List one of your most significant professional or organizational accomplishments. Describe your precise role and how it has shaped your management skills.
After a very successful stint of managing the product and process functions of our business unit for the state of XYZ (ABC Inc. , July 2007 to April 2008), I was prompted to take charge of the western zone of India (May 2008 to May 2009) comprising the important states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa. The senior management immediately entrusted me with the task of achieving a turnaround in the business. The goal was to strengthen the company’s market share in Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) banking and drive significant increase in revenues from the segment.
On taking charge, I realized that we were adding new customers as desired – however, Income in terms of Deposit of Funds and Account-related Fees had just not materialized. After thorough internal discussions and analyses, three important areas of concern came to light: (1) The Morale among the 1200 sales personnel was abysmally low. They were meeting just 2-3 customers per day when the business needed a minimum of 5 “quality interactions”. This happened primarily because the sales team lacked focus on the targeted set of customers and the training to handle the specific, knowledge intensive queries from varied clusters of SME customers. (2) Our strategy of targeting the SME customer lacked focus. We did have a strong product portfolio; however these products did not fully cover the unique requirements of the specific set of customers in question. From my extensive meetings with these customers across various locations, I realized that “a single product for all customer types” offering would not meet their varied requirements – as an example, a typical Poultry farming SME customer had requirements very different from those of a typical Diamond jewelry manufacturer. Each of these clusters had different Collection and Payment cycles that were dependent on supply chain functions unique to them. (3) The existing sets of customers had not transacted with us as desired, resulting in Fee Income way below expectations. The reason: The “activation” of these customers to start transacting with us had not been monitored.
I went ahead to solve these problems. For meeting the product gap, we collated the requirements of individual (customer) clusters across the entire zone and developed specific products that met their particular needs. Extensive Marketing materials (Brochures, CDs and the like) articulating the customer-centric benefits of these products were parallely developed. We were thus able to match the right set of banking solutions – to the right prospects – and customize effectively. The zonal sales team was divided into cluster specific teams for fostering a “specialist” approach. Leading the team of 5 regional managers and 10 trainers, I spearheaded extensive trainings on the product features and positioning techniques. The simplified process and its benefits became increasingly clear across the board. During various training events, I accompanied sales team during their customer visits – more than 5 customer calls per day were shown to be “realistically achievable” with the new setup. My core team was quick to replicate this initial “hand holding” – thus creating a positive ripple effect across western India offices and bringing the average (per person) to 6 calls per day. And finally, to resolve problem area 3 (“activation”), a 5-person customer analytics group was quickly mobilized. Analysis on the transaction patterns led the group towards customers we needed to follow-up with. A variety of communication media – emails, direct mailers, personal one-one meeting and branch campaigns – were engaged with a common theme of “Easy, Made-To-Order Banking You Never Had!”
A complete turnaround with a 30% increase in “value” customers and an almost 50% increase in fee income (due to higher transaction from these customers) followed. The 6-month-long operation brought the opportunity to conceive, plan and implement all-round changes in a business that managed more than US$140 Mn. in customer deposits. Product Development and new advertising campaigns developed my capabilities in functioning and delivering results as a manager and entrepreneur. I have developed an increasing comfort with delegation – working across multiple teams and parallely ensuring an eye on the Big Picture. Leading a 1200-strong team brought in a multi-dimensional shift in my understanding of people’s motivations. I learnt to empower my core team and create a system for them to lead their staff, motivate them and thus grow professionally and personally. I also witnessed the magic of active engagement (daily discussions, meetings and sharing forums) with team members – often the toughest problems had been creatively solved by these personnel who were the closest to the task. Ever since, I have thus focused on creating win-win ecosystems where people know how to fit in, contribute and grow. For the succeeding quarter, we surpassed all expected collection targets – with a similar trend in commissions, pay-hikes, promotions and morale!