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Authors: Ravi Subramanian

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BOOK: The Incredible Banker
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Sudden access to the seat of power had turned Deepak Sarup brash and evil. Radically different from what he was when he was in the branch-banking world! And subtle victories like this one over Karan only made him more determined and wicked.




1 August 2007
Bandra, Mumbai



HE shrill alarm bell woke up Savitha. It was six in the morning and she was already fifteen minutes late. Life had been hurding at a hectic pace for her. Her day usually began at 5.45 a.m. After a hurried cup of coffee, which was the only time she had to herself, her day would take off, almost at breakneck speed.

Her daughter Aakansha had to be packed off to school at 7.30, by which time Savitha had to cook her lunch, get her ready and be at the gate by 7.25 - at least five minutes before the school bus arrived. After bundling her into the bus, she would get ready and leave for work by 8.30 a.m. to reach office just in time at 9.00. In the afternoons, the maid would come to take care of Aakansha and would stay back till Savitha returned from work.

Life as a single mother had not been easy for her but she had still managed to make a success of it. The courage with which she had managed to pick up the pieces after she lost her husband and put both her and Aakanshas lives in order was admirable. Financially she was sound. She had a good job. Rent was not an issue as she owned a two-bedroom apartment in Mumbai. Her entire salary was available to take care of her and her daughter's needs. Mentally she was very tough - tougher than most men at her workplace.

Like everyday, even that day she walked into office at 9.00 a.m. She was very particular about reaching on time. While everything seemed fine, her instinct told her that it was not so. She passed a few desks on her way to her workstation. Heena was already there. Savitha saw her and smiled. It didn't evoke much of a response.

Shrugging her shoulders she walked to her desk and sat down. Heena's desk was right across hers, with only a two feet high wooden partition separating the two.

'Shhh...shhh.' She looked up. It was Heena trying to grab her attention.

'What?' She was a bit annoyed with Heena's response when she had walked into the office in the morning. 'Bitch!' she muttered under her breath.

'Boss is in a foul mood.' Heena didn't seem to mind her hostile looks.

'Is it? What happened?'

'Don't know. But don't go anywhere near him today. He might bite.'

'But why?'

'Am not too sure. But have heard that he was pulled up by his boss for not meeting the target this month.'

'But I thought that was because Deepak and his audit team created an issue. The pipeline was there. We had reviewed it on the morning of 28th before Deepak created chaos.'

'Dunno! Seems like his argument was not taken well. And Ramneek Chahal is extremely unhappy with him. Wealth Management, Insurance, fact none of the teams under Ramneek have met their numbers this month. He was counting on mortgages to make it big - and we, too, didn't meet our target. Mortgages as a business would have met country targets, but Mumbai's numbers screwed it up big time. Ramneek apparently called up Karan and blew his top. This is what the grapevine says. I don't know what the true story is.'

'It's ok. In any case my targets were met on 22nd itself. So no one can point a finger at me,' said Savitha and got back to work.

'Savitha,' continued Heena, oblivious to the hostility demonstrated by Savitha, 'did you see Karan's mail this morning? He wants to do a portfolio review this month.'

'What portfolio review?'

'Apparently Bhisham has got back to him saying that the performance of his team is quite skewed. In fact Bhisham has pointed out to Karan that there are a few of his sales guys who are sourcing loans which are so bad that the customers have started bouncing their instalment cheques within a few months of availing the loans.'


'So Karan wants to sit with all of us and mull over it. He wants to do it this week. He has just sent a mail this morning giving a heads up on this and wants us to be prepared.'

'Hmm...ok,' said Savitha and got up and walked out of the door to pick up a cup of coffee. That seemed better than listening to Heena's constant chatter. There was another reason for it. She knew that the loans sourced by her team were among the worst performing loans.

That morning again Deepak had laid out devious plans. The fact that Karan had been humiliated and fallen short of his monthly targets by a big margin was not enough to please him.

He walked up to Bhisham's room and knocked on the door.

'Bhisham, do you have a minute?'

'Yes, yes, come in,'

'Bhisham, I just want to emphasize an important issue to you.'

'Yes.' Bhisham was all ears.

'Bhisham, that day you stopped me from carrying out an audit on the month-end. I seriously think the business that we write at month-end is fraught with risks. The way even your credit team turns into file pushers in the last few days of the month defeats the whole purpose of their work. Neither is it advisable nor prudent. You have the entire sales team, led by Karan, sitting on the credit team's heads trying to get their cases approved. Is that a sensible thing to do?'

'Isn't that normal? Sales would push their cases. They have their numbers to meet, Deepak. If the credit folks can't stand up to them and argue their case, they don't deserve to be in credit.' Bhisham took a balanced stance.

Deepak was not the one to be discouraged so easily. 'Bhisham, do you actually think our credit underwriters across the board will be able to stand up to sales bludgeoning?'

'I would guess so. Why? You think differently?'

'Don't know, Bhisham. Maybe it is a good idea to find out. To do a stress-test on our system. I was talking to Sanjit and even he was worried about what goes on at the month-end.' He knew that Bhisham was too scared of the Deputy CEO to go and ask him. Deepak had become adept at name-dropping.

'Why did you speak with Sanjit on this?' There was a tinge of annoyance in Bhisham's tone.

'He had called me to talk about some other issues. This just came up during the discussion.'

'Hmm...ok.' Bhisham didn't have much to say.

'So, Bhisham, I am going to go ahead with my investigations unless you have any reservations. I wish to critically review each and every loan that has been disbursed on the last few days of the previous months. Is that ok with you?' Deepak delivered the final blow.

'It's ok. Go ahead,' is all he could say. If Deepak had Sanjit's approval, there wasn't much he could do about it.




August 2007
GB2 Offices



EEPAK began to review in earnest the mortgage loans booked during the month-end. He wasn't going to make it any easy for Karan. Deepak was not going to let this opportunity pass without throwing his weight around and getting even with Karan.

A three-member team was put on the job to review all the loan files from end to end. Since Deepak did not have enough capacity within his team, he had arranged staff from the branch-banking side to work on the review project for four weeks. He carefully chose people who were aligned to him. They were given a deadline of three weeks to complete the audit. Deepak himself spent over three hours a day nitpicking with the team, trying to find fault with the entire mortgage process. Deepak was out on a witch-hunt. What started as ordinary corridor banter had now turned into a full-blown battle. Karan could only watch it unfold from the sidelines. (See box on p.38)

As a part of the audit, Deepak's team checked all the application forms. They went through all the verification reports with an intensity never seen before. All loan files were checked for adherence to predefined credit policy. The legal and valuation reports were read
again and again to see if there was any laxity in following what the lawyers had asked for and if there were any slips. The legal kits were looked at through a microscope to make sure everything was in order. Not a single thing was left out.


The approval process for mortgage loans is a fairly involved process. Banks normally collect a host of documents from the customers, prior to sanctioning a loan, which include:

  1. Income documents like pay slips/Income tax returns, to demonstrate that the customer has the income and employment to pay the instalments every month.
  2. Identity proof and address proof- documents like passport copy, driving license, ration card are used as residence proof. Despite taking these documents most banks conduct an independent verification wherein they send agents to the customer's office and residence to verify the veracity of the details provided by the customer. These documents, also referred to as the Know Your Customer (KYC) documents, are mandatory documents as per guidelines laid down by the RBI.
  3. Documents related to the property being bought – a housing loan is a loan provided against the collateral of the property being bought. Hence, it is important that banks satisfy themselves that the seller has the right to sell the property. They conduct a tide search on the property being funded, for which the documents related to the property are taken. An empanelled lawyer then peruses these documents and gives the bank a legal report on the title of the property. This helps the banks in making sure that the property they are funding is a legally tenable property bereft of any encumbrances and in case the customer defaults, they will be able to knock on the doors of the court of law to recover their dues. They also conduct a valuation on the property which also helps them arrive at the market value of the property. Most banks fund around 70-80 per cent of the market value of the property as arrived at through the valuation process.


One week went by. Everything seemed to be in good shape. Nothing of significance was identified as a flaw. Deepak was getting frustrated. It was a once in a lifetime chance for him to get even with Karan. But God didn't seem to be favouring him. How could he nail Karan? He had no clue.

While Deepak was spending time on the mortgage audit, his team was busy with the overall implementation of the RBI audit comments. As a part of their BAU (Business as Usual) responsibilities, they also conducted the monthly audit of credit delivery for the credit cards and personal loans businesses. Those two businesses had over the last few months fixed a number of product and process inefficiencies which had been pointed out in the earlier group audit and RBI inspections.

The first report of the monthly audit conducted by Deepak's team came out in the midst of the mortgage chaos. It showed that there had been a tremendous improvement over the last few months. When Deepak presented the same to Bhisham, he was ecstatic.

'So we are getting back on track, at least in cards and personal loans?' a beaming Bhisham asked Deepak when he saw the reports.

'Looks like it, Bhisham. This definitely looks positive. Clearly the processes that we have put in place now seem to be working.'


'I think we should send it to Sanjit. Would you like to mail it to him or you want me to do it?'

'I will mail him right now. He will be pleased. I will also mark the mail to you.' Bhisham did not want Deepak to take away the laurels alone. This was an opportunity for him to win some brownie points.

'Sure, Bhisham. This calls for a small celebration, doesn't it?'

'Oh yes, of course,' said Bhisham and then added after a pause, 'in fact, why don't you organise one? Let's have a party this weekend. And we must call Sanjit and other senior management as well. After the last group audit and the RBI audits, the credit and collections teams have not been in the best of spirits. This party will help to boost their morale. Let's work at changing the perception of the credit team.'

'Sure, Bhisham, I will work on this,' Deepak assured him.

The party was planned for Friday evening that week. Raffles – a small idyllic joint in the heart of Bandra-Kurla Complex – was chosen for the party. Key people from the credit and collections teams and most of the sales guys were invited, apart from senior people in the management including Sanjit Banerjee.

An hour to go for the event, Deepak was examining the month-end mortgage files with the team he had assembled. They had yet not been able to dig up anything significant.

'Either all of you are duds, or we run a fabulous credit and sales shop in mortgages!' yelled Deepak. He was quite peeved at the failure of his team to pick out loopholes in the process. 'Three weeks and you are yet to pick out even one issue... and you call yourself auditors! Shame on you!' He was at the end of his tether. 'I am reasonably sure I have a team of incompetent guys who cannot find even a single lapse in a complex business like mortgage,' he hollered as he stomped out of the room.

"This week was supposed to be the last week of the audit and we don't even have one ace up our sleeve. If we do not find something by tonight, those fuckers will go away scot-free. I will have to do something, cannot rely on you losers,' he said before he shut the door on the three auditors sitting inside.

'Jai Ho' was the theme of the party, which was the first one in a long long time for the credit and collections teams. The title symbolised victory and Deepak wanted to make sure that he emerged victorious in the party. He was the 'hero' of the evening. Even though he had joined the credit and risk team just a few months back, he had made sure that everyone saw this success and improvement as his contribution. He walked up to Sanjit standing in a corner and bragged about what all he had done to get the team back on track. Sanjit nodded his head. After all, wasn't Deepak his choice?

Karan was there, too, with his entire team. He was not in a mood to party that night, but not turning up would have been politically incorrect. The senior management would not have viewed it positively. His direct reports were also there in the party.

Savitha and Heena were sitting in a corner, sipping coke and observing others. One after another everyone gave victory speeches and the audience clapped. It was turning out to be a boring chest-thumping event. And then finally it was Deepak's turn to speak. By then almost everyone except Bhisham had given Deepak all the credit for having turned around the process controls in the credit team. Deepak was the star of the evening, much to the chagrin of Karan and his team and even the other seniors in Bhisham's team.

Deepak spoke for a good five minutes. He seemed to have come prepared for the evening. It was a well-articulated performance appraisal speech. He outlined every single thing that he had done and even spoke about the month-end issues and the latest audit that they were doing. And then he dropped the bombshell.

'Some serious improprieties have been discovered, which we are investigating. The mortgage audit earlier scheduled for three weeks has now been extended by a week. I expect to close all my investigations by the end of the fourth week.' And then he looked at Bhisham and asked, 'Bhisham, hope you won't have any issues with that?' In the euphoria and the presence of the big shots of the office, Bhisham, though caught off guard, could not say no.

The moment Deepak uttered this, Karan looked at Bhisham and started protesting, but his voice was drowned in the sea of noise that followed because Deepak had smartly announced that the 'Bar is now open'.

Savitha, too, raised her eyebrows when Deepak spoke about the extension of the audit but let it be because she knew that Karan would do something about it. Anyway she was not too sure if she wanted to continue for long in the mortgage team. She had some other agenda on her mind. Deepak looked like an interesting guy and she needed to know what was going on in his mind. From the turn of events that evening he was an important guy to get to know in the long run.

Savitha tried to go close to Deepak a number of times but he was always surrounded by his team during the course of the evening. She couldn't catch him alone even once. After some time she decided to head back home. Aakansha would be alone with the maid, she thought.

The next day was Saturday and a bank holiday. Deepak was alone at home. His wife had gone to the temple in Matunga and hadn't returned. He was to play an important basketball match for his local team and couldn't go with her. After a quick shower he settled in front of the TV with his laptop. He watched a repeat telecast of India's 1983 cricket World Cup victory on ESPN. It was around the same time twenty-four years ago that the Indian cricket team had brought home the prestigious World Cup.

He logged into his email. His team had sent him some findings from the mortgage investigation which had to be validated and sent back to them. He read through everything and responded with his comments. He was done with it in an hour. Nothing was complex enough to have worried him. Since he had nothing else to do, he waited for his wife to return. Internet provided immediate relief from boredom. He started surfing the net. After checking his personal mails, he logged onto Facebook to kill time.

Many people in his friends list had posted some weird messages on FB. Friends were turning into philosophers, going by their crazily profound status updates. Some of them were a rather puzzling combination of voyeuristic thoughts and self-pity. A few of them he found interesting and commented on them. Facebook intrigued him. How on earth could something so mundane as this take the world by storm, he often wondered. 'One day this will rule the world,' he said to himself, even as he moved his glance to the pending friend requests.

Ever since he had moved into the audit role and was perceived to be close to the Deputy CEO, a number of unrelated people had started queuing up to be friends with him on social networking sites – a fact confirmed by twelve pending Facebook friend requests. In fact he had logged in the previous night and had cleared most of them. He only accepted requests from people he knew well.

He checked the pending requests. There were three guys from the collections team, whom he summarily ignored. Someone had once told him that if one 'ignored' a friend request on FB, the sender gets to know it and that it could be considered rude if the sender was an acquaintance. It didn't bother him. His answer was, 'Facebook is for personal networking. If people want to network with me on Facebook, they need to know me first.' Fair enough, many would say, except the ones he 'ignored'.

Shankar Kapila – 'don't know him' – Ignore

Bhim Rao Gaikwad – 'hardly know him' – Ignore

Devika Narain – 'yuck! Ugly babe' – ignore

Tuhin Mukherjee – 'Ok' – accept

Akshay Jain – 'too junior' – Ignore

Baljit Singh – 'don't know him too well but Ok...good guy to be in touch with' – accept.

Then he came to the last request.

Savitha – 'Who is she? Do I know her? But wait...nice profile picture. Cute! Let me see more of her...oh yes, I know her. Wasn't she the one at the party yesterday? The mortgages chick.'

Within a matter of seconds numerous thoughts raced through his mind. Savitha's efforts to get closer to him had not gone unnoticed. He had seen her at the party. Someone had told him that she was in the mortgage sales team. He smiled. 'Why didn't I meet her earlier?' He had not really been long enough in his auditing role to have known all the sales guys. Maybe that's why he hadn't come across Savitha earlier.

Showing more interest than necessary, he clicked on to her profile and checked all her photographs and updates. She seemed an interesting person to him. He figured out that she was a single mom, had a seven-year-old daughter and lived in Bandra.

At that very instant the doorbell rang. Hurriedly he clicked on 'accept' and added her as a friend on Facebook. For the first time he had added someone he did not know as a friend on Facebook. But there was always a first time!

Radhika, his wife, came in as he opened the door.

'How was the game?' she asked. 'Won or lost?'

'Can we ever lose? Your husband has always won, baby. Be it a game of sports, career or life itself!'

Radhika smiled. She knew her husband better than anyone else. They were married for seven years now. In those seven years, Deepak's life was dominated by his love for a few things – basketball was one of them. In his free time he played for a local but extremely popular neighbourhood club called 'Chembur Chargers'. They played in the Division 4 in the Mumbai basketball league. Deepak was the captain of the team.

BOOK: The Incredible Banker
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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