THANE BANKS ON HIM!

Nikhil Ballal

Tell us something about your childhood.
SU-I was born in a remote village of
Raigad district. I come from a lower middle
class family. Since my grandfather was a
ward boy in JJ hospital I took my initial
educational lessons from the hospital
quarters. Eventually I completed my rest of
the schooling from New English School in
Kolshewadi, Kalyan. I was never a brilliant
student.However my grades started
improving as I grew.

When did you decide to become a
banker?
SU-I had always desired to become a
doctor. But due to financial constraints that
couldn’t be possible. I was compelled to opt
for Commerce after my SSC exam. I have
been a strong believer in destiny and that has
been reaffirmed on many occasions.

How were your college days?
SU-Since I had secured good marks in
SSC I secured admission in one of the top
Commerce colleges-MCC (Mulund College of
Commerce). During my college days I also
led the college cricket team. The
temperament which I developed while
playing cricket later helped me in shaping my
career. It increased my patience and
tolerance level. Also it helped me to remain
calm and maintain composure in critical
situations.
On the academic front I started loving
Economics. It became my favorite subject
then. After completing graduation I got three
bank job offers in which two were of
nationalized banks. As your strokes are better
seen in lake then in a sea, I deliberately
selected a small and growing bank. I started
working in Sangli Pvt. Bank.

How were the initial days of your first
job?
SU-They were amazing! I joined Sangli
Bank as a Junior Clerk in 1978. My
management was so impressed with my work
that within no time I was promoted to the
credit department of regional office in Majid
Bunder. I was too young then. Senior officers
were not able to digest that and obviously
they did not help me. This forced me to work
in the most insignificant departments of the
bank which was Telegraphic and Transfer. This
didn’t depress me! Infact I took it in my stride
and started working harder. I use to constantly
interact with people of my industry. Once I
happened to interact with one of my banker
friend who gave me a piece of information
which became the turning point of my career.

What was that?
SU-To maintain CRR (Cash Reserve Ratio),
many banks borrow money from other banks
at a certain rate of interest. Our bank use to
borrow money from a particular bank at
10% interest rate. When I enquired from one
of my friends, who was working with some
other branchabout the lending rate, I was
shocked. The lending rate was a mere 2%. I
was so excited because if our bank borrows
money from this bank then we could save
huge amount of money.Immediately I
conveyed these rates to my manager.                                                                                                                                              However they didn’t take me seriously and
also warned me not to intervene in such
matters.

What did you do then?
SU-One day without informing my
seniors I borrowed money from my friend’s
bank at 2% rate of interest. That day our
bank saved a large chunk of money. The
managers who took my suggestions lightly
eventually made me in-charge of the new
Treasury department of our bank. I may be
one of the youngest to shoulder this
opportunity. I approached BMC, Ratnakar
Bank, Ghatge Patil and many big
organizations and started handling their
treasury departments. In no time many
clients were added to my portfolio. This not
only fetched our bank with enormous money
but also improved our liquidity. We
changed our tag from a ‘borrower bank’ to a
‘lender bank’.

How did you develop the bank?
SU-I introduced Merchandise Banking in
our bank. ESSAR Gujrat Issue was our first
assignment. Our aggressive marketing
helped us to get five times more
subscription. Unfortunately during this
period private banks were not permitted to
keep these funds. We were asked to
transfer it immediately to any nationalized
banks. With my representation to Finance
industry, the rules were amended and
private banks were thereafter permitted to
keep these collections with them. I consider
this as one of my major achievements. Due to
some family issues I had to leave Sangli Pvt.
Bank and joined New India Co-operative
Bank in 1990.

How was the experience to work in a
co-operative bank?
SU-My friends were shocked with my
decision to switch from a private bank to a
co-operative bank. Former Railway minister
George Fernandes, who played a major role in                                                                                                                        conception of Konkan railway entrusted
us the job to sell their bonds. I minutely
studied Konkan railway and started doing
aggressive marketing in entire Konkan belt. I
went to each and every village from Alibaug
to Sawantwadi and convinced the villagers the
importance of these bonds for their growth. I
took help of politicians and local opinion
makers and designed ad campaign in local
dialects. I must admit that it was a tough job.
But eventually we succeeded in selling bonds
worth Rs.10 lakhs to these villagers.

When did you join TJSB?
SU-It was because of Wamanrao
Prabhudesai and Arvind Marathe that I joined
Thane Janta Sahakari Bank, which is now
popularly known as TJSB. It was a bank with
hardly eight branches and with a total business
of less than Rs.200 crores. In last 20 years
TJSB has grown enormously. Today it has 111
branches with more than Rs.12000 crores of
deposit.

How did you grow TJSB?
SU-I joined TJSB at the inception of the
Khopat branch in 1996. I was asked to
achieve a target of Rs.1 crore of deposits till
the inaugural day. I succeeded in achieving it.
By 2001, many of the senior executives
resigned. TJSB had just 14 branches then. Our
board of directors asked me to take the
charge.I realized that there was huge scope in
local financial markets. Multinational banks
were failing to meet the needs of locals. I felt
if we give professional banking experience to
customers at local level they would definitely
like to do banking with us. We gave them a
professional service with innovative products
catering to their needs.
I introduced many new products which
generated tremendous funds. When I was in
New India Co-operative bank I was the first
person in India to introduce car booking
scheme. I introduced this scheme in TJSB as
well which fetched us handsome profits. Also
our Medisoft scheme for medical professionals was a big hit!
We were 18 branches old when we took
over Sadguru Jangli Maharaj and Nav Jeevan
Nagrik Sahakari and got a foothold in Pune. It
was the most challenging phase of my career.

What were the innovations that you brought about in the bank?
SU-On the Technology front, Bank has
implemented successfully the “Core Banking
Solution” (CBS) developed by M/s Infrasoft
Technologies Ltd. Our bank has state of art
Data Center. This has helped us to change the
perception of the bank from being just the
processing centers to marketing customer’s
centric outfits. It will also extend the Bank’s
reach to its customers by multiple delivery
channels such as ATM, Internet and Mobile.
This has brought the bank on par with the
leading banks. TJSB is the first bank in cooperative
sector to install Cheque
Depository Machines at 64 branches, which
are operational 24 x 7. TJSB is also the first
bank to install Cheque Book Making and
Issuance Machine at Naupada’s e-lobby by
which customers can avail the facility of
issuance of Personalized Cheque Book,
which is operational 24 x 7.

What is TJSB’s success formula?
SU-TJSB has always taken interest in the
prosperity of customers. We are always in
search of ‘Gods’. For us local businessmen
are ‘Gods’ because just like a GOD takes
care of his devotees similarly
businessmen(Local Gods) take care of not
only employees but also their families. We
helped them to grow. We don’t say we have
111 branches instead we say we have 111
relationship centers. TJSB has always
concentrated on masses instead of classes.
We changed ourselves as per the times. We
have one of the soundest technologies in the
country.

We know TJSB has been bestowed with
many awards. Can you tell us about some
of them?
SU-We are happy that our work is getting
recognized and applauded at the
international level. Recently Banking Frontiers
has conferred three awards on us, namely
”BEST OVERALL BANK AWARD”, ”BEST
BRANDING AWARD” amongst all cooperative
banks. Also I was felicitated with
”BEST CEO AWARD.
Ourbank has been awarded with “Best
Technology Bank of the year 2011”
(Second runner-up) in co-operative bank
segment by Indian Banks Association. The
award was presented to us in 2012 by
Hon’ble Shri. Narayana Murthy, Chairman
Emeritus, Infosys Ltd.

What would you advise the budding
bankers?
SU-Keep reading anything which comes
your way. Try to read as many banking books
as you can. It helped me. Also be patient in
life. Treat life as a game of cricket. You can’t
hit a six on every ball. Wait for that right ball
(opportunity). Once you see that ball just hit it
(grab the opportunity). But ensure you
preserve your wicket.

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