India’s Most Trusted CEO 2020 – Hardayal Prasad, SBI Card
Truly inspirational and genuinely dedicated to the cause of growth and accountability, Hardayal Prasad, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of SBI Card takes ethics and strategic planning as the core success ethos.
Selected as India’s Most Trusted CEOs 2020, Hardayal Prasad shares his vision, core values and success mantras.
In conversation with Mr. Hardayal Prasad, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, SBI Card.
Years of working in the industry, your contribution reflects versatility and volubility. What has influenced your decision-making process at various stages?
Being Structured, Bringing Clarity, Working Collectively, Enforcing Accountability, Empowering Most Employees and Being Mission Focused has been my style of working. My Influencers of decision-making process are Colleagues, Customers, Regulators, Technology Systems, among others. I also believe that having the intellectual will to take an assertive and conclusive decision is the first step towards versatility.
I quote Albert Einstein, “In the middle of difficulty lies an opportunity! Achieving the bigger picture is my goal”, unquote.
To construct anything in life or business, it is essential to re-skill and retool the present. Be able to adapt, manoeuvre and navigate in unique and complex decision-making situations and environments. My penchant to read, analyse and learn has broadened my horizons, which has refined my thinking and enabled me to envision larger goals to accomplish.
Bringing worthiness and making teams realise their untapped potential has been my vantage point. They are encouraged to deep dive into the subject matter and share their point of perspective for better results. Also being always accessible helps me to interact ceaselessly to drive the vision.
An accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
In 37 years of rich experience in the banking industry, my assignment at the credit card business was a paradigm shift. I joined SBI Cards & Payment Services Ltd, which is a flagship subsidiary of SBI two years back. It was a tectonic shift in my career. My journey of steering the company began after GE divested its stake in Dec 2017. Right from start it was a marathon and not a sprint. I needed to ensure seamless transition of GE, to the level of growth it has today.
The edifice started from revamping technological systems and infrastructure, to developing the BANCAchannel, benchmarking unbiased employee feedback and grades systems to ESOPs, to the historic launch of one of the largest IPO in the Indian capital markets.
I waded my way through the regular challenging times to the unprecedented COVID-19 times with grit and determination. SBI Card’s achievements have come through the most challenging and significant economic outcomes, making the company robust within two years. The journey almost seems like a fairy tale, but, is real in all quarters.
I drove the credit card business with 2C’s, Change and Cash. Change as my new normal, while Cash as my competitor in the digital technological journey. I could drive by being tactical, strategic and operational depending upon the business and situation. And, kept the gunpowder dry.
The journey could have been difficult, but I rapidly enabled myself to navigate the business successfully. In record time, we built new infrastructure systems without delays in implementations. We introduced new areas of Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which have become the hallmarks of this company.
Striving to be the best in everything is my core value system. I knew the road to gain faith of the investors would come by quantum improvement in systems, processes, product constructs, cyber security, market visibility and consumer confidence in our products, before going public. It took us two years to achieve phenomenal growth of the company.
How do you integrate corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility as a part of your business strategies?
SBI Card has always been synonymous with society. It extends its support towards the community development and in finding probable solutions to the problems ailing our society. The company has a philosophy of considering CSR not as charity but as an enabler. It invests wherever there is future growth and evolution of community in the country. It is an economy building activity that keeps the company connected and responsible towards the other segment who are not its customers.
SBI Card directly works with various non-profit partners for social projects after its necessary due diligence. It focuses in the areas of health, education and skilling through its various initiatives and collaborations, and addresses the critical issues such as hunger, poverty, malnutrition, lack of quality healthcare and sanitation, among others. Considering the current COVID pandemic, SBI Card is majorly committed to aid this battle across India.
What has been your driving force or philosophy in life?
How Best to Make the Present Better in an Ethical Way, while Taking the Team Along be at Work, Society or Home! Also, to Introspect as, Actions Speak Louder than Planning!!
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
Success is a journey that begins with strategy, planning, execution, monitoring, hard work and patience. Since it is a journey, hence I must first do my best to get the best.
We are constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. In other words, we strive to do more with less. Tell me about a recent project or solution to a problem that you have made better, faster, smarter or less expensive?
One such example is when we had to build our entire technology infrastructure ground up, within a short period. SBI Card had enjoyed 19 years long relationship with GE Capital. GE exit posed some challenges for us as SBI Card had significant dependencies on GE Capital for the back-end processing and technology. As part of the transition, SBI Card took over these processes and the key challenge was to resolve these dependencies, while simultaneously catering to the demands of our growing business. However, we saw a huge opportunity during this transition phase for further growth and innovation. We utilised this time to rebuild and strengthen our technology infrastructure. We decided to develop and employ new systems, processes and frameworks which would be simpler, more relevant and efficient, thus enhancing the overall employee and customer experience.
We at SBI Card were able to successfully execute 55 technology projects in a span of just 18 months. We completed the transition seamlessly, while maintaining a sharp focus on our business. In fact, despite this transition phase we were able to increase average card acquisition rate from 1 lakh per month in December 2016 to about 3 lakh cards per month.
In your opinion what is the most significant aspect of leadership?
Leaders are not born. Leadership traits have to be carefully cultivated and nurtured.
My first experience in a leadership role was as a Branch Manager in 1991. It taught me invaluable ethics of ownership and accountability, besides gaining perspective on competition, customer sentiment, people management and delivering effectively even in difficult situations.
Leaders are driven by the zeal to make a difference. Leadership becomes effective when the team one works with, is like-minded and is fuelled by the same passion for achievement and determination. However, if the team is dissimilar then leadership style changes and one needs to convince to show a path of collective progression. To my mind, coercing or being authoritative is not a win-win scenario. A leader should design from the user’s perspective and hands on experience is a must to bring implementable solutions and to nurture and sustain growth.
In addition to these, strategizing, planning and monitoring are key leadership traits that help in realising one’s vision.
Your perception of an empowered society. How far your industry has / can contribute for the same?
I believe creation of an empowered society is truly a collective effort. The credit card industry has been a key contributor in realising the Digital India vision. We are a business that provides digital empowerment to many – by offering a way to transact and also giving access to instant line of credit. To enable digital inclusion, we have been a first mover in introducing products appropriate for New to Credit segment. These bring new users into the fold of cashless transactions, thereby contributing to India`s transformation towards a digital economy.
SBI Card Digital and Contactless Payments is making significant contribution towards enhancing safety of transactions during the current pandemic of COVID-19.
- One thing you wish to change and one thing you wish to retain about your industry?
The other name of Growth is Change, which is happening continuously. Having a Performing Mindset is the only norm towards change and retention.
- One thing you have to let go off as an entrepreneur/leader?
There is no plan B. If something has not worked then go back to the drawing board as, nothing in this world can be reversed.
- Whom do you owe your success to?
To all tangibles and intangibles, be it teams, drivers, support staff, family, friends, acquaintances, technology, infrastructure, my Emotional Intelligence and faith in myself.
- Best thing about your job?
Each day I look forward to go and work!
Meeting the wonderful people at all levels in office gives me a great sense of gratitude for being a part of that journey and satisfaction of having accomplished it.
- A message from you to all the future entrepreneurs/leaders?
Believe in Yourself and you can sure be a Leader, Entrepreneur and Inspirational. Have fun in life as all is not competition. Also value your family more than anyone else as, their allegiance towards you has been highest in one’s life and have seen you grow through your highs and lows. Count on your well-wishers, they may be silent but are sure to be with you when you need them the most.
Hardayal Prasad MD & CEO, SBI Card : Mr. Hardayal Prasad is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at SBI Card. Based in Gurgaon, Mr. Prasad oversees all aspects of SBI Card’s business in India. Mr. Prasad has been a part of State Bank of India, India`s oldest and largest banking group, for over three decades. During the period he handled several assignments for the bank, in various locations across India and abroad. Over the years, he has held multiple leadership positions at State Bank of India including Chief General Manager, LHO – Hyderabad; General Manager, LHO – Mumbai; Deputy General Manager (B&O), Bareilly Module; Deputy General Manager (O&C), Lucknow and Vice President (Trade & Systems), Los Angeles Agency USA, among others. In February 2018, Mr. Prasad took over SBI Card and in the same year he was promoted to the rank of DMD by the State Bank of India. He holds a Master’s Degree in Chemistry.