Article: Transformational leadership in banking

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Transformational leadership in banking

A new book edited by Dr. Anil K. Khandelwal explores transformational leadership in banking using in-depth case studies and insightful interviews.
Transformational leadership in banking

I was filled with a sense of anticipation and exultation as I picked up the copy of Dr Anil K Khandelwal’s latest book “Transformational Leadership in Banking” a hardcover book with an attractive bright cover and with 514 pages of treasure between them. Having already authored two best sellers “Dare to Lead” and “CEO, Chess Master or Gardener”,  Dr Khandelwal has by now, made a mark in the  leadership  domain. He revisited his earlier book “Human Resources Development in Bank” written in 1988 to reflect upon the progress of HRD function in Public Sector Banks. In his own words, he laments that “…in last three decades, while banking has taken rapid strides, such as introduction of technology, retail banking and more recently the amalgamation of 10 PSBs into 4, the HR function continues to suffer from neglect…” such observations coming from a stalwart who chaired the famous Khandelwal Committee in 2010, are serious indictment of the HR function. Dr Khandelwal is known to be a hands-on leader and this book is testament to his passion and commitment to ensure that change does happen. This perseverance sets him apart as not only a thought leader but also a committed change agent. 

In editing the “Transformational Leadership in Banking” Dr Khandelwal has garnered contributions from 34 outstanding luminaries from academia, industry, and consulting. The cross section of contributors testifies to the magnificence of diverse perspectives, opinions, and counsel. The success of this book can be attributed to this very feat, where Dr Khandelwal has been able to extract the wisdom of such accomplished professionals and string their thoughts together in harmony with the central theme. 

Essentially, the book has dwelled on three broad themes: Governance, Leadership and Human Resources. It has critically examined what role HR can play in influencing the other two. The archaic method of selecting Boards and giving the CEO a team of Executive Directors from different banks, that too on a short tenure of 2-3 years has posed grave challenge in obtaining commitment for long term changes and limited possibility to engage in transformational change that requires tenure commitment. Banking industry continues with the mindset of focusing on immediacy of commercial goals leaving very little room for getting the banks future ready. Banking industry has been beleaguered with huge manpower numbers. Estimated to be over 1 million today. But the type of talent needed for future skills like risk management, data analytics, digital technology etc., is in short supply. HR will need to prioritize reskilling current manpower expeditiously.

The book is structured in three parts. Part 1 focuses on future of banking, governance, leadership, and talent. Part 2 presents four case studies from leading Banks where HR has played significant role in business transformation process. This part more than adequately establishes that when reforms in HR are undertaken, they indisputably facilitate good banking. Part 3 presents interesting individual insights, gleaned through one-on-one interviews. The systematic taxonomy of the book is a unique feature. It enables a reader to focus on one major theme at a time, without losing the connection.

Part one is split into four sections. Section one covers future of Banking and urgent need for reforms considering the rapid advent of technology and Digital Revolution. Essays from MS Sriram, Sushil Saluja, Akhil Handa focus on reimagining work and workforce to better understand how machine and man can collaborate and importance of reskilling the workforce to work with intelligent machines. Section two Highlights the Governance issue including soft factors like personal ethics and organizational culture. It underscores the need for transformation because the banking regulations do not always yield the desired results.. Section three  on leadership, with Dr Khandelwal’s epic  Fifteen Actionable Insights from the Trenches. This is unique because it is based on his own personal experience as Chairman and CEO of Bank of Baroda.  Eminent writers like late Dr Pritam singh, Anil Sachdev, Abinash Panda, Mamkoottam, Raj Bowen, Rajiv Jayaraman, Nishchae Suri and others have written excellent papers on leadership, culture, learning, new manifesto for HR in digital environment.

Part two is a collection of four case studies that highlights the sterling work done on transformation by State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, ICICI Bank and Union Bank. SBI’s transformation of its HR practices, the way it revamped its training and development and the role HR played in merger process and digital transformation is a benchmark. The second Case Study is the famous Bank of Baroda’s professionalization of its HR and overhaul of its HR processes. The ICICI bank Case Study on building contemporary HR, including close industry -academia partnership and building a leadership pipeline is an outstanding example of pioneering work. 

Part three is simply fascinating. Stalwarts on Bank boards and acknowledged institution builders - have all candidly shared their experience and outlook on culture, leadership, board management, HR and digital challenges. 

Although the primary focus of the book is Public Sector Banks, nevertheless the insight, the farsightedness and the wisdom contained in the book is universally relevant for HR leaders and CEOs in any industry. This is a book every senior banker should keep on his shelf. It is futuristic and insightful.

In my opinion, this book is a must-read for all HR professionals and senior business and banking leaders, particularly CEOs. 

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