‘Two plus two must make twenty-two’

K. Ram Kumar
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Arundhati Bhattacharya,
SBI chief.
Arundhati Bhattacharya, SBI chief.

New SBI chief exhorts her employees to deliver more

The Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now,” came in handy for the new State Bank of India chief to exhort the two lakh-plus employees to deliver more value to the customers and the bank.

“So, let us plant that tree today so that our successors of tomorrow can say that we did the right thing by them,” said Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman chief of India’s largest bank.

In a pep talk broadcast via the bank’s intranet, she said, SBI, the ‘country champion’ amongst the banks in India, is under threat as more nimble and agile organisations surpass it in various ways, be it market cap or better ratios.

Three broad themes — risk, delivery and collaboration — would help the bank achieve its vision of remaining the premier banking institution. She wants SBI to be an institution that others will follow and not the other way round.


Risk, according to Bhattacharya, must be a living concept. It must no longer be merely checking of boxes and filing of returns.

Each employee undertaking any activity in the bank must understand the risk inherent in it, measure it, monitor it and mitigate it.

Pointing out that the bank had lost its pricing power, the SBI chief said: “We have had to position our products as the cheapest, as we are lax in delivery and so cannot compete. Similarly, our delivery lacks consistency and is often person dependent. We need to ensure uniform excellence in delivery standards across all locations and time.”


Emphasising the importance of collaboration, Bhattacharya said “two plus two must make twenty-two and not four.”

“We have the whole bouquet of products, but synergising is in name only. We must get on to doing this on the ground.

“Not only amongst various groups, verticals and companies, but also amongst employees, we must leverage each other’s knowledge for problem solving,” she said.

(This article was published on October 9, 2013)
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