Anshula Kant sure knows a thing or two about running banks and dealing with matters such as financial and risk management.
And the world knows it too – Anshula was appointed as the Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of World Bank recently.
As the first woman to take charge in this position, Anshula has garnered attention across the world. In her last stint, she was the managing director at State Bank of India, the oldest commercial bank in the Indian subcontinent, where she has worked for more than three decades.
The journey of 35 years
Anshula was born in Roorkee where most people walked straight into engineering colleges after school Naturally, her father told her that if she was to become an engineer, their hometown is just the best place to be. However, Anshula went ahead and chose a path that best suited her.
Banking on her sole love for economics, Anshula went on to do bachelors and masters in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College and Delhi School of Economics, respectively.
After beginning her career as a probationary officer in 1983, she became a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers in 1990. Her rise through the ranks continued, as she became CEO of SBI in Singapore, Chief General Manager of the bank in Maharashtra and Goa, and later MD and CFO of SBI. She has held direct responsibility for the bank's Risk, Compliance, and Stressed Asset Portfolio.
Anshula has likened her work at Singapore to that of starting up a business. "At that time I was in the thick of operations since we had just got the retail licence there,” she said. She was working on all fronts of hiring people, looking after technical teams, and setting up ATMs in while charting the new territory.
She is also lauded for holding the fort at SBI during demonetisation in November 2016, when banks were flocked by people for change and issue of new notes.
Woman in charge
As the CFO of SBI, Anshula managed $38 billion of revenues and total assets of $500 billion. Stewarding the organisation, she greatly improved the capital base and focused on the long-term sustainability of SBI within her mandate. But her achievements do not end there.
The 50-year-old has been instrumental in leading her organisation to make it a welcoming space for all.
In 2017, when Anshula was CFO and Deputy MD, there were around 46,000 women employees at State Bank of India, making up 22 percent of the workforce.
While most conditions in workplaces were tailored to suit men’s preferences, including facilities as basic as the room temperature, Anshula initiated many changes in terms of taking leave, and other conditions to support women in continuing their profession.
In January 2014, SBI announced that women employees can take two years’ sabbatical leave from work for purposes such as child’s education, taking care of parents, and other responsibilities that are traditionally expected to be fulfilled by women in the house.
Under Anshula, in May 2017, SBI also launched ‘work from home’ policy for its employees, with the option allowed to be extended beyond a year for women employees. Anshula said that they have kept this option open for all the work that can be done from home while customer-facing, constant engagement branch assignments can be taken care of from the bank alone.
In order to not let family matters and husbands job posting affect women’s career, the bank has also been flexible in transferring women employees to places they favour.
These developments came after Anshula noticed that many women tend to retire due to family compulsions, even when their career trajectory is going upwards. They were also shaped by her own experience when she got transferred from Varanasi, where her husband worked and in-laws lived, to Lucknow. She had nearly given up her career at the time.
And all the hard work has paid off for Anshula. Having been at the helm of managing the largest government-owned bank, this veteran made economy-moving decisions and progressive policies for her employees, playing her part in building a new India. In her latest role at World Bank, the world is expecting Anshula to recreate her magic.