A life well invested
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 withinof an impeccable
man and a balanced professional.
After completing his graduation in Electronics from St Xaviers 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.
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 SBIs 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.
||Driving in the US West Coast in a car at 150
||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.”
||He is a good mimic.
||“I wish we had the Internet when we were growing
||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.
||“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 Ramanis stint
as Head of SBIs Tirupur branch, and a short tenure in corporate lending.
Ramani was then moved to Jaipur to handle a project involving the computerisation
This was Ramanis 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
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
banks 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 Ramanis work depends on getting
together an efficient organisation in place.
Ramani has divided work into three main areasoperational, 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 frameworks 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 users needs are fulfilled.
Mantras for CIOs
Ramanis 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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org