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Anand Adhikari     March 17, 2020

I want a happy organisation." That was the big mandate in the shortest possible sentence given by 69-year-old Aditya Puri, MD and CEO of HDFC Bank, to the new Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Vinay Razdan. An HR veteran of three decades, during which he worked for marquee names like ITC, HCL Technologies and Idea Cellular, Razdan connected well with Puri's message. "I thought it was a very aspirational and worthy goal," says Razdan, who joined the bank a year-and-a-half back.

Razdan's entry into the bank has happened at a time when the bank is gearing up for its next phase of journey. There is a leadership transition that is going to happen by the year-end with Puri - the man who built the bank with assets size of over Rs 12 lakh crore - hanging up his boots. Moreover, banking itself is changing with digital banking moving the customers away from branches to mobile (app banking), kiosks, net banking, ATMs and more. There is also the challenge of handling the size of the largest private bank in India, with about 1.2 lakh employees spread over some 5,100 banking outlets across 2,800 cities.

The 25-year-old HDFC Bank is rebooting its Human Resources for the next phase of growth by focusing on creating individual experience for its workforce. Corporate history has enough examples of organisations that grew in size but lost the game (of managing people). "Such large organisations tend to deal with 'mass' as 'numbers' and the individual connect gets lost," says Razdan. To avoid going down that path, he says, the bank has to create a strategy that is enabled by the right structure based on which appropriate employee experiences can be created. "We are trying to keep individual employee at the centre of everything."

Employee Centricity

Customer centricity is the buzz word in banking, but HDFC Bank is creating the building blocks by first creating a happy employee. "I believe in the concept of virtuous cycle which means success feeds success and brings in a higher level of success," says Razdan.

The bank has redrawn its entire HR strategy into three heads. First, there are centres of excellence (CoE), which are essentially corporate based functions which design HR strategies. The second is deployment and execution. "We as HR have one face to the business (corporate centre) and below that we have created four regional leaders to head the regions," says Razdan. The decentralisation is important as more than 50 per cent of the bank's branches are in rural and semi-urban areas. So while the metro branches are catering to tech-savvy customers, the rural and semi-urban branches will need workforce to do business in areas like affordable housing, micro personal and business loans, consumer durable loans, etc. "Our execution engine is horizontal at a region level," says Razdan.

The CoEs are in the area of talent acquisition, talent management, employee engagement and organisation effectiveness. For instance, the CoE for technology looks at various tech solutions for the organisation.

The bank is also working on a employee self-service module. Under this, the employee will have ready approval letter formats for things like applying for a passport or updating degree, etc. "Employees don't have to wait or make rounds to get a letter," says Razdan.

The people approach of the bank has always been on acquiring the right talent, career management, providing connect programmes, training and development and rewards and recognition. Given the technological changes, hiring is also shifting to get the right fit. The bank has already taken a lead in digital initiatives. In fact, the bank also experimented with a physical robot to welcome customers at branches and also facilitated some transactions. The deployment of software robotics is also taking place in a big way to handle repetitive transactions. The bank is already offering pre-approved loans in five seconds.

Leadership Transition

A big event that HDFC Bank is soon going to undertake is the succession to Puri as MD and CEO. The man who everyone thought that the bank is grooming - Paresh Sukthankar, the Deputy MD - recently left the bank, citing personal reasons. There are three top internal contenders already in the board. Kaizad Barucha, Sashidhar Jagdishan and Bhavesh Zaveri are all in their mid-50s and therefore have 10-15 years to give to the organisation. It will, however, be business as usual for the bank even during the transition, thanks to the next layer of senior management after Puri being stable. "They all have decades of experience. They all are people who built the bank," says Razdan.

The bank is also on a look-out for an external candidate. Will an outsider be a good cultural fit or will an internal candidate be able to manage the mammoth organisation as it faces a new set of challenges? The coin could fall either way.

Another challenge that Razdan would face is managing attrition, if any, at the senior management level. ICICI Bank, for example, saw big exits when Chanda Kochhar emerged winner in the succession race. "Our people are much sought after," says Razdan, adding that the bench strength of the bank is deep. In fact, Razdan did an extensive study of this by analysing the people data at every level based on vintage and retention level. "The way the organisation is poised, this may be the best place for people to be because of the size of the opportunity in the financial services," says Razdan. In the last quarter of a century, the bank has grown from scratch to having advances of Rs 8.19 lakh crore and profits of Rs 21,078 crore (FY19).

The litmus test of any large organisation is commercial success and longevity. "If you look at cult organisations, they have commercially sustained themselves and profitably grown over a length of time," says Razdan. And that is only possible by having happy employees.

@anandadhikari


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