Banking on Customer Satisfaction
by Florine Roche
by Daijiworld Media Network
Sep 18, 2009
Dakshina Kannada District known for its banking tradition is rightly called as the cradle of banking. Karnataka Bank, one of the largest private sector banks in the country also began its journey in this coastal district 85 years back, has today emerged as a leading financial service institution in the country.
At a time of global meltdown and with cut throat competition in the banking sector Karnataka Bank is sitting pretty and is marching ahead by adopting a slightly aggressive policy of expansion. At this critical juncture the dynamic and suave P Jayarama Bhat has assumed the challenging responsibility as its Managing Director and CEO, a charge he assumed since July 2009. He took over the reigns from Ananthakrishna, who was at the rudder as its Chairman for nearly a decade. Jayarama Bhat’s appointment at the top has been approved by the RBI for the next three years which might be extended after the completion of the present term.
No doubt Jayarama Bhat has a laborious task ahead to carry on the mantle of ‘providing the pleasure of banking’ to its esteemed customers and also establish its own presence all over the country, which it lacked till recently. This ever smiling CEO has taken up the responsibility with panache and is proving to be a hard task master when it comes to making Karnataka Bank the numero uno private sector bank in the country. “That is certainly the long term goal of the bank”, he assures. To carry on the 85 years legacy is not an easy task but he has warmed up to the task ahead. Behind the smiling face there is a calculative mind with a clear vision for the bank’s growth for the next five years to start with, and the 36 years of experience serving in this bank will certainly keep him in good stead in implementing this vision.
“The foremost tasks on hand are to double the banks present turnover of 33,000 crores in the next 3 years. We are also expanding aggressively in the north where we had a very marginal presence till a few years back. From the present 453 branches we would like to go up to 475 branches by March 2010. So far we have presence in 20 states and 2 union territories and we would like to expand further. It is a continuous process”, he states explaining the major thrust of his vision.
The confidence he exudes is in tune with his personality. A topper in academics all throughout except in BSc where he had to be content with a second rank, Jayarama Bhat was born on 14th November 1951, which is incidentally Children’s Day and he exudes a childlike sincerity in him. A native of Polali in Dakshina Kannada he had his early education in Polali and Gurpur and graduated from St Aloysius College, Mangalore. He completed his MSc in Chemistry from Mysore University with a first rank. He also completed CAIIB Examination in 1986. After his post graduation he served as a lecturer for a brief period in Chickmagalur and in Mulki before the banking job beckoned him. “My father was a Purohit but he ensured that all the 7 children were educated despite being poor. My three brothers and engineers and two sisters are retired teachers. My elder brother now carries on the tradition of my father”, says this soft spoken CEO.
Losing a Scientist
One would have expected him to take up a career in Science considering his P G in Chemistry. “Those days there was no clear road map as regards the career. I wanted to do doctorate in Science but considering the situation those days a job was much more sought after and generally people relied on the suggestion of others. Getting a job was the top priority and when Karnataka Bank advertised for the post of probationers I applied and was selected”, he recalls.
Does he regret not pursuing the doctorate he wanted to those days? “No. In fact it is the people say they have lost a good scientist after I chose banking as a career. But I have no regrets. In fact people with science background make better bankers because of their analytical mind”. He, however, accepts that if he had not taken the banking career he would have taken to teaching.
He joined the Karnataka Bank as a Probationary Officer in 1973 in Bangalore and was promoted as manager within 3 years. For 14 years he served as Branch Manager in different capacities before he was posted to the Head Office in Mangalore. “Initially it was little difficult to cope with the job but we were provided training which made the beginning smooth. Working as manager called for long hours in the office and Jayarama Bhat candidly says “being a bachelor helped as I could devote more time in office without bothering about family responsibilities those days”.
He was promoted as Chief Accountant in 1994 and since than he has held diverse positions of responsibility before he assumed the top most post as Managing Director and CEO of Karnataka Bank in July this year. “We are mainly competing with private sector banks which don’t have the legacy problem. They are not obliged to serve in the rural areas. We are called the old generation private sector banks whereas other private banks are called new generation banks. Our strength is rural and semi-urban and with this legacy we are marching ahead competing with new generation banks”, he says.
It goes to the credit of the bank that they have been expanding aggressively in the north making their presence in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan where the bank is getting good response. The fact that the bank has been eliciting good response from the northern states is a good sign to spread its network in these states. The bank has 8 regional offices at present which may be increased keeping in proportion in the increase in the number of branches.
“The health of the bank is in good shape” says Jayarama Bhat. Last year the bank paid 60% dividend. The non performing assets (NPA) are less than 1 percent and the capital adequacy ratio is 14.38% against the minimum 9 percent. “This is a very good indicator showing our strength”, he declares. The bank is into infrastructure financing in a big way and is also in retail sector like providing housing loans, educational loans, gold loan and all types of corporate advances. The bank is now aiming at 15,000 crore advances and 24,000 crore deposits by the next financial year. Under his leadership the bank aims at reducing NPA to 0.80% which should not be a difficult task considering the NPA is at 0.90 percent at present.
Whatever said and done the CEO of the bank feels that it is the customers who matter. “Our strength is on personalized customer service. We are into the business of human touch. Along with money transactions we believe in providing a human touch to all our services”, he admits. .
The highest position has come to him without aspiring for it, as a gift for the hard and sincere work he has put in. He also attributes the Bank’s success to the excellent relationship the management has with the unions. Having put in nearly 4 decades of services Jayarama Bhat’s task is made easier as he knows 60% of the staff. “My personal strength is that I mix freely with my staff and I discuss with them before taking any decision. The Bank has 4,900 employees, 71,822 shareholders and over 3.7 million customers.
Despite a hectic schedule that also involves traveling he finds time for his other activities that includes interest in Cricket and listening to Carnatic Classical music. Sachin Tendulkar is his favourite cricketer. “It is nothing but time management”, he says with a broad smile. His wife is a homemaker. His daughter is studying BCom and son has recently joined engineering. Though he spends as much time as possible with the family his wife has assumed the full responsibility of taking care of the family leaving him free to carry on the professional responsibilities he has assumed.
Today Karnataka Bank has emerged as a leading financial service institution in the country. It was the first bank to opt for core banking system in 2000. The bank also provides all latest banking facilities to the customers. With Jayarama Bhat at the helm one cannot escape the feeling that the bank will come out stronger in the days to come under his able stewardship.
“Come, experience the pleasure of banking with us….”, is the bank’s punch line and many more customers are going to get the real feel of banking with pleasure with Karnataka Bank in the days to come considering the enthusiasm the CEO has infused in its human resource.