Pankaj Phatarphod, Managing Director and Country Head of Services of RBS India completed ten years with the organization recently. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, the senior banking veteran highlights the diverse culture of the company, importance of technology for the future and the role of HR in business.
Q- You have completed 10 years with the company. What has this journey been like and what have been the key learnings for you?
RBS was the best thing that happened to me in 2007. I used to read in business dailies about how good RBS is as a bank. The journey was different, and during the stint, I took some difficult decisions about where to spend and the ROI we will get. But everything went well, and now we are a profitable and sustainable company. The key to success was to keep our customers happy in whatever we did.
Q- What are the fundamental paradigms that are shaping the banking industry and what do they mean when you look at the broader business ecosystem?
Going forward, customers will continue to play a key role and they will be digitally led. 65% of the jobs of the future are not even known to us today, but we have to be ready to be relevant for the future of all the changes.
Employees need to work in such a manner that they never lose customer connect. I think the bank of yesterday vs. the bank of tomorrow is changing. It is going to be more digital, and the constant question I ask is what are we doing next for the customer. Twenty percent of global RBS resources are in India and technology plays a significant role for us.
Q- How do you ensure a gender inclusive culture in your organization?
Honestly, it starts with customers because they are diverse. Whether it is gender diversity, differently abled, LGBT and others, we ensure diversity in our workforce. The diverse crowd gives us diverse views, and this is what RBS exactly wants.
Secondly, in our organization, we have worked for the LGBT community way before the government’s nod. We treat all our employees equally.
Q- According to you, how do you think HR plays an important part in meeting business goals?
Business and HR work hand-in-glove to take care of people. In that sense, HR does a phenomenal job. I think business and HR have to come together when it comes to people. Whatever we do for our people has to be thoughtful. I think people should be cared for. I always care of my people, but I’ll never pamper them. And there is a thin line between what people think is care vs. pamper.
I think our people spend more time in office during the weekdays and therefore we ensure we make RBS a home-away-from-home, and that’s what we will always strive for. People genuinely feel that RBS is a great place to work and this is something that we will always work towards. We pay them fairly. We are not going to be the best paymaster, but we can be the best when it comes to training.
Q-Hierarchies have worked well in the past, until now. In the environment that businesses run today, hierarchies are said to smother ideas, creativity, and the ability to innovate. Do you think killing organizational hierarchies is a bet that companies can afford?
In RBS, there are no hierarchies. You don’t have to go through a stepped approach. I believe having hierarchies kills the innovation in the company. I am not sure if hierarchy can ensure more growth. We need to think about what we need to do as a bank. In my personal view, I am not a person who follows hierarchies. In our company, we value suggestions and it can come from either subordinates or the leadership team.
Q-Do you see your role as more of a big-picture strategist or a hands-on manager?
I have always operationalized strategy. One needs to apply strategy according to the requirements. The strategy should be executed in such a manner that highlights in-depth information, and it should help the company’s future. In RBS, we apply such strategies which work for our people, our bank and our customers.
Q- In your opinion, what should be the real role of an HR leader in the organization?
HR is the one department that can balance people and customers very well. Eventually, it’s about people and passion and how passionately you take care of your people. It’s not one or the other, and that derives from what you need to do for your organization and what you need to do for your people. I think HR plays a significant role in balancing that.