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A life well invested

A successful banker and an insightful CIO, V K Ramani has the ability to take the best out of life. by Newly Paul

A well-arranged desk, books neatly arrayed on the shelf, small figurines of Tirupati Balaji share space with the computer. The office of V K Ramani, President, Information Technology, UTI Bank, speaks of the banker within—of an impeccable man and a balanced professional.

After completing his graduation in Electronics from St Xavier’s college, Kolkata, Ramani took the probationary officers’ exam, to have a stable and rewarding career. He qualified, and, dismissing doubts about the incompatibility of banking and technology, gave the job his best shot.

The results speak for themselves. During his 22-year stint with SBI, he performed several important IT projects. In 1995, Ramani joined UTI Bank. His career, spanning nearly three decades, speaks of a life wisely spent, with equal time for work and personal commitments.

Warming up

CIOs must obliterate the differences between IT and the rest of the business. IT has accepted a banker, so the reverse should also be true.

Ramani was academically inclined; he wanted to pursue a PhD or an M.Tech degree. However, after being appointed as a probationary officer at SBI, life took a different turn. With his first posting in Bikaner, he moved away from Kolkata, where he was born and had spent his youth.

Ramani took some time to get accustomed to the work environment. “It felt strange to stamp receipts for cheques, when all these years I had been planning digital circuits,” he reminisces. Ramani travelled to many places such as Jaipur, Ganganagar, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Kota during his training period. He was soon posted in the Corporate Credit Division at SBI’s head office.

At the head office, Ramani was asked to do project appraisals and was consequently involved with investment projects. His background in engineering helped him understand various aspects of the manufacturing sector. “The most serious issue faced by banks in those days was the failure of units in the small scale sector,” remembers Ramani.

In the early 1980s, Ramani was assigned to look in to large industrial firm in Jaipur. His study of the firm helped them to become profitable. His term there was so successful that at the end of the project, the company asked him to quit SBI and join them as finance director.

Favourite movie Hungama
Dream ride Driving in the US West Coast in a car at 150 Kmph.
Political leanings Ramani is not a political person. He says, “Politicians should solve practical problems, rather than create problems and invent political issues. They are not honest in what they speak and do. I would not enter politics if given a chance.”
Secret talent He is a good mimic.
Regrets “I wish we had the Internet when we were growing up.”
Retirement plans Ramani wishes to be associated with IT in one form or another, even after retirement, and could consider training students in an institute or college.
Cribs about “Issues related to people are the most important in the banking industry, yet these are mostly ignored.”

The race begins

My only concern is that I should continue to deliver, and ensure that the organisation’s needs are always met.

The success at Jaipur was followed by Ramani’s stint as Head of SBI’s Tirupur branch, and a short tenure in corporate lending. Ramani was then moved to Jaipur to handle a project involving the computerisation of banks.

This was Ramani’s introduction to IT. He spearheaded the installation of zonal computerisation system for SBI in its four zones, and also set up the EDP (Electronic Data Processing) environment. The project involved designing the pension payment system and the salary payment system for government employees.

Ramani felt that the biggest advantage of this opportunity was the scope for learning that it offered. “I was able to learn about new technologies coming into the Unix environment, tuning applications, configuring systems, and database applications. This gave me a solid insight into how banking interacted with IT,” he says. Ramani then got a well-deserved promotion, when he was appointed regional manager in 1993, and posted to Mumbai.

Winds of change

After two years in Mumbai, Ramani got an offer from UTI bank. The excitement of starting a new bank appealed to Ramani. “In a large organisation, it is difficult to initiate change, but in a new bank, you get an opportunity to do new things,” he opines.

The work started right from scratch with Ramani drafting the systems and procedures for audits, grappling with change management and setting up new branches. After a period of sluggish growth during the late 1990s, the number of branches grew rapidly.

This was the time when problems stemming from a faulty architecture began to appear. So, during the beginning of 1999, Ramani planned an overhaul of the bank’s computing architecture, including its network. According to Ramani, the complexities and risks involved in this project made it one of the most challenging projects of his career.

Plan of war

The first time I ever had a bank account was when I became a bank employee!

At UTI, the crux of Ramani’s work depends on getting together an efficient organisation in place.

Ramani has divided work into three main areas—operational, managerial and strategic. Since operational areas work according to a set pattern, he has put this section on auto pilot mode.

For the managerial part, Ramani gives enough liberty to his team to operate on its own and he deals himself only with the strategic areas of a problem.

Similarly, keeping in mind the growing attrition rate, Ramani believes it is wise to opt for a group approach towards a task. This is a much better long-term approach than letting the onus of completing the task rest on the knowledge and skills of one person.

Customers are priority

According to Ramani, change management should be carried out keeping in mind the requirements of customers. The focus should always be on what the customer needs and how soon the company can deliver the same.

This is why he feels that while the technological framework’s core has to be standardised, the periphery must be given a plug-and-play architecture, so that any change can be customised quickly. The mantra is to deploy a solution efficiently so that the end user’s needs are fulfilled.

Mantras for CIOs

Ramani’s mantra in life has been to prioritise his work and keep lots of time for thinking. “As a CIO, you should spend 30 percent of your time interacting with people and the rest for non-IT business. Getting to know the requirements of your organisation and being mobile is essential,” Ramani comments.

According to him, CIOs should not only meet hardware and software vendors, but also interact with users and get to know their requirements. He firmly believes that communication should not be filtered by people who have only half an understanding of technology and banking. CIOs must ensure that the legacy they leave behind is capable of working without them.

Looking back

During the dotcom boom, Ramani got an opportunity to be associated with a dotcom company, but the banker in him saw the fallacies of its financial model. After about two years, he was proved correct. Hence, he believes that banking develops foresight in a person.

Apart from being a successful banker, Ramani has also been a loving dad to his daughters, who incidentally are also crafting out IT careers. After such a fulfilling life, does he have any regrets? Says Ramani, “I sometimes feel that banking cut down on the opportunities that I might have explored.”

Newly Paul can be reached at

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