Risk and reward on the road to Bengaluru

If you were building a bank from scratch, where would you begin?

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Venkataraman SV

Firstly, you need to find the right person to help.

"Working in Bengaluru really ties all my experiences together. It is a banking role with scale and technology in that it is managing people and a series of customers"  - Venkataraman SV

You could ask Venkataraman SV - better known to colleagues and friends as Venky – who is Managing Director of ANZ Group Capability Centre Bengaluru.

Venky’s varied career has seen him literally help build a bank from the ground up.

He was running a team of about 1,300 people at a large corporation when he had a chance encounter at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai in 2008.

“I met someone from ANZ in the airport who had moved to India to set up the banking business in the country again.”

ANZ had been in India before, operating Grindlays Bank which it sold to Standard Chartered in 2000.

“The CEO designate was someone I had worked with in ANZ,” Venky says.

“He said he was looking for someone to come and help him build this out, and asked if I would like to join them. I said ‘fine’, so I had a round of interviews in Singapore … and they offered me the job of Chief Operating Officer.”

Venky’s career arc – which includes 27 years at ANZ in a variety of roles - and experiences reflect how important skilled bankers from India have become to the world economy since that country’s economic liberalisation in the 1990s.

It also points to how Bengaluru is now a home for innovation and growth for ANZ.

A new bank in India

So how did Venky start building a new ANZ India in Mumbai?

In a way his job sounded simple but it was anything but that. Venky says it was incredibly intense but rewarding working with high performing teams and building ANZ India

“We had to get the banking licence and build out the bank,” he says. “Four years of setting operations and  building teams was the most exciting part of my career.”

“I used to start on Australian time and work through the day in India along with our team of three or four. There was a lot of back-and-forth visits between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank and we got the licence enabling us to open in 2011.”

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After securing a property and just days before the opening date, Venky got bad news – regulatory clearance to occupy the building was going to take more time.

“We had already told the regulator we were ready to go. There were a couple of sleepless nights,” Venky says. “But that is where the magic of India happens – the developer put just enough people in overnight to get the building ready and we got the approval done.”

“It was down to the wire but thankfully there was a big team from ANZ helping us from Australia and Singapore. We couldn’t have done it otherwise.”

Born and educated in Delhi, Venky shifted to the eastern part of India to pursue his engineering. As he describes it, he ended up in banking by chance.

A broken leg and a change in direction

An early experience – just out of university – was instructive of his resilience.

He had just graduated from one of the country’s leading engineering schools, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He planned a career in the Indian navy until he suffered a fractured leg after being knocked down by traffic.

He completed his final university exam on crutches and was laid up for four months. “I went home to Delhi to my parents to recover. While I recovered it gave me time to think things through,” Venky says.

After completing an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) he joined Grindlays Bank, which was owned by ANZ at the time.

By the peak of the tech bubble in 2000, Venky was in London working on a startup. He wanted to gain some experience in the growing technology sector, but admits it was the biggest risk of his life.

“My wife and I had two young kids and I had been well employed in India. I moved industries and countries to a job I had never done before. Landing on my feet in London gave me a lot of confidence.”

After a year in the UK the dot com bubble burst - but by then Venky was fascinated by technology. He moved back to India to work for the giant Tata Consultancy Services.

He discovered India – and Delhi - were rapidly developing as hubs for technology and innovation.

“I thought I knew the city, but the city had moved on,” Venky says.

When he started working at Perot Systems as head of the financial services arm, he’d gone from managing 60 people at Tata to about 1,300 workers.

“It is where I learned to manage at scale – juggling many balls. You have multiple customer teams, multiple geography teams and multiple delivery teams. It requires multidimensional thinking,” he says.

Bengaluru and innovation

Such experiences prepared Venky well for his current job. As the Managing Director of ANZ’s operations in Bengaluru, he directs and provides strategic guidance for the 8,000 employees.

ANZ’s operations are spread across two campuses in Bengaluru – situated about 20 kilometres apart. Most leaders like Venky split their time between the two.

GCC Bengaluru provides technology services and banking operations across Australia, New Zealand, Asia Paci­fic, Europe and America for all of ANZ businesses including retail, commercial and institutional banking, trade finance and technology.

The centre works in multiple shifts supporting different geographies – one shift starts at midnight to support New Zealand and the next shift at 5am to support Australia. The main Indian shift starts at 7am, then another supporting New York from 6pm.

These are all experiences Venky has had before.

“Working in Bengaluru really ties all my experiences together. It is a banking role with scale and technology in that it is managing people and a series of customers,” he says.

Venky loves the technology and driving the development through innovation – including ANZ’s early adoption push of automation and machine learning.

But it’s also crucial not to forget the human dimension of the job.

“Managing this team of 8,000 people along with other leaders is an incredible privilege.”

Jeff Whalley is a Journalist with bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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