Starting his career from scratch and ultimately becoming the CEO of one of the preeminent development banks of the country, Pradyuman Pokharel has worked tirelessly to achieve success over the years. Pokharel, who joined Nepal Arab Bank (now Nabil Bank) in 1991 as an assistant to a teller, set an example with his hard work and zeal to learn and consistently rose through the ranks to his current position as the CEO of Muktinath Bikas Bank. In a conversation with Ashim Neupane of New Business Age, Pokharel talked about his career in the banking industry.
A Fortuitous Quiz Contest
Being a science student, Pokharel sought a career in research in either Chemistry or Botany. Around 1991, while he was pursuing his Bachelor’s in Science at Thakur Ram Multiple Campus in Birgunj, he was selected to take part in Nepal Television’s nationwide quiz contest for students. During his preparation, Pokharel had studied various topics including geography, history, logical reasoning, among others. Coincidently, around the same time, Nepal Arab Bank in Birgunj had advertised a vacancy for various posts. The bank was renowned for its services and its lavish workspace. Many of his friends had applied to the bank hoping to secure a job at a reputable institution. His friends swayed Pokharel, and he duly submitted his application. His preparation for the quiz contest helped him get through the written test as the questions were based on geography, history, logic and mathematics.
Assistant to a Teller
On his first day at work, his seniors took him to the cash department. As he had limited knowledge about the banking process, he could not have been assigned to any other department. He was made an assistant to a teller and was asked to sit near the teller and learn from his seniors in the cash department.
A Constant Learner
After being appointed at the bank, he knew he needed to learn about finance and accounting to achieve success in the banking industry. Despite his efforts, he could not find books related to the banking and financial industry in Birgunj. He ordered a book called ‘The Banking Laws and Practices.’ The book had fundamental information regarding cheques, deposits and other banking practices. Furthermore, Pokharel used to consult with seniors from other departments to gain knowledge on banking issues. After working for almost four years and regularly learning about the industry, Pokharel was promoted to a junior officer in 1995.
He still regularly reads books, journals and articles about the banking sector. He says books like ‘Magic of Thinking Big’ by David J. Schwartz and ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey positively changed his life.
A Satisfying Moment
Pokharel moved to Nabil Bank’s Sugauli branch in 1995 as an In-charge of Credit and Marketing. After the transfer of the then branch manager in 1998, Pokharel was given the responsibility of leading the branch. He remembers how he and his colleagues collaboratively helped the bank reduce the interest suspense and non-performing asset rate to zero. “Normally, it is challenging for banks to maintain interest suspense rate at zero, but the team’s collaborative effort helped the branch achieve the feat,” he says. He remembers the branch was praised in the head office too. His hard work in the Sugauli branch helped him get a transfer to Kathmandu in 2001 as a senior officer.
Formation of Remittance Business Unit
Around 2005, the bank was working to establish a department for remittance business. The then CEO of the bank Anil Keshari Shah asked Pokharel to set up the Remittance Business Unit (RBU). The department was formed in 2005 and Pokharel was appointed the head of the RBU.
At one point, Pokharel was the only staff in the department. He still remembers the challenges of establishing the department in the initial stage. He worked as the head of the department for three years before moving to Deposit Relationship Management as a senior relationship manager. He feels great pride at having established the Remittance Business Unit during the leadership of Anil Keshari Shah.
Move to Mega Bank and Rise to CEO
Pokharel’s move to Mega Bank in 2010 as the head of deposits, remittance and cards helped him grow further as a professional. “The collaborative effort from the professionals helped Mega Bank scale new heights,” he said. Eventually, Pokharel was promoted to assistant general manager and was given the responsibility of looking after the entire lending portfolio of the bank. Pokharel moved to Muktinath Bikas Bank in 2016 as a deputy CEO and was promoted to CEO in 2018.
Suggestion for Graduates
Pokharel says working in the banking sector helps professionals systematically develop their careers. “You have to work hard to get promotions regularly,” he says. “There are many opportunities in the banking sector. As the country has adopted a new federal structure, banks have been opening new branches in every nook and corner of the country,” he explains.
He believes fresh graduates should not chase money and fame. “Success and fame come with time, and you have to work hard in any sector to achieve something significant in your career,” he says. He also believes the banking sector still commands a charm and attraction among fresh graduates. “But, other private sector companies are now adopting the professionalism found in the banking sector. This new-found trend bodes well for fresh graduates in the private sector,” he adds.
Pokharel follows a management mantra based on ‘HEAD’.
• Honesty: Professionals should always be fair, credible and consistent in their work.
• Exercise: Everybody should work on four aspects– physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We can work out and do yoga to develop the physical body. For mental health, professionals should read good books and ignore negative thoughts. To strengthen the emotional body, one can read the stories of successful people. Professionals should always be satisfied, and never envious. To develop the spiritual body, professionals should meditate. If you work on all the bodies, you will be fit – physically, emotionally and mentally.
• Action: Professionals should be action-oriented, and should reflect that potential in their work.
• Development: Professionals should always look for growth in any sector. Reading and learning should be a habit of professionals.