You have been one of the longest serving bankers in the country. How would you describe your journey?
I joined Bhutan National Bank Ltd. on May 19, 1997 when the bank was a mere six months old. Serving the bank as its Chief Executive Officer for the past 22 years has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life and I feel a great sense of pride and achievement as I muse upon the institution that we have built and reflect upon the journey that we had to take to get here.
What is your biggest achievement?
Our greatest achievement has been the incredible value that we have created for our stakeholders, including shareholders, clients, suppliers and business partners, CSR partners, board of directors, management, employees, and most importantly, the country and the general public at large. Over the past two decades, BNB has grown from being a small entity to the second largest commercial bank in the country.
Under your leadership, we have witnessed the transformation of BNB into one of the leading banks in country. What was your inspiration and challenges?
I draw my inspiration from His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty The King, who have always emphasized the importance of institution building and of sustainable growth and development—principles that I have used to guide my work at the bank. As for challenges, there were many, including but not limited to maintaining and enhancing financial performance, meeting high shareholder expectations, facing new competitors in the marketplace, leveraging digital transformation, etc.
Over the last decade the whole banking sector in the country has embarked on a journey towards digital transformation. Where has the BNB reached?
It is fair to say that BNB has led the way in using the forces of technology to streamline operations and give users a better experience. The bank was the first financial institution in the country to fully computerize its banking transactions using core banking software and also the first to introduce ATM services, POS services, VISA credit card facilities, B-Wallet, and internet banking. Today, it also provides mobile banking services such as mPAY and has recently introduced BNB Payment Gateway and BNB Ngotshab (agency banking).
With the inception of private banks, beginning 2010, there is still an ongoing competition for a small market segment. What are the challenges and opportunities?
The challenge of having more competitors in Bhutan’s banking sector or any other sector for that matter is that the market is only so big and has only so much potential. While the emergence of private banks in 2010 increased the number of banks fighting for the same pie, the change in environment compelled us to stay on our toes, set new goals, identify new opportunities, and to continuously learn. Competition is always healthy for any industry and for any organization and the more progressive way of thinking and working should now be of enhanced collaboration within the industry.
What was the main focus, in terms of loans, in your entire time with BNB? How has it changed?
I have found it to be of great value to know well our clients and to forge good relationships based on understanding, trust, and loyalty with them. Another focus in terms of loans has always been on effective risk management, which is driven by informed and timely decision-making.
Besides services, BNB is known for investing in human resources, given the perks employees receive in comparison to other banks. Marketing, advertisement and sponsorships are other areas where the bank has been lavish. What is the motive behind?
In comparison to other industries, our banking workplace demands a higher level of integrity, trustworthiness, and responsibility from employees as it involves dealing with sensitive, personal information about clients and valuable inventory, cash. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that our employees are fairly compensated. This is further necessitated by the need to recruit and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market and the direct correlation between incentive and performance, which is one of the key driving forces for BNB’s success.
In terms of marketing, advertisements, and sponsorships, it is not enough in today’s world for banks to simply introduce a scheme. Consumers have become smarter and competition demands that we do more; the need to build awareness around our banking products and services and the need to stand out is greater than ever.
As you leave the bank after serving 22 years, do have any unfinished business, which you would like to finish if you have some time?
I was only a little apprehensive of not being able to complete the construction of our state-of-the-art corporate office during my tenure, but we persevered and met this final target in February 2019 and also recently had the inaugural celebrations.
You were also chairman of the Financial Institutions Association of Bhutan. What are some of the achievements, in terms of guiding the financial institutions in the right course?
The Financial Institutions Association of Bhutan (FIAB) was conceived bearing in mind the importance of enhanced collaboration within the financial sector. The FIAB gives us the platform to discuss common challenges we are faced with and to address these challenges through our united strength and collective effort. It is because of FIAB and with the support of the RMA that we were able to establish the Financial Institutions Training Institute (FITI), a training center for all financial institutions.
What is your next plan?
With BNB securely positioned as the market leader, I now leave the company in the very good and capable hands of the new CEO and the management and the team in whom I have utmost faith and confidence.
After more than four decades of work, I now look forward to spending relaxing and enjoyable time with my family, especially my grandchildren and also exploring and pursuing my interests in horticulture, which I hope will contribute positively to the local farming community.
Some of our biggest achievements are: Paid-up capital from a mere Nu 59.5 million to Nu 3.95 billion Net worth from Nu 139 million to Nu 7.19 billion Total asset size from Nu 1.03 billion to over Nu 40 billion Profit from Nu 20.91 million to Nu 736 million with BNB being the first bank to hit the Nu 1 billion net profit mark Total dividend payouts since inception amounting to Nu 3.62 billion Total tax payments to the government exchequer since inception amounting to Nu 3.33 billion Over 5,000 shareholders Over 600 employees Number of branches from 2 to 11 with 25 extension offices covering all 20 dzongkhags