Banking As A Passion

  Six months in to his new job and Rakesh Ram still consid­ers himself a farm boy from Ba. The new Chief Executive Officer of HFC Bank is an experienced
25 Aug 2018 10:00
Banking As A Passion
Chief executive officer of HFC Bank Rakesh Ram


Six months in to his new job and Rakesh Ram still consid­ers himself a farm boy from Ba.

The new Chief Executive Officer of HFC Bank is an experienced Banker with over 32 years of dis­tinguished service in the Banking industry both locally and interna­tionally.

Mr Ram was chosen in a competi­tive selection process from a strong field of internal and external can­didates.

During his career he has won several awards Including the ANZ Group Global CEO and is a past award winner of the Fiji Institute of Bankers Corporate Banker of the Year which speaks volumes of his Corporate Banking experience.

He is happily married to Kamlesh Ram for last 30 years’ and they have two children, Sonal and Shiv.

“I joined HFC Bank, because I thought it was time for me to contribute to the local economy through the only local bank and support our customers and people to grow and prosper.

Below is an excerpt of an inter­view with Mr Ram:

n Can you tell us a bit about your role at HFC?

This is my first CEO role in my career.

I am in charge of the overall op­eration, profitability, quality and future of the bank. We are still a very young bank having only con­verted to commercial banking over four years ago.

So we are still a baby, but we are getting stronger because we have a huge potential.

Fiji has a huge potential because of its consecutive growth for the last 10 years, it provides a strong platform and healthy banking in­dustry which means healthy econ­omy.

I think as a bank, we are contribut­ing to building a very strong finan­cial sector for the Fijian economy.

n Banking to made easier:

As a local bank, my vision for HFC bank is to be the most trusted and respected bank.

As a bank, our responsibility is to keep people’s money safe so it’s very important that the bank has the trust of the customers.

When we say we want to be the trusted and respected bank, we must live our core HFC Bank val­ues of “HEART”:

Humility: as bankers we must al­ways be humble

Excellence: we want to be excel­lent in whatever we do to serve and make customers lives easier and convenient.

Accountability: we must be ac­countable for whatever we do and take responsibility and ownership of our actions.

Respect: we must always respect our customers and people by put­ting them in center of everything we do.

Trust: we want to be a Bank which is trusted by the people, customers, regulators and every stakeholder we deal with.

We want to be a strong, healthy and sustainable bank. So we have to focus on the quality of our profit, quality of our asset and quality of our staff.

As a small Bank, we don’t have the geographical advantage as oth­er banks but we have key distinct points of difference:

  1. We are a fully owned local bank with 100 per cent local staff

2.We understand the market much better because we are culturally aligned, and understand the com­munity.

We must build and focus more on interpersonal customer relation­ship as this is the foundation of banking, that’s how banking start­ed.

Our key focus is to continue to up­lift our interpersonal banking rela­tionship and bring back the human touch.

3.We have recently introduced a unique product, e-lavo Agency Banking in partnership with Voda­fone and Pacific Financial inclu­sion Programme, through our e-lavo Agency Banking, HFC Bank provides basic banking services to un-banked customers.

There are now about 23 e-lavo agencies in Fiji.

Apart from that we also open our core branches on Saturdays. People who cannot conduct their banking in week days can visit our branch­es on Saturday.

In terms of technology, we are shortly introducing credit and in­ternational debit cards soon.

Our Drua Pay (electronic payment platform) has been receiving posi­tive feedback from its users whilst our Internet Banking and Bill Pay services allow customers to trans­act at their convenience.

We also have an interchange ar­rangement with Westpac where our customers can use their cards at Westpac ATM and EFTPOS ma­chines.

We are also working on similar ar­rangement with ANZ.

nYou assumed a number of senior roles and responsibilities, includ­ing ANZ acting CEO. How has tak­ing such positions molded you to become HFC Bank Chief Executive Officer?

I am career banker so I started from a teller, and have gone through the mill, so to speak.

For 32 years I have worked in all departments in the Bank, which has given me great experience and foundation as a banker.

My passion is my work and I am very passionate about what I do and help develop and my team.

I am extremely grateful with the opportunities I have been provided during my career and I am commit­ted to providing same opportunity to others.

It is well known that people are your key asset but how do you dem­onstrate it or are you just preach­ing it?

So we are again in a fortunate position because we have a very young team with us, people who are learning and growing in banking so you need skill and knowledge to able to mold them in the right direction.

I don’t need to teach people about banking I need to coach people about their attitude and their men­tality and once they get that right we can teach everything as long as you have the right attitude and commitment to learn.

I am so grateful that we have very talented people with great attitude and mindset.

So, Fiji has immense talent which just needs to be recognised and continuously developed.

We have recently introduced new roles to develop and build their ca­pabilities.

The three areas which I want HFC Bank to grow to be a strong healthy sustainable bank, provide customers products and services that build the trust and respect for HFC Bank and always put Risk and governance at the forefront of what we do.

HFC Bank being a local bank is under great scrutiny both by the regulator and customers in terms of risk and compliance.

If we want to be the most respect­ed and trusted Bank, Risk manage­ment and compliance is the key and always has to be at the forefront.

Governance is other integral el­ement and we have a strong sup­portive Board who are always fo­cused on risk and compliance. Our relationship with regulator is very healthy and they work very close­ly with all the commercial banks throughout Fiji.

nWhat is the biggest challenge for HFC?

As a young bank, we have few chal­lenges.

We still have very high cost of li­quidity, which means very high cost of deposit.

We have very strong international banks who we are competing with and who have better connectivity and rating to able to raise deposits at lower cost.

We are working on strategies to di­versify and reduce the cost of our deposits.

Our ability to connect internation­ally is somewhat difficult especial­ly doing transactions with large international banks because not everyone recognises us like large multinational banks.

We are addressing these hurdles so that we can continue to grow and evolve.

n Do you consider yourself leader?

There are different types of lead­ers, some are just leaders, some good and some great.

It’s not for me to comment on my leadership style but it’s the people who work with me and the stake­holders I deal with that can judge me.

To measure my style depends on whether I serve my customers with the best of my ability, train and develop my team to be the best at their work, have humility and em­pathy for my customers and peo­ple, because the biggest strength of any leader is being humble.

On the same token, it’s whether you have the ability to be account­able of what you do.

Accountability of what you are committed to.

I am sincerely appreciative that the market has acknowledged me coming to HFC Bank and my task is to build on that confidence.

We have been able to write good quality business in the last few months especially with the corpo­rate and commercial sector.



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