By mid-1991, I decided to continue working within the banking industry. I, therefore, had to plan and decide on the necessary steps for career progression. The basic step was the pursuit of courses for personal and professional enrichment from an academic perspective, which I believed was required as I am a firm believer in the adage “Knowledge is power”.

I started at the Indian Institute of Bankers, Mumbai now known as the Indian Institute of Banking and Finance, Mumbai with a certification (CAIIB), which I obtained in 1993. This course provided me with basic knowledge of the banking domain coupled with two advanced increments in the form of financial incentives. From June 1991 to June 1994, I was posted at the semi-urban branch of Madhya Pradesh, which exposed me to a peculiar cultural festival known as the Bhagoria Festival of the Bhil and Bhilala tribes of that region. This was a semi-urban medium-sized branch situated in a tehsil with diversified businesses, such as agriculture; micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs, then known as community banking); and retail, which gave me holistic exposure to branch banking.

Since my daily routine consisted of normal banking work with some leisure hours in the morning and evening, I pursued my academic interests and utilised my free time in a more productive and enriching manner. As a student of economics, I was interested in developmental economics, and then, the emphasis was on rural and agricultural development since about 70 per cent of the population was directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture either on a full-time or part-time basis. I, therefore, enrolled myself in a “Certificate Course in Rural Banking”, which I also completed in 1995. For further professional and academic enhancement, I also got myself admitted into a correspondence course in MBA (Marketing) from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, in 1994.

In the meantime, I was transferred to Uttar Pradesh in 1995 and was posted as Branch Manager of a rural branch in order to complete the mandated rural exposure, during the period 1995 to 1997, and this gave me enough exposure to manage the branch innovatively and independently. This was a small-sized loss-making branch, which was opened in 1990. I turned things around in the branch in the very first year of my tenure, making it profitable by March 1996. The financial year 1996-97 was more rewarding as the business of the branch crossed Rs 1 crore, posting a growth of about 30 per cent during these two years. The same year, the branch was awarded an “Excellent Audit Rating”, the only branch to be rated so in the entire state of Uttar Pradesh.

The excellent support and enabling guidance of the Regional Manager were the major contributors to the performance. The then Regional Manager of that region retired as the Chairman and Managing Director of a PSB and later served as Information Commissioner of India, and is still on the board of various organizations. The performance of the branch was appreciated by the regional and zonal authorities, which led to my transfer to the state capital as a reward for my good performance, where I was exposed to various other advanced banking activities, especially some big credit proposals, which included the business of foreign exchange. I kept pursuing my MBA from IGNOU, which I completed in 1998. Coincidentally, I was promoted to Scale II Officer in the same year.

The large branch, i.e. Scale III of the city, which I handled successfully for about a year with good business growth and improved audit ratings. This posting provided me with the opportunity to utilize my academic credentials for my professional progression as I had the opportunity to interact with senior officials of the bank.

Since I had an academic and professional approach, I was frequently invited by the Zonal Training Centre of the bank as guest faculty, which increased my area of exposure and interaction and revived my interest in academics.

In 2000, I was identified for a posting at the Treasury Branch based on my overall performance, a prestigious assignment as there are limited openings at the branch. It was also supposed to be the most advanced financial field for bankers as risk management and compliance functions were not that pronounced in PSBs during that era. By that time, I had not been exposed to the business of foreign exchange and was therefore posted to a branch for on-the-job foreign exchange business training for about ten months. Finally, I was posted at the Treasury Branch in 2001 to realise my dream of working in the field of foreign exchange and international trade a dream I had cherished since my postgraduate days when I specialised in international economics and foreign trade.

This posting broadened the horizon of my personal and banking field, both academically and professionally. This was when the Indian foreign exchange market was experiencing a transformation from regulation to management as various trade, exchange and currency liberalization initiatives were being undertaken, especially for current account transactions. This was also the period that saw the introduction of various foreign exchange derivative products in the Indian forex market; I was instrumental in setting up the derivative desk. Therefore, this period can be termed an evolutionary phase of the Indian foreign exchange market with increasing integration across global markets.

Sensing the skill gaps of junior-level treasury functionaries, the Treasury Head of our bank arranged roughly two months of a weekend training programme (all through Saturdays and Sundays) for all officers of the Treasury Branch, which helped increase our market understanding but deprived us of holidays during that period. The foreign exchange derivative market was experiencing explosive growth because of the strengthening of the Indian rupee against the US dollar, which resulted from the emerging subprime crisis in the United States, and as India was becoming the preferred investment destination among the emerging developing economies with high potential of sustainable long-term growth. The Indian rupee continued to gain during 2004-07 against the US dollar with short-term minor aberrations here and there, leading to increased activities in the forex and derivative market segments. The signs of rupee reversal started becoming evident in early 2008, leading to a crash in the forex derivative market of India, which resulted in an increase in losses and litigations against the banks and even the regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

During this period, I developed the aptitude and passion for writing academic and professional articles. My writing skills were sharpened during my tenure at the Treasury Branch, which was appreciated and encouraged by the top executives of my bank and the banking industry. I started contributing to different magazines of national and international repute. Some articles authored and co-authored by me appeared in Bank Quest published by the Indian Institute of Banking and Finance, Indian Banker published by the Indian Banks’ Association, Vinimaya published by the National Institute of Bank Management, Bankers Journal published by the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka and other titles published by the in-house journal of my own bank during that tenure; subsequently, there are more publications that work with genres other than banking and management where I’ve published my work. I was also invited to many national and international seminars and conferences during this period, which exposed me to various pressing and emerging aspects of banking, management and the economy, increasing my understanding of the subject and enriching me enormously.

Excerpted with permission from Banker by Chance, Leader by Choice, Shiv B Singh, Rupa Publications.