Someshwar Seth serves as the CEO of Everest Bank Limited. Seth, who commenced his career in 1985 with Punjab National Bank, has experienced many crests and canyons in his 33-year banking career. Ashim Neupane of New Business Age sat down with Seth to talk about his career, inspirations, education, and an encounter to remember.
Education is Not a Restriction
Seth never studied business academically. Seth, who was a science student, always wanted to be a scientist. But in 1985, he unwittingly started his banking career. As there were limited career opportunities in India at that time, Seth gave an exam to get a job at the Punjab National Bank. Despite being a science student, he passed the exam and got the job. Weighing up the difficulty in acquiring a job and considering banking was a good career choice, Seth embarked on uncharted waters. “Being a science student helped me get through the exam, as the questions were about Mathematics, English and logic,” he shares, adding that a job at a national bank was considered a tremendous opportunity.
In India, a banker is transferred to another branch after a three-year tenure. Seth has always taken his family along with him every time he has moved to a new location. “They transferred me to almost 13 places. In every place, I kept my family with me. I have always enjoyed staying and working in a new city because the support and love from the family has always been amazing,” he says, adding he had his family with him even when he was posted to a rural branch of the bank in eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP). The support from his family has been the backbone of his successful career.
Take Time to Adapt
As he did not have an academic background in business and financing, it took a while for him to understand the banking system. In the initial stages of his career, the banking system was not yet computerised. As the banking system was manual, it required a lot of hard work. “Given my science background, it took me a little longer to understand banking than a normal accounts student would,” he shares. He made a mistake on his first day. He was handed two vouchers – debit and credit, and he filled up the debit voucher with information that was meant for the credit voucher. However, with time and perseverance, he was able to overcome the barrier and thrive.
Prepare For the Unforeseen
In 1992, he was promoted to a managerial position from the post of an officer. The bank transferred him from Delhi to a rural part of Uttar Pradesh (UP). As he did not want to squander the opportunity, he went there to gain the experience of working in a small branch in the rural part of the country. He distinctly remembers the day he had a unique encounter. He was going through some loan files and other documents, suddenly, a jeep stopped in front of his office. There were around eight armed men in the jeep. They entered the branch brandishing their weapons. The leader of the group entered Seth’s cabin and said “Namaste Manager.” He was the village ‘Sarpanch,’ the head of the village-level constitutional body referred to as a ‘Panchayat.’ Seth remembers the Sarpanch saying, “I heard they have appointed a new manager, so I came to say hello.”
“All the other members of the gang surrounded the Sarpanch. I was surprised at what was happening,” Seth remembers, adding they left after having a short conversation. Right away, Seth called his deputy who informed him the Sarpanch wanted to put pressure on the bank, as he had taken a tractor loan from the branch, which had defaulted. It was a strange situation for Seth, but he convinced the Sarpanch to repay the loan. Seth shares he was a good human being, and he had lunch with him several times afterwards.
The management mantra he follows is being a straightforward person. “I have always been transparent to my customers. I think in the banking sector, everybody should remain calm and do their job, the profession is not rocket science,” he shares. He believes banking is a simple job, and work goes smoothly if you have a smile on your face. He mentions the customers depositing money will feel at ease if there is a friendly and jovial environment in the bank.
“Suppose I am granting a loan and I can assure them I will guide them through difficult situations, the customer will be happy. Keeping things simple is the management mantra I have been following my entire career,” he shares. He always tells his colleagues to focus on the customers and try to put them at ease.
Learn From Your Seniors
Seth has consistently been inspired and influenced by his seniors to work harder. Seth was always enthusiastic and dedicated to his profession and that fire was further fuelled through the motivation he gained from his senior colleagues.
He recollects how his regional managers RK Dubey, RC Kashyap, R Subramaniam had spurred him to work better and harder at various moments in his career, continuing, “I joined Punjab National Bank as a Management Trainee, and for a year I travelled to different branches all over the country as part of the training. In all the branches, I received tremendous support and encouragement from my seniors.”
Pursue a Constructive Hobby
Seth is a bibliophile and loves reading books in his free time. He says he has read many business books in his career. He recently read a book called ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ by Richard Bach, which he thinks should be read by all management sector professionals. He also recommends professionals to read ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ which is about adapting to change.