Corporate Lawyer to a Corporate Leader

Turning Points in Life

So the first milestone was joining, in 1975, when I look back at my life that indeed was a great milestone for me because until then all I wanted to do in life was to get married, have lots of children. Being a woman there was no pressure to earn a living while men faced a lot of pressures and women certainly of my generation did not. So you can say it was really the first milestone. It gave a great purpose to my life, there was an institution that was being driven by what the country needed at that time which was industrial development, which was economic development, which was financial sector reform so that was my milestone number no.1. The second milestone for me was turning from a corporate lawyer into a corporate leader and one challenge after the other was thrown at me, say getting me to handle treasury, taking on multiple other functions, a troubled asset portfolio, so that transition was another great milestone for me. The third milestone I would say in some ways the most challenging one was when I was 59 years old, this is a time when most people think about retiring & hanging their boots out, I instead was elected to join a global multinational bank. It was a wonderful challenge to have taken on.

Major Learnings

Because I think what drove me was really the complete identification with the purpose of the organization that I was working for. So as I told you, I was really in the forefront of helping Indian industry with long term access to finance and as the country evolved ,as the corporate sector evolved, we had to internally evolve and meet their needs as a financial services company so it was never about yourself, it was always about how this firm can really assist in this much grander vision that the country had about creating a vibrant industrial sector and when you have that kind of identify with your firm, challenge is something that you welcome because you want to succeed, your success is going to be a client success and that success is going to be the country’s success so I know it sounds like high-flying words now. I think when you driven by something like that, you actually identify with an emotional bonding. I don’t know about you but every time we talk about the country and you talk about or I feel very emotional even when I stand up to hear the national anthem. I still get goose bumps so it’s whatever I did whatever drives you and that’s what really kind of drove me and I felt exactly like this with ICICI and then in JP Morgan now, that it’s me, it’s not different, it’s not a job for you.

Lawyer Vs. a Banker

So much academic was illegal and as I joke with my colleagues that our lawyer can become anything else but no one was not studied law can become a lawyer. So you do have some advantages of being lawyer but on a more serious note one of my regrets in life that I did not pursue an MBA because I thought it would’ve equipped me much more in the job that I ended up doing I’m spent 40 years in the financial services company but being a lawyer you, you have a great analytical framework and their lawyers and lawyers so one approach of a lawyer is this what the law says in you can do it and is what the regulations says therefore you can’t do it but several lawyers you will find is to say, here is what the law says if you structure it this way, it can be within the four corners of law and you can still do it so I found that as a great learning that I had which I could put into use in my work.

Journey from ICICI to JP Morgan

Interviewee: Not just the difference between ICICI and JP Morgan. They’re very different organizations but to take your point on how the industry is changing so if you think about banking at the time, I joined banking in fact. It wasn’t even a bank. It was development of financial institution but if you look at the commercial banks around with the branch based banking everyone want their piece in the financial architecture so banks got no deposits and largely make credits to Corporates, Assamese and the agricultural sector with nationalization as you know the priority sector lending an order that whereas the development of financial institution has garnered long-term financial and made long term financing available to the corporates. Three one had set piece in a highly regulated environment the entire set of retail customers who were placing the deposit in you, we never cater to them for credit. It’s only in the 80’s that the foreign banks came in and said you know consumer credits is a big part of the need for the society and they then attempted to you know kind of cater to that but to a very small segment of the society so when the new private sector banks got their licenses in the 90’s two dramatic changes took place. One is technology and this is one of the management mantra that have always believe that whenever you have a constraint you always come up with very creative solutions so the constraint when the new banks came in they very small, very few branches and Reserve Bank of India licensed every branch so they had to come up with other forms of contact customer contact and customer engagement and customer servicing that was outside physical brick and mortar branch and there was so ubiquitous today that we take it all for granted but the ATM’s were not there to talk about. I remember one of the in relatively, I won’t even say smaller cities are tear to city when we opened in ATM. A question we got from the local population was that someone sit behind the ATM to actually draw the money out, you know that’s how Novel it was but it gave a completely new life to the private sector banks so technology helped them evolved very quickly, it was a necessity born out of the branch constraints but then they realize it so much easier to access customers and service them. The cost of servicing comes down, then came the call centre, then came the internet and now we’re moving to mobile banking therefore if  you had asked anyone in 1993-94, when they got their licences to say that the largest bank by market capitalization is going to be a private sector bank you would have laughed, you guts out right, that indeed true HDFC bank is the largest bank. Today now that we have eleven new payment banks people are questioning but how will they make money etc. This is a revolution is making this is going to completely change how we give access to relatively low-value remote population in terms of the overall financially not just deposit.

Changes in the Banking Landscape

Interviewee: Dramatically once again I wanted to look at history 15 years ago, we had 22 million fixed line telephones in India with a population at that time of may be 800 million people, 900 million people and we were saying Oh my God, when will we ever rule out fixed line technology as you know people in urban areas waited to get a fixed line telephone connection today you have 900 million mobile phones and no one is talking about the fixed line phone, any any longer so I believe that the kind of technology, innovation particularly on the mobile set with greater access to WiFi, the 4G coming in, handset cost coming down dramatically that we will all maybe five years down the line say oh my God, Do you remember the time when only one-third of Indians had access to a bank account.

Learning from Mistakes

Interviewee: So any time you take on challenging goals are some goals that you know kind of don’t work out, but I have imbibed this very strong belief that if you really want something and you go and make a public commitment that this what you’re going to achieve, the universe conspires to make it happen. You will have some setbacks in between but you will always realize your goals.

Even the toughest point, absolute faith and it’s critical, you can’t just have blind faith. You’ve got to figure out, it’s not just a strategy. How are you going to execute because you know a great strategy with poor execution and you’ll fall flat on your face. It’s all about your team, you know several times leaders have a tendency to really look for the team members were like them, were clones like them, people like you. I have always found that I actually thrive in an environment where I have people who are least like me because I believe people who can challenge you and therefore complement whatever you think about you can throw wild idea out there and then you want someone to conserve but what if, what if and then ultimately leads to a great decision that you’re going to pursue, people is a very big part of it must have the vision, the passion. Why you doing, what you’re doing, how you furthering your company’s goals by doing that how you servicing your client and the picking up winning team not nine times out of ten. I would tell you ten times out of ten times.

Advice to a young professional

Interviewee: One of the things that we found in our employee survey is that we had a system in which we promoted a lot of very young people into managerial and eventually leadership positions and the feedback that we were getting from employee survey is that my managers to task oriented. I feel he’s completing for my job. I never really gave up his line responsibility to become a manager and that was said why it was a necessity for us just given the way the company was evolving to promote a lot of these young leaders and it always was a great position to do. We probably not equip them enough with some leadership training and leadership skills because the task at hand was so urgent and important that they were just thrown into that job and then actually our head of HR heard of each came up with a very good leadership intervention programmes, so this is a program done with the boss and one down spread over three to four days. you can truncated if you want but that’s the ideal time period with through number of interventions to start with a 360 degree kind of a feedback films about leadership, anger management etc etc and then you evolved to the stage where we basically participant was asked either draw or act out what power it means to that. Now when you and meet me and there is something I don’t like about the way, you’re coming across I’m less likely to tell you about that bluntly I think it’s a big Indian cultural issue but when you’re drawing something and I’m commenting on their drawing, it’s not directly at your ideas about what you think power of our history and we found such a blinding insight in the way people were questioning what the drawing was about, what the acting was about and at the end of the program, you reached a situation where the person sat in a chair and is entire peer group in the presence of the boss gave him or her direct all contact feedback on.

Because you have to get them ready to be there, you know just telling something, when the person is not ready, they’ll be wither extremely hurt or more than just shrugged off and will be in different way. I found that it actually did make a difference because when a personally shows a mirror more likely than not they are reflecting then on it and say now we really need to do something as you know it’s not that people want to be devious or harmful everyone’s chasing a goal, their managerial style, the leadership style can some hoe be perceived as very harsh on it, or as true soft and when we show them a mirror and see here the problem lies. The person is more than likely to correct it.

Indians on an International Platform

Interviewee: Well, this track up very well, as you say number of MNC’s are headed by Indians makes all of us very proud even with our firm several senior positions. I think me fellow Indians ritually makes me proud but for young people, I will come back to the original point I me to you, if you don’t believe that you identify with the purpose of company, you should change your company and when you’re working for a large multinational for you to succeed in what you’re doing, you have to be very comfortable in working in partnership and it a matrix structure if I work with JP Morgan chase in India and I say I know it all and I’m the decision maker, I’m actually being very unfair to my clients and I’m being very unfair to my farm as well because why is it the client will seek me out, I will seek out the plan is because I can deliver global platform, a global product or service to them and why is it that JP Morgan has hired me here in India because I understand the Indian operating requirements, I have the relationship and therefore can better understand the need of the client therefore it has to be a partnership between the lines of business, who’s running that product and myself and my team as a country, if you look at the people that work here except for  few where I have a direct line responsibility for most of them, I’m the indirect Manager of functional managers sits outside the country and the faith and the trust that you have with your partner and with the person here is what really enables you to deliver your form your clients so it’s a different skills having said that I believe in today’s information age, where the last junior most person in, who is in the marketplace or at the other end of providing to our client, he actually has far more information and can sometimes provider far better analysis the you as a boss sitting in your air-conditioned on a sixth floor in your headquarters and therefore your managerial spy has to evolve with the this changing. Times it’s more acute as I said in the case of MNC but I think it’s even true in the case of local corporation because it’s your influencing abilities that comes to the fore because this is the knowledge, this is not the old military style command and control structure, where the boss knows it all and he gives you the commanding you’re really just on the basis how will you executed this is a completely different world.

Talent Gap

Interviewee: So I don’t see that in the financial services face, there have been a number of interventions by financial services payers themselves in terms of training people at the post grad level to get them ready in terms if the skill that you take your so I don’t really see that as a challenge in our industry. I’m sure it’s a challenge in lot of other industry, as you know some IT players therefore intern take fresh graduates are and then put them through a very intense training program and I think this whole skilling exercise that India are the great initiative India is taking is really a great job both soft skills as also functional expertise.

Work Life Balance

Interviewee: So I’m smiling because I always hope that people don’t ask me this question because my answer is not what you want to hear from me work is life so I’ve never been able to understand and decide for this work life balance issue but it’s such a personal thing I’ve seen colleagues of mine who have done a brilliant job in work-life balance this so efficient with their time management and know exactly when to tune off from the work without in any way neglecting what they’re supposed to be delivering and switch completely to what they want to do for the family  and I think women have been phenomenally good at doing this.

Enjoying the Little Things

Interviewee: I think you know you’ve got to be efficient about this so I have to travel a fair amount because of the kind of my work and I have been doing so for close to forty years now and I’ve always found time to go shopping. I mean you know men take great pride in going and seeing an sporting event and going to the bar cause for a drink. I think I derive enormous joy from you know going on a great shopping spirit. I think it’s great therapy, I love site seeing, a lots of new city, I will always find the time to do that.

Indian Education System

Interviewee: So the first and foremost is the education system, you know the joy I get now anytime I’m travelling to or smaller city or indeed in rural India in the morning you’ll find hordes of children in the school uniforms going to the school. So I think India has  done a  decent job. We still have a lot of the quality of the education but at least you don’t have children not going to school dropout rates have come down dramatically so education is gonna be a part of it. The  whole financial empowered you know, if you did not give them access to the formal financial system in terms of savings etc you just left themselves so vulnerable you know to borrowing, holding gold, just buying land disputes with land and all of that so I think education, technology, financial empowerment is really what’s going to get them out and I think at the end of it, I think there is enormous desire on the part of the less advantages people within India is to aspire to be something that’s what we all say that today people are not looking to the government for dorms, they’re looking government for the next job that they can get and with this growth that we are all hoping  we’ll come back very soon into the country that’s what going to be a big difference.

Continuous Learning

Interviewee: So it’s absolutely critical whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a banker of it it’s continuous journey and digital us actually made it’s much easier so even if you look at a JP Morgan chase’s at my level, I am the CEO for this country, I do at least 15 training programmes online. I’m required to do them, they are mandatory and you know we take time off two to three days in a year where I run a leadership thing where we invite a lot of outside speakers to reflect on what are the new trends, are we missing on anything, for three days where we invite the top hundred fifty leaders across the globe. To my mind, a constant learning thing is a must whether you’re sixty plus or whether you’re 25.  

Message of Upgrad

So at the very first level I think in the country we need to do a lot still on scaling where do we put in a lot of effort in terms of school education but now it’s really there’s a lot of it and thanks to the mandatory CSR there is no death of money flowing into this sector what I really need we need to focus in as a country is to build capacity within the social sector and therein lies a great career opportunity as well so if you look at the total money that would come into the country between compulsory CST all the philanthropy deputy both in India as well as offshore money coming into India probably talking something like five to six billion dollars coming into the country in justice sector alone and the need is great but the intermediation that you need the connectivity that you will need for delivering of that is where I see whole lot of opportunities.

Advice to Aspirants and Achievers

So first of all I’m saying when you’re 20 or 22, don’t say I want to become the next Vishal Sikka or I want to become next Mr. KV Kamat or Parikh, you have to say you’re here where my skill here is, where my orientation is and I believe I want to join this company because this is the sole purpose of works why these companies and you go there and you find that fit between what do you think, you can give an what it is that company is planning to give to the society, there’s no looking back you will become multiple times of Vishal Sikka or K V Kamat, without having dreamt that’s eventually who you need to become.

We all have to remind ourselves every time, I believe, that the society has allowed our company to be in a business for a particular purpose, if I don’t identify with that purpose, my career is never going to be successful.

Kalpana Morparia - CEO, JP Morgan India
Kalpana Morparia - CEO, JP Morgan India - Currently the CEO of JP Morgan India, she is among the 50 most powerful women in international business as per Fortune Magazine. She was with ICICI for 33 years.
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