Sambhu N. Gautam’s 32-year Banking Odyssey

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Sambhu N. Gautam’s 32-year Banking Odyssey

A seasoned veteran of the banking sector, Gautam’s proclivity for constant improvement and enterprise has cemented a stellar career.
 
Shambhu N. Gautam, the chief executive officer of Siddhartha Bank Ltd, has over 30 years of experience in the banking sector. Gautam started his banking career from Agricultural Development Bank Limited as a loan officer in 1987 and joined Nabil Bank a year later.
 
Gautam, who had limited knowledge of banking and finance during the initial stages of his career, believes his desire to learn about the banking and financial sector after joining Nabil helped him achieve success over the years. Ashim Neupane of New Business Age caught up with Gautam Siddhartha Bank’s headquarters in Kathmandu to discuss his journey in the banking industry.
 
Not a Business Student
Gautam studied agriculture for his Bachelor’s degree from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) in Rampur. He says the quality of education in Rampur was stellar at the time, which helped Gautam enter the banking sector. He also shares that there are many graduates from IAAS who have ventured into banking and other non-agricultural fields and achieved tremendous success. Gautam says because he studied Mathematics and English while pursuing his degree, it helped him get through the entrance examination at Nabil Bank. After working for 17 years in the banking sector, Gautam completed an Executive Master‘s in Business Administration (EMBA) course from Kathmandu University in 2006.
 
An Accidental Banker
Before entering the commercial banking sector, Gautam worked at the District Agriculture Development Office for two years from 1981 to 1983. While he was working as a loan officer for the ADB/N, one day he came across a vacancy for a junior-level officer at Nabil Bank. Gautam applied for the job, but he says he was not very hopeful. He took the written test, and he finished first in the exam. After going through interviews, he was selected for the position. 
 
Since then, there has been no looking back for Gautam. He was promoted regularly, and after over 14 years of service at Nabil Bank, Gautam left his role as the head of Corporate Credit in 2002 to join Siddhartha Bank as an assistant general manager. Gautam remembers there were many difficulties in the initial stages at Siddhartha Bank—the Maoist insurgency was at its peak, and the economy of the country was fragile. There were also many established banks at that time, which meant Gautam and the team had to work doubly hard during the early stages. However, he says he has thoroughly enjoyed the work at Siddhartha Bank. In August 2017, his hard work and dedication paid dividends as he was appointed as the CEO of Siddhartha Bank.
 
A Constant Learner
After being selected as an officer at Nabil, Gautam met with GS Shrivastav, the executive director of the bank. Considering his lack of expertise in the banking sector, Gautam did not have a firm grasp over the concepts of accounting. During the meeting, Gautam told Shrivastav that despite his best efforts, he still could not understand those concepts and wondered if he would be a good fit for the position. But Shrivastav encouraged him, Gautam says, and told him that his attitude, honesty, and his desire to learn would help paper over the few cracks in his knowledge. One can learn banking concepts, but cultivating the right attitude is difficult, Shrivastav told him. On his recommendation, Gautam started reading books on banking, finance and accounting regularly. Until this day, he is a voracious consumer of articles, journals and books about the banking sector.
 
A Satisfying Moment
Gautam says he has enjoyed every moment of his 32-year long career. However, working as a branch manager for three years in Sugauli—west of Birgunj—was one of the most satisfying moments for him as a professional. During his tenure from 1988 to 1991 at Nabil, he granted loans to needy residents in the region with the sole aim of uplifting their living standards. He still remembers when the branch approved a loan amount of Rs 1,000 to the farmers to purchase hand pumps. Even the head office appreciated his effort, and he believes his tenure at the rural Sugauli branch helped him grow in his professional career. During his time at the branch, he approved over 1,200 loans, all of which were recovered by the bank.    
 
Suggestions for Recent Graduates
Being in the banking sector is not an easy task for professionals, because one has to invest a lot of time in the office. Recent graduates who want to enter the banking sector need to have a good learning attitude, according to Gautam. “The remuneration is also good in the banking sector compared to other sectors,” he said, adding that many banks have been opening new branches aggressively in recent years, and fresh graduates could fill the vacuum. Gautam believes fresh graduates still prefer working in the banking sector as there are immense opportunities to learn and grow as professionals.
 
He also suggests freshmen in the banking sector should learn from their seniors. Gautam says his seniors at Nabil Bank made him a better banker and recalled how the grooming of Asadul Ashraf, Shovan Dev Panta, Surender Bhandari, Ajaya Ghimire, and Anil Gyawali motivated him to work harder.
 
Management Mantra
Gautam says he has always been honest and credible in his career. “Deposits of the public are a valuable resource for the bank, so professionals in the banking sector should always be honest towards depositors,” he says. Gautam says qualities such as credibility, integrity and hard work are equally essential.
 
“Managing a bank can be a simple job if there is a collaborative effort from the entire staff,” he adds. “We have always been transparent with our customers and banks should always be focused on servicing the consumers better.” 
 

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