We are trying to build a pool of internal talented professionals who understand the business & industry
Prior to Dewan Housing Finance Limited, Harshil Mehta was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aadhar Housing Finance Limited and has served in prominent entities like Transamerica Commercial Finance, Chicago, a leader in Inventory Financing & Fortune 500 company and Whirlpool, India. Harshil set up the Indian subsidiary of Transamerica and launched its inventory finance program. At ICICI, Harshil worked as the Head of Mortgages, Head of Service Quality, Business Head – Real Estate (Property Services & Consulting), before finally heading ICICI Home Finance as CEO & MD. He has done his MBA (Finance) from Graduate School of Business, Mississippi State University, USA.
You have more than 20 years of experience across the consumer and financial services business. What have been your key learnings so far?
One of the key learnings that I have gained over the past many years has been how to get insights from the consumers both in the retail and consumer services business back to the drawing board so that the requirements of the customers are constantly met. When I moved to the financial services business, I was working directly with customers and partners in order to meet their financial requirements, including home loans, home improvement loans, construction loans etc. Having direct conversations with the customers has given me an in-depth understanding of their requirements. Every customer has different demands and these demands differ from segment to segment. The customer segment at the top end is quite different from customers in the middle or low income segments.
Over the last 30 years, DHFL has been providing home loans to customers in the middle and low income segments, and all through my journey in the financial services business, this has helped me realize that the products and policies need to be perfectly aligned with the requirements of this segment. Our job doesn’t end when we disburse a loan; in fact this is where it begins as we will need to keep a continuous check on the customer’s repayment capabilities.
This business is all about people; people who provide loans and people who receive them. It is very important to have a good relationship with your customers during the entire process. It is firmly established in the mindset of our existing customers that they need to see a physical place from where the loan is being given. It helps the customer realize that they are dealing with a company that has an office and staff which will eventually help with any problems that may arise in the future.
After having taken a loan, people generally need to be reassured about their decision and they need to be completely on board during their life cycle with us. Here is when people connect is extremely important and one needs to ensure that their staff will interact with the different kinds of people that will walk into their office. The relationship managers should be able to immediately connect with the customers. People are the strength of our organization and stronger resources will further help our growth journey.
You took over the charge of DHFL, one of India’s leading housing finance companies, in January this year. What are the steps that you are taking to prepare the organization for the future?
We are working on various on-the-field and off-the-field programs. On the field, we are working on launching innovative products, which are completely in line with the customer expectations. We are one of the few housing finance companies who have the approval from NHB to procure Fixed Deposits from the general public. We looked into what customers wanted with their FDs and why they withdrew money from it ahead of time. We found out that in a lot of cases people needed the cash for medical emergencies and therefore out of no choice had to withdraw the money prematurely. Hence, DHFL recently launched the Weath2Health product, a product with unique combinations of Fixed Deposit and Loan-Against-Deposit along with a Wealth2Health card that will enable customers with multiple healthcare benefits. The DHFL Wealth2Health deposit allows individual customers to use their Fixed Deposits to pay for any healthcare expenses, without having to exit the fixed deposit. There is also a condition for the person to repay the money so that the amount in the FD is still maintained. This way, the customer gets to keep his FD, earn the interest and still meet their expenses. We are happy to be amongst the first companies to launch this unique product and have received an overwhelming response from the market. The existing accidental death insurance cover of Rs. 1 Lakh to individual depositors, for all DHFL Fixed deposits, is also available with Wealth2Health deposits free of cost.
Off the field, we are working on building talent, as we believe that people play a very critical role in our business. Hence, we want to develop talent internally and externally through a one-year Post Graduate Program in Financial Services. The first batch of a minimum of 50 qualified housing finance professionals trained in the sales, operations and credit functions would be absorbed by DHFL branches post successful completion of the one-year program. The post graduate course will comprise of a 9 months residential program at the NIIT University campus, followed by 3 months of internship at a DHFL branch/office. Upon successful completion of the program, the students will be awarded with a certificate by NIIT University and will be absorbed by DHFL as an employee of the company designated as a management trainee.
To make the learning more interactive and valuable, the internship will be based out of the Tier II and Tier III cities which are the crucial target markets for DHFL. This will enable the students to get a comprehensive experience about the sector and the business, which will ensure that the housing finance industry attracts the perfect mix of students with astonishing talents. Also, from the internal people perspective, we as an organization are trying to build a pool of internal talent who understand the industry/business well and will eventually help generate business in those locations where they are placed thus ensuring growth to the overall business.
There are news reports that more than 80,000 officers and staff of PSU banks are going to retire in the next two years. What are the key steps that DHFL is taking to retain and engage its key talent?
We have a detailed talent identification and talent retention program that was recently institutionalized. Top talent is first identified through various parameters and then groomed for top posts. They are then put through various roles in the organization to sharpen their skill sets. This helps them immensely when they move to larger roles and responsibilities within the organization. As we continue to grow, it is extremely important that we start to build our talent internally and showcase the growth opportunities and prospects within the organization rather than looking externally for lateral hires. One of the things that DHFL has started this year has been to first post any job requirements on the internal job board rather than putting it externally. The growth opportunities allows the talent to move geographically as well and that helps to understand and appreciate the diversity in our country, which also gets them ready to take up larger roles where one of the core skills required would be managing multiple geographies.
What are your views on talent management in the BFSI sector? One of the recent RBI mandates was to increase rural inclusion. How do you manage to get your talent to go to areas that are not very sought after?
We have adopted an out-of-the-box approach to identify talent. Our focus in the last 31 years has been to provide housing loans to the middle and low income segments, which largely constitutes customers from the Tier-II and Tier-III cities and towns. On the talent side, we have recognized the fact that as the organization continues to grow, there is a need to start building the talent pool with qualified employees to manage this growth. The easy way out would be to hire directly from the market, however that is only a short term solution. When you ask the selected employees to move to a location in the Tier-II or Tier-III markets, they are not very enthusiastic about it and hence in order to fix this dilemma, we started setting up our own recruitment and L&D (learning and development) teams in those local areas. The candidates who showed up were asked to take a written test followed by group discussions and then finally a personal interview.
The employees were then selected based on their performance and asked to come on board. So, the idea was to hire locally in those specific locations, this not only helped solve our problem of finding talent but also facilitated the candidates to see value for themselves. While you get experienced hands on Day 1 itself, you will be able to build a talent pool over six to nine months.