Lessons on Leadership: Reflections from Two Decades in Banking

In the 25 years he has spent in banking in India, Anil Kumar SG has learned a lot about customer-centricity and leadership.

After his first job in a rural branch of a government bank, Anil was hired as the 442nd employee of ICICI Bank in 1996. The bank’s proposition was focused on offering the best customer service possible and differentiating itself from existing players in the market.

Employees knew bank leadership would support them whenever they made a decision in the interest of the customer, Anil said. It was not a stated policy, but rather embedded in the culture of the bank, which at the time was much smaller and had only 10 or 12 branches.

“The courage to take more decisions in the interest of the customer came in because we knew that the leadership of the bank has always supported us,” he said, in an interview with CGAP after he presented at the CGAP Leadership Series on Customer-Centricity in New Delhi.

Anil was later a founding member of IFMR Trust and the KGFS Model. Although they did not use the words, “customer-centric organization,” Anil said: “All of us intuitively believed that what is good for the customer is good for us.”

All senior management recruited into the organization would go through an immersion program, where they would spend three weeks in the house of customers in remote areas. It was critical, Anil said.

“If you have to know the customer, you have to live the way the customer lives,” said Anil, currently the CEO of Samunnati. “That’s non-negotiable.”


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