employees are required in the banking industry in comparison to others. Bank deals with the service where people are most valuable. Communication and analytical skills are required for the bank which is less required in other sectors. Efficient and effective management of the people turns the organization into success. The management of people taking the financial and economic risk at a wider level is most important in the banking industry. HR Department has to explore such knowledgeable candidates in the market and recruit them. Recruitment and selection are not only challenging in the banking industry but retaining them in the banking industry is the most crucial function of HRD in the banking industry. Other organizations depend on the balance among four factors of production but the banking industry totally depends on one of the four factors i.e. labour. Labour denotes people management which is related to the main function of the HR Department. The diversity in the workforce has become one of the challenges for the HR Department.
7. What challenges did Covid-19 bring to your organization? What contingency plans did you introduce to overcome them?
The banking industry is losing revenue due to COVID as it is not able to function in a full-fledged manner for a whole year. The spread rate between lending and deposit is decreasing. Banks are channelling the fund to limited sectors with a thin margin. There is no big scope for the banks for lending. Deposit generally piles up during such period but the banks are not able to park the fund properly, so, as a result, banks are lending almost at the base rate. The provision of banks and non-performing loans are increasing. There is risk in the banking sector as large corporations may be insolvent due to problem in their business caused by COVID. There is a number of firms facing problem due to a halt in the supply chain in the market. One sector’s downfall can pose a severe risk to the banking industry. Meanwhile, it is challenging to the policymakers too. Strict regulation may be issued in the banking sector which may further worsen the situation. There will be big competition among banks on the basis of digitalization. Some banks can go further due to technological advancements. People will be compelled to learn new means of digital technologies. Small scale banks will not be able to invest more in technology which is dubious for their survival. Not only for the bank, but digitalization also poses threat to the incumbents due to new entrants.
To prevent our staff from infection of COVID, we have formed the COVID Safety Management Team (CSMT) which takes update on the condition of the staff and conducts meeting from time to time. We have also maintained social distancing in the workplace. Some of our staffs work from home. Paper works are being minimized. HR Department has been totally digitalized and no paper works are done there. As prevention is better than cure, we have created a good working environment in the bank. Some critical departments are functioning from different buildings so that the bank shall not halt any service in a difficult situation. Staff are called on a roster/ shift basis as required. For the safety of the staff, HR Department has recruited a health consultant who provides counselling to our infected staffs according to their need. Also, we have selected some firms which have their own isolation centres with the availability of minimum health medical equipment and medicines. Such isolation centres have 24 hours staff nurses and a minimum of two round visits of doctors in a day. We have purchased oxygen concentrators and distributed them to all our provinces. Various training is being provided to the staff so that the staff engage during the pandemic period. Staff are encouraged to be tech-savvy to adapt to the new technology with ease.
8. How have you adopted and adapted technology to deliver HRM functions over the years?
Yes, we have been adopting technology to deliver HRM functions over the years. Our department has become paperless. Our staff can apply for leave online, can view the leave balances, the status of their attendances etc. Staff can complain, apply for advances and staff OD through the HRS system. They can apply for a home loan, bike loan, vehicle loan and others through the system as well. The delivery of the service to our staff has become faster due to such system. We conduct knowledge test of our staff annually which is multiple choice in nature. The questions are randomly arranged by the system and scores are automatically calculated by the system. HRS system is the main base on which other automation processes depend.
9. What recruitment and selection strategies do you adopt to attract the best talent for your organization?
We have formed a recruitment committee which conducts recruitment and selection processes. After the need assessment of the organization, we generally announce vacancy with requirements and select the staff after fulfilling all the processes. To attract talented candidates, we take referrals from different persons and interview them. We obtain references from different persons and examine their integrities. Further, we have a talent hunt policy under which we record the best performers of the banking industry and approach them for selection. Besides, we recruit some staff from the local community. Sometimes we adopt a different measure for the recruitment and selection of the best candidates. We recruit candidates from different backgrounds having different experiences of the organizations rather than banks. We do not compromise with perks for the best candidates.
10. What message and tips would you like to give to anyone and everyone who wants to join a banking career?
If you aim to work in the banking sector then I would request you to go for it. The sector requires candidates with high integrity, thus, if you are eminently ambitious, then perhaps you should not apply for jobs at a bank. People who want to worship work can make a career in the banking industry. The objective should be very much clear. I have seen some staff resign from the bank and switch sector. People having multiple options should not apply for this job. If one selects the bank as their profession, they should have a habit of studying business and economic news. They should be numerate. Since it is a service-oriented organization, patience is an essential factor for success. Communication skills should be developed. Students must have good knowledge of their major subjects. They should be able to demonstrate logical reasoning power.