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Proof that Habits make a Difference

13 senior BFSI professionals narrate incidents of how habits have helped them during tough times in their professional success:

Lalitha Bhatia, Chief Operating Officer at Ageas Federal Life Insurance Company: I think we are what we are because of our habits. I have this habit where I generally tend to synergize with people. When you deal with people, if you show them that this will help both, it really helps you to get out of difficult situations.

We get a lot of customer complaints where we actually see what we can do so that it helps both the company and as well as the customer. I have found that it really helps when you actually try to think win-win and you are able to work on the fact that what is good on both the sides and reach a mid-path. This way, you can really avoid confrontations. It has helped me a lot.

When you are working on audits, I think this approach really helps. You have to ensure that both parties feel good at the end, rather than push somebody down and then you feel that you have won. We must learn to agree to disagree and ensure that nobody feels bad about it.

Habits help you all the time. I have seen that they help in both professional and personal lives. You cannot compartmentalize your habits in that sense, because the way you are at home is the way you go to be in office. I don’t think you can be a different personality. Habit is one thing that you carry forward from your home to your office and office to your home.

In March, which was a very tough time for most insurers, my husband had actually fractured his leg. And I remember my mother-in-law actually came in March and helped me. And so that is why when you synergize with people, they also feel it’s important to help you.

Also, you really have to segregate urgent and important. What happens daily is that e-mails and phone calls become very urgent, but sometimes they may not really help you achieve your goals. So, you really will have to segregate into what priority you give. 20% of your things are the most important…. focus on them.

I don’t let others drive my . I have my list of important things which I do.

Ashima Bhat, Group Head – Business Finance, Strategy, Administration,  Infrastructure & CSR at HDFC Bank: During the 2 two months, the functions that I held were medical. My work was about managing the covid situation, like shutting down, opening and sanitizing the office, taking care of employees’ health, their families’ health. That indicated a very strong ability to work hard and to be available at any point of time. It is like a trait which I have consciously done. The last 10-11 months were crazy and everything that I had learnt came to the fore. And the ability to be compassionate. All employees worked together and managed the situation.

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Habits cannot be switched on or off. I think they are personality traits. They started as habits like consciously managing time. Over time they became ingrained. Hard work is my dominant trait. I do prepare a complete to-do list every day.

Shoma Narayanan, Executive Director – Group Strategic Marketing & Communications at DBS Bank India: Recently I have been working on a project which is rebranding a whole set of branches that DBS had acquired when an Indian bank was amalgamated with us. It was a fairly complex project with tight timelines because there are more than 500 branches across the country, and I was working with my team and agency partner.

So being structured, making lists, putting down ideas when they come in, have all really helped. We have a fair number of more evolved management tools, but I still feel that pen and paper still work the best for me.

I think they help me continually. Of course, it also depends on which habit and exactly how tough the tough time is.

Nilufer Mullanfiroze, Country Head – Deposits, Cards & Retail Unsecured Lending at Federal Bank: Some 7-8 years ago, when I was asked to lead a project on digital banking enhancement, I was having a conversation with a peer from home about it. Then my kid (12-13 years old) heard the conversation. He said ‘You don’t know how to fix the home Wi-Fi; how will you build a digital bank?’ Constant learning is a habit for me. It was a good introspection. Then there have been periods of time in my career when progress would also mean a change of location, depending on family requirements. I have not volunteered to take the promotion or ask for the promotion indirectly, but it was a conscious decision. So even if I have to move cities and take a larger job a year later, in a 30–40-year career it doesn’t matter. But for a kid starting school, going from primary to secondary, getting into a college, are once in lifetime events. So, as a parent maybe those 3-4 years taking a backseat professionally, but personally putting over effort and time into family was I think a conscious decision. I believe taking conscious decisions makes you to be more at peace so that you know you are balancing life and be happy overall with professional life as well as personal life.

Shalini Rajani, Head – Training & Call Center at Fino Payments Bank: I can share a few incidents. Last year, I suffered a brain haemorrhage. I didn’t know I was going to live or not. And of course, the covid period. All these periods have taught me the importance of will power. I had a strong will power and desire to continue. My husband helped me a lot, and so did my organization. Being strong in your professional life, having passion towards work helps you to fight these kinds of problems in life.

Habits are made over a period of time. They are not just suddenly made. From your childhood to your professional life, habits keep changing. In my early career years, people groomed me well. They did their job 20 years ago. Now it is my job to do the same with my team members. For any successful leader there is a team behind. So, you have to create a successful team which can give rise to future leaders.

Sumanlatha Sanghi, Head – Account & Channel Maintenance at ANZ: Having a habit of doing things in an organized manner has always helped me do well in work. This is a habit that I have from my childhood instilled by my parents and in school by my teachers. When you clearly have goals in mind, it’s good to have a detailed plan to help guide you to achieve it. Short term and long terms plans enable you not to lose sight of small things that may impact your journey. This is useful when I was required to set up/ build new teams, new processes with no precedent. It also helped me foresee risks that may cause an issue and plan for them.

Habits are not built and used when you want them. It’s part of your personality and help you in your day-to-day life. Some habits while they may be good in some situations, may be not so good in others. So, it’s also important that you are conscious of yourself and make changes in your habits as per the situation.

Rajashree Nambiar, Former MD & CEO at Fullerton India Credit Company: Best example is covid. In the first week, I was wondering and confused about what to do but the self-discipline kicked into action very quickly. And that habit allowed me to have a very structured life during the lockdown. I used the lockdown period to get fitter as I realized health and immunity are the armoury against covid. I invested in health that’s why very soon I could commute back to office daily. Since my job is so demanding, focusing on good health has helped me withstand my hectic career life.

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L Chiranthi Cooray, Chief Transformation Officer at Hatton National Bank: ‘Begin with the end in mind’ has helped me to become a holistic solution provider and go to the root cause of the problem and find lasting solutions. It has it’s good and bad. If you overdo it, you tend to over perfect it, which takes time, and the stakeholders get impatient. You should know how and when to moderate the habit to get the best results.

Babitha B P, CISO at CSB Bank: In my life, especially in my profession, I have taken up many challenging jobs and proved myself. That’s the sole reason my management has trusted me and supported me to take this position as CISO. I am the first lady CISO in the Indian banking industry.

Whichever field we are working, if we have a positive attitude and have a mind to take the challenge, we will succeed and hard work pays. We should be passionate about the work we do especially in this field, where we are learning every day.

Monu Jain, Country Head – Mid Corporate Banking & SME Business at IndusInd Bank: Habits shape a person. Your actions are actually the distillation of all your habits put together. It shows in your day-to-day life. This has helped me during challenges like covid.

It has been very stressful for the financial sector because of the uncertainty and unpredictability. We have adapted and learnt from the new situations, such as how to get on with the new age digital media, how to interact with people, new ways of synthesizing data, new ways of gathering information on what’s happening with the corporates, picking up more on what’s happening in the economy. All these came from the basic habits of learning perseverance and diligence.

Nitu Samra, Chief Financial Officer at LeasePlan India: Professionally, my last 6 years as CFO for Lease Plan have been highly demanding where I have to partner with the business and at the same time focus on the core finance work. Both my habits came in handy. It is not possible without planning in a demanding role like this. While planning helps, with passion you end up enjoying it. There is nothing more satisfying than this.

If I talk about a personal example, it started helping me when my elder daughter started to go to school in 3rd or 4th standard, and she needed some attention in studying. My habit helped me manage this. Not just planning in terms of how to help my daughters, but also to make them independent. So that they can also plan and do things passionately.

Purvi Bhavsar, Managing Director at Pahal Financial Services: Having a very focussed and task-oriented mind set during the crisis situation like covid has helped me navigate the team well and ultimately get out of the crisis with least damage! My habit of detailing and ability to understand the trends have helped us avoid certain geographies in terms of business expansion. This in turn has helped us perform better during difficult times. Your habits must become your routine and way of life. You can’t really recall it when you need it during tough times. It does not work that way!!

Mauli Bodiwala, AGM – HR at The Kalupur Commercial Cooperative Bank: I have a habit of never saying no. Sometimes people say that you should be able to say no also. But I had a habit that most of the times I never say no. So, about 5-6 years ago, RBI was conducting a case study competition and they invited all the banks to participate in that. I was not much inclined to participate in that event. But at that time, our bank’s chairman insisted that there should be a very good participation from our bank. So, as I didn’t have a habit of saying no, I decided to try. And there is my habit that once I do something, I put my 100% in that. So, for the first time I came to know that I have a good writing skill too. I was not knowing this, but because someone insisted, I started writing. I got the first prize in that case study competition, thanks to my habits and skills.

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