Successful Manager Treats Challenges As Opportunities – Vijay Chandok

A 1993 batch alumnus of NMIMS, Mr Vijay Chandok is the Executive Director (Designate) of ICICI Bank Limited, responsible for the Commercial Banking Group, Small & Medium Enterprises and Corporate Agri Group and the International Banking Group (IBG). Prior to his current role, he was the Head of ICICI Bank Limited’s Retail Assets, Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) Group and Rural & Agri Banking Group. He is also the former Vice Chairman of ICICI Home Finance Company Limited. We spoke to him when he was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award by NMIMS for the year 2016.

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You have successfully held various positions across different divisions in ICICI Bank. What were the major challenges you faced during the journey and how did you overcome them ?

Over the past two decades, I have indeed had the privilege of working in various roles in different parts of the bank. I started as a member of a team and over the years have had the opportunity to lead teams. These roles have required me to scale up businesses, turn around businesses and even build businesses from the scratch. As I look back, each of the roles had its own challenges but, as I thought about them then, I saw that each of these challenges also had an accompanying opportunity. An opportunity to dream, an opportunity to conceptualize ideas and an opportunity to design/draw a plan based on an understanding of the competitive landscape, an assessment of stakeholder expectations and the evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of the business.

It has indeed been a fulfilling experience designing and shaping the contours of business and building teams along the way, as I focused on the opportunities my various roles provided.

I would like to add that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the continuous support of my superiors, who have been instrumental in my ability to leverage these various opportunities over the years.

In an era where people tend to switch companies quite frequently, you have been with ICICI Bank since you joined them from NMIMS as a Management Trainee and you have now become the executive Director there. Please tell us more about how you’ve been able to achieve this.

I was delighted when I got an offer from ICICI Ltd. on campus. It was my dream job then and I have enjoyed every single day here since then. The various roles that have been assigned to me over the years have kept me highly energized, engrossed and motivated. I have learnt and grown tremendously through this journey – through the various opportunities, and the enormous independence given to me in shaping the same. Through various business cycles and the highs and lows, I have seen this organization being consistently fair and investing in building capacities of its employees and empowering them. I have been a beneficiary of this culture and I have to admit that, I owe what I am today, to ICICI Bank.

I would also highlight one important lesson that I learned early on in my career is the importance of continuous learning and the need to reskill and develop new capabilities. I remain paranoid to remain relevant in the business system and that has propelled me to continuously endeavour to improve my capabilities.

You see a lot of fintech companies coming into the financials space. What are the prospects for such companies and what is the impact they have on traditional banks/NBFCs?

Banking has clearly evolved over the last couple of decades and has undergone significant changes, especially in the last few years. Across banking, customer experience is the key focus and given the high internet penetration enabled through smartphones, banks have been riding the technology wave/curve to deliver their products and services in a most seamless and efficient manner. In that sense, the concept of fintech is neither new nor has it caught the banks unawares. Banks have spent enormously on creating a distribution network and have been using and embracing technology ranging from mobility and analytics to robotics and artificial intelligence to serve their customers better and further.

Having said that, we find that fintech companies have indeed been able to offer innovative banking solutions to our customers and potential customers. The way I see it is that traditional banks would do well to keep a tab on the development or innovation in this space and adopt/partner at the right stage.

Further, as this space evolves, going by the policies and guidelines set by the regulators; most of these fintech companies like the payment banks are not really likely to be competing directly with traditional banks in a material way. In fact, handled rightly, there might be a significant possibility to realize synergies with the fintech companies as there will be lots of room for collaborations and partnerships and opportunity for banks to widen and enhance their scope.

The banking sector has been under severe stress due to the rising NPAs. Please share with us your views on the same.

The stress and NPA situation in the Banking industry is due to a combination of factors. The delays in implementation of various projects have resulted in cost and time overrun. This in turn has impacted the project viability in some of the corporates owing to lower cash generation in relation to the leverage taken by them. The sharp decline in commodity prices and weak global demand has compounded the problems to some extent.
While the Government and other stakeholders are working assiduously to ensure project completion and removing roadblocks by providing an increasingly facilitative environment and addressing project specific issues, the recovery is expected to be gradual and painful, involving sale of assets and write down of debt and equity.
As I see it, through this readjustment process, there would be need for equity infusion into PSU banks over the next few years. This phase, though challenging, shall pass.

While you have had a number of achievements in your career, what has been the proudest moment of your professional life?

As I look back at my career with the bank, the ‘professional’ in me does feel satisfied with the broad and multiple canvasses that I have been allowed to shape/design. My personal high, though, is when I was awarded the ‘Top Leadership Award’ in ICICI Bank amongst my peer group in the domain of nurturing talent and innovation. This award were special to me as they were based on the feedback from the people I worked with and it represented their mandate.

Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life? How and why does this person impact your life?

I have been fortunate to have worked with sharp and energized minds and have learnt from all of them including my colleagues. I have been amazed by Mr. Kamath’s ability to look at the big picture and to think out-of-the-box, also for thinking big and taking risks. I admire Chanda’s meticulous attention to detail, her efficiency, focus and her poise even under extreme pressure.

You were recently awarded the “Alumni Achievement Award” for 2016 by NMIMS. When you take a trip down memory lane, are there any special memories that you recollect from your times at NMIMS?

NMIMS holds a special place in both my professional and personal life. As my finishing school, this was where I formed my professional identity, discovered my love for finance and widened my world-view through the various debates, discussions and projects. The enriching arguments with my professors and the various assignments and case studies have given valuable perspectives, life learnings and of course cherished friendships. One such friend, from my early morning brain-storming sessions, is now my partner – my most treasured takeaway from here.

Any particular advice that you would like to give our budding managers at NMIMS drawing from your own journey?

Extending upon what I mentioned earlier, the biggest learning and highest growth can be enabled through treating challenges as opportunities. When I say this, this involves multiple dimensions in itself. It requires one to keep an open mind to welcome challenges, to have a solution/problem-solving orientation and most importantly, to take people/stakeholders along. I wish the students the very best of luck. It’s an enjoyable ride ahead – with a lot of promise. With your education here and the right attitude, the world is for you to conquer.