The journey of the first lady CEO among commercial banks in Nepal: Know how Ms. Anupama Khunjeli made it and what she aspires for

Fri, Apr 27, 2018 7:50 AM on Experts Speak, Interview,

It has been only few months since Chhaupadi Pratha has been recognized an illegal activity in the eyes of law. Women, in most parts of the country, still go through domestic abuses and early marriages. Women, in our society, still limit themselves within the four walls of the house. Every new day, a rape case is highlighted in the national daily. Amidst all of this, one woman from the same country graced the throne of CEO in one of the commercial banks for the first time in history.

 

Interviewer:                       Ms. Aakriti Thakali and Ms. Dheerusha Tiwari

Interviewee:                      Ms. Anupama Khunjeli, CEO of Commercial Banks, MEGA Bank

Interview Location:            MEGA Bank Limited, Kamaladi

Brought into words by:       Dheerusha Tiwari

Duration:                          An eight minute read with 12 questions

  1. What is there more about Anupama Khunjeli (except that you are CEO of A class commercial bank) that we don’t know?

Bio:

“If I was not a banker, I would be a player- a sportswoman.”

Ms. Anupama Khunjeli spent three decades of her life in banking sector. Her schooling started from St. Mary’s where she chose sports and one act plays as her priorities before academics. She went to India with the plunge of learning commerce and accountancy. But she somewhere belonged to her own country. So, she returned back and undertook undergraduate study from Shankhardev College. Just a decade ago, Ms. Khunjeli, who was already a mother and a working woman, completed her Master’s Degree from Ace Institute of Management. She pulled a hat-trick as she scored three consecutive goals in three different journeys of her life.

Career:

“Woman can look after house; earn an independent source of living and to add more, she can also pursue her education.”

Ms. Khunjeli did not become a CEO within a fortnight. She started back in 1991 as a teller (assistant level) in Grindlays Bank; Standard Chartered Bank of Nepal. She spent 13 years of her life in SCB. With a motive to take some challenges, she then worked for another 6 years in NABIL Bank Limited. With her 19 years of experience in banking, she took a bold decision to start from the scratch and joined MEGA from its inception.

  1. As you wore your graduation hat from Shankhardev College, did you think you will come along to this point in your life?

“To work in an established bank and to establish a bank are two completely different experiences.”

When Ms. Khunjeli wore her graduation hat, she did not have a definite idea of her journey. However, once she joined the banking sector, her target would be the next position right above her. Just as a cricketer aims for one run at the beginning and slowly targets four runs and finally six, Ms. Khunjeli did the same. Her aspiration to reach the top started from assistant level and gradually reached to CEO level as she worked in officer level, management level and senior management level.

  1. How does the new throne feel like? Are you stunned with responsibilities or are you scared with the upcoming journey?

“My success in the upcoming four years will inspire ladies youth to come into banking sector.”

Ms. Anupama Khunjeli has been entitled as the first female CEO of commercial banks. She is well aware, with the title comes responsibilities. She is more enthusiastic in proving the upcoming four years as a success so that the girls, ladies and woman in the country will believe the top position is made even for them. She is aiming to make a difference by introducing new products, enhancing the outreach towards the rural poor and ensuring MEGA touches a mega height in the banking sector.

  1. “Woman can’t have it all” and “Woman can have it all”. The two extremes of debate of a woman’s life. Which one are you in favor of as a mother and as a CEO? Is there a glass ceiling in woman’s career?

 “It’s your willingness that will take you to success.”

While the world is in a debate on whether woman can have it or can’t have it, Ms. Khunjeli has a slightly different opinion. She believes, not being gender specific, all humans can have it all. Every human being, be it a woman or man, reaches the desired goal only with a blend of sacrifices, hard work, and effort. But all in all, what matters is “Did you enjoy your game?” Lady CEO defines “having it all” is rather “what you desire for”. A human will have it all when he/she can look back and say, “I lived my life happily and I did all what I wanted to.” Ms. Khunjeli did not hesitate to share the presence of glass ceiling in a woman’s career. She further stated, there is a glass ceiling and will remain for a long time. There are lots to be done to remove this ceiling from the society.

  1. Few years back, career in banks was seen in highlight. This generation is inclined towards entrepreneurship. “Boring, monotonous and frustration”- The three words that undergraduates and graduates have been using to define a career in a bank. What would you tell today’s generation about career in banking sector?

“First and foremost, entrepreneurship is the best because you become the owner of your company. However, if one does not see themselves as an entrepreneur, one can always pursue a job in banking sector. “

Ms. Khunjeli with 27 years of experience shares banking is an area which requires hard work, dedication and effort. She further believes each and every job has some part of it as robotic. It is all up to the doer to make that particular job interesting. In banking sector, procedures and processes are laid down so, a banker must apply process reengineering with his/her thought processes. A banker has two alternatives either find new way of doing the same thing or come up with a new banking product. It all depends upon how an individual takes his/her banking career.

  1. It has been more than 450 days since the trading has been halted. MEGA alone has 1.44 lakh public shareholders and 1,219 promoter shareholders. What is taking so much time for the merger process? What do you have to say to these 1.50 lakh affected shareholders except “we will be done soon”?

 “Merger is a marriage between two entities.”

Ms. Anupama Khunjeli realizes the merger of MEGA Bank Limited and Tourism Development Bank Limited has taken time. The shareholders have been affected to the extreme. However, she further believes two institutes cannot bind together until and unless they understand the fundamentals of one another. She takes merger as a marriage between two institutes so, it takes time to understand each other and then decide whether they can move ahead together or not. The concentration was not on how long time has taken but it was rather on how strong the foundation has been made. Ms. Khunjeli further assured the merger will be resolved within a month and the announcement of resolution of the merger was made just the next day of the interview.

  1. Can you provide an estimated figure of paid up capital, reserve and surplus, branches that the bank will have? What kind of performance can we expect from the upcoming quarter?

“With the expanded networking, we will be pushing the thrust towards our valued customers.”

MEGA Bank Limited will have one of the strongest capital bases among all the commercial banks in the country. It will have around Rs 10.5 billion paid up capital, 2.33 billion reserves, 1000 employees, 102 branches and 22 extension counters spread around all the provinces. As for the net profit in the 3rd quarter, Ms. Khunjeli proclaimed MEGA Bank will be doing well enough for this quarter. Yet, it can’t be denied the loanable fund crisis has hit the overall financial sector so, each one of the commercial banks has been affected. With enough optimism, the lady CEO further proclaimed, at the end of fiscal year, we have reason to profit. As per unaudited financial results of 2nd quarter of 2074/75, the CAR of bank stands at 18.52%, NPL at 0.96%, Loan loss provision to NPL at 172.04%, EPS after right share adjustment will be Rs 10.64, Liquid assets to deposit ratio at 25.65% and Net worth per share is Rs 122.73.

  1. Is MEGA Bank going for foreign loan, provided that NRB has opened its gateway?

 “There is always a cost associated with the opened gateway.”

MEGA Bank is definitely going for the foreign loan. The bank has correspondence with few partners outside Nepal. However, there is a cost of foreign loan and cost of hedging. So, together, the bank is eyeing out for cost effective tool so that the facilities provided by certain bank is within the affordability of MEGA. With the collected foreign loan, MEGA has targeted for the highly productive sector as directed by finance minister.

  1. Do you think the accelerating interest rate will come down any time soon? Do you believe altering CCD ratio can be helpful to fight the ongoing CCD ratio crunch?

“We can do away even with the current restriction on CCD ratio.”

Now that all 28 commercial banks have reached the mark up of 8 arba, all of the commercial banks have tremendous room for growth. Lady CEO does not see interest rate coming down at the earliest. She further backed up her claim with the logic that whatever resources is coming in, the commercial banks are absorbing it. All the commercial banks have one motive: to grow exponentially. So, until and unless newer resources and new income avenues are figured out, interest rate will still take time to come down.

Ms. Khunjeli further believed altering the CCD ratio would not be of significance to the country. Alteration in the CCD ratio simply implies filling up the gap temporarily. So, it is rather the matter of enhancing resources than thinking about altering the CCD ratio. The CCD ratio has been put in place by the regulators so that the market grows steadily. It is done to ensure there is no volatility and risk in the market. The CEO of MEGA bank held an optimistic view that if banks will focus on alteration of ratios, then the problems in banking sector will remain the same. Therefore, instead the focus should be towards pulling in new resources.

  1. Anil Shah believed in providing more loans to the women in the country. What approach do you follow?

“Women are believed to be the best financial managers.”     

MEGA Bank introduced Saral Karja as a micro lending for woman entrepreneurs. Researches have concluded that women have high repayment rate compared to men. Women are generalized to overcome any kinds of delinquency so, a repayment rate of 99% is often expected from them. Even in international markets such as Bangladesh, it has been found the proper utilization of fund and return is made first to pay back the loan by women so, we will also follow the same path. MEGA Bank is welcome to all genders as it is ideas of clients that matters however, we do believe women clients have a comparatively higher repayment ratio. Mega has concentrated their 70 micro lending units both in rural and urban areas.

  1. How will this CEO be different from Anil Shah? What will she adopt from Mr. Shah in her journey and what would she refrain to adopt?

 “I want to play to the strengths of my guru rather than the weaknesses.”

Mr. Shah has been a guru to Ms. Anupama Khunjeli since her days in SCB. Mr. Shah has built a good foundation of MEGA Bank as a founder CEO. He is also a role model among many youths. Ms. Anupama Khunjeli; the successor of Mr. Anil Shah, aspires to follow the strength of Mr. Shah in taking MEGA Bank to new heights. She aims to play to his strength by committing towards the satisfaction of entire MEGA family along with promoters, shareholders, directors, employees and customers.

On further inquiry about the weakness that Ms. Khunjeli would not take from Mr. Shah, she believes one should play to the strength of the people. There are weaknesses in every individual but wisdom lies in overlooking these weaknesses and learning from one’s strength. So, Ms. Khunjeli who takes herself as the student of Mr. Shah has a lot to take but remembers none to discard from him.

  1. Can you share one childhood story as you are in this position, today?

“Kheli kheli padne le k garla?

What will a person achieve when he/she prioritizes ECA more than academics?”

As a child, Ms. Khunjeli was more interested in sports. Her participation was in every race such as 400 meter races, hurdles, 100 meter races, high jump, long jump and what not. Her concentration in the beginning months of every year would be in sports and then the later months in drama classes. As she climbed the ladders of her academics, her teachers used to question “Yo kheli kheli padne manche le k garla?” Meaning: What will a person who puts so much effort on ECAs achieve in life? Well, the answer is here!

 

An hour long interview with Ms. Anupama Khunjeli was an eye opener to both the interviewers. Draped in saree, a friendly smile and a bold body language, it felt, Ms. Khunjeli has indeed come a long way. Although it might look like Ms. Khunjeli has crossed the finishing line of her relay race in banking sector, Sharesansar team hopes this is just the beginning of her race. By the end of four years, we hope she makes it to the finishing line just the way she did in her school. Indeed, “if she was not a banker, she would be a player- a sportswoman”. In fact, she is a player- a player in the banking sector as a CEO with the spirit of sportsmanship.

Wishing MEGA and Ms. Anupama Khunjeli all the luck…