Nepali Times
Bigger banking pie

Anil Shah, the man who led the consumer banking team at Standard Chartered Nepal has recently moved to Nabil Bank Limited as General Manager where he wants to bring about a "paradigm shift" in service. Nepali Times spoke to him about the retail financing wave that is sweeping the sector.

Nepali Times: How come all banks are suddenly fixated on retail banking?
Anil Shah
: Four years ago when I talked about consumer banking as the engine of growth for banking in Nepal, people in my bank and others outside raised their eyebrows. Today, they don't bat an eyelid and say retail banking is their area of focus. The thing is, with the proliferation of banks there has been a tremendous reduction in margins and yield in corporate banking. Prevailing uncertainties in the socio-economic condition has lead to stagnation if not a contraction of the corporate sector. The pie was staying the same, or even shrinking, and the number of players who wanted a slice was increasing. That is when we decided to look for a new pie altogether: retail financing. Look at the market today and it seems everyone has the same idea.

It mustn't have been easy in the beginning.
Quite right, initially it was quite a task to get even my bank to buy the idea. The dynamics of retail banking are very different from the traditional banking that everyone was doing, so we had to sell the idea internally first. It had to be large scale otherwise it just wasn't worth it. Then we had to change the mind set of the consumers. Customers used to laugh when we offered a loan to buy a car. They said their friends would laugh at them. We had to change the culture of saving today to enjoy later into enjoying today and paying later.

Now that you have moved to Nabil, what are your plans?
Many years ago I worked in Nabil bank as a trainee, it was my first exposure to banking and the experience that I had during that tenure was the reason why I chose banking as a career. So for me it is like a homecoming. Nabil Bank is the first joint venture bank in Nepal, it has amassed unmatched experience and market insight.
Others may have been the first movers in consumer banking, but Nabil was the first to raise the bar in the overall standard of banking in the kingdom two decades ago. It has effectively built its strength both on the asset and liability side. The bank has made a major investment in technology and is in the process of migrating to a worldclass banking platform. So, Nabil Bank is poised for unprecedented growth.

With so many banks, the competition must be telling.
Being the first joint venture bank in Nepal, Nabil has solid foundations and a strong customer relationship. In the last 19 years, the bank has grown consistently to retain its premier position in the industry. However, today Nabil's main strength is its people. When I talk to the staff here I see in each and every one of them the desire to raise the benchmark, to deliver more than just what is expected and now we have all the tools to do just that. And regardless of what resources others may have Nabil's human resource will be the differentiating factor.

But other banks say the same thing, what is your unique selling point?
You are right, there are banks that tout their international lineages to banks that flaunt their strong local roots. At Nabil we aren't centered on ourselves, our origin or roots, but on our stakeholders: customers, regulators, shareholders and staff. It is this focus on service that drives us to search for ways to meet the entire gamut of our customer's financial needs. With the migration to our new banking platform nearing completion, we are poised to leverage on the unrivaled years of experience and strong balance sheet to make that paradigm shift towards delivering unique customer satisfaction with all our products and services.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)