Paper Edition | Page: 16
Joseph Abraham sensed apprehension among ANZ Indonesia staff when he assumed the position of president director in August 2008 with ambitious growth plans. He worked to boost the confidence of the team as part of his strategy to develop the bank.
‘They thought that we were a little bit crazy, or unrealistic,” Abraham said of embarking on the plans for the subsidiary of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. “We recruited more people and encouraged them to dare to take the risk and to achieve things they did not think possible through their own efforts.”
Abraham has been responsible for the formulation and implementation of ANZ’s strategy plan for Indonesia as a key part of the ANZ Super Regional Strategy, building from a credit card focused business to a comprehensive full-fledged commercial bank. His role is to lead the bank’s growth plans for ANZ businesses, including institutional banking, consumer banking (retail banking and consumer finance), commercial banking and private banking.
Thanks largely to the application of a managerial approach that emphasizes the creation of a positive work environment, the staff’s confidence has been restored.
“A positive environment is part of the essential culture that contributes significantly to corporate growth,” said the 30-year banking veteran, who is Indian born but a naturalized Singaporean.
“Confidence should not mean being arrogant but should be based on what you have done. So, it is important to focus on a plan and preparation and make it happen. The outcome will look after it.
“People are encouraged to speak up, propose and try new ideas and suggestions. All can make a mistake. But we learn from the mistake and make it better. That’s important to create the atmosphere.”
In his four years of leadership, the significant changes that have taken place in terms of staff performance have naturally had a positive impact on the bank’s growth.
“Now, I see confidence building in a team. They start to believe in themselves. I think in the last three or four years, we have recruited more people, built branches, business integration and a client base. We build a culture in which we give opportunity for people [employees] to achieve the full potential,” he said, adding that the bank’s growth was also buoyed by the huge business potential in Indonesia.
Currently, the bank has 28 branches spread across 11 cities nationwide, with bank sheets reaching nearly Rp 30 trillion (US$3.18 billion), compared to two branches, with a bank sheet of only around Rp 4 trillion, four years ago.
Today there are about 6,000 employees, compared to only 2,000 in 2008.
The MBA holder from Stanford University also disclosed that besides a weekly meeting, the management also holds a music and traditional dance drama performance featuring the staff each year.
“The performance allows staff from different divisions to meet and communicate in a more friendly and informal setting. They have to practice together after office hours, bringing them closer together, which benefits their work,” he said.
In this way, he said, a positive environment motivates staff and employees to work hard.
“They become friendlier with each other and besides, when we work together, a lot of the positive energy released from people helps create a competitive advantage,” he said.
“This will create a better place to work and people feel happier. That is my philosophy.”
Strength in numbers
The staff is now able to arrange a breaking-of-the-fast party together each year for all the employees, something that was not done four years ago with a smaller number of staff, according to Abraham.
Focusing on customers is essential in the banking industry when it comes to development. Therefore, despite the bank comprising several different divisions with each having its own staff, they must work together as a strong team, he said.
“I keep saying we should not think only of our own division, but we have to think of customers, what is right for the bank and what is right for the customers, and this will give you the right perspective.”
As far as employees are concerned, he said the bank management supports the provision of awards for employees who demonstrate achievements as well as a wide range of incentive programs.
“The important thing is not recognizing people, but the company should pay attention to the welfare of the employees.
As part of the efforts to improve the welfare of the employees, the bank provides gyms for all staff, with exercise and yoga classes and a music room.
“We give a chance for people to do things they want to do. We have a very young staff and we have to align with the interests of young people, and they are interested in the gym. This is part of an effort to make them engaged with the bank,” he said.
Abraham always tries to stay grounded when it comes to making self-improvement related to management.
“Being in touch with what’s happening is important to me. I walk around, meet people [customers], talk to them and hear what actually happen. If you just stay in the office, then you have a limited view of what happens. Staying in touch is the important thing,” he said.
Over the past four years, Abraham has devoted most of his time to leading the bank in achieving its goals.
With the institution now stable and established, Abraham has more time to enjoy his hobbies.
“I started to play golf and ski after a long absence,” he said.
“I have also learned how to dive. I dove in Bunaken [Bunaken Marine Park] and Komodo and have earned a basic certificate.”
• Master of Business Administration (MBA), Stanford Business School, Stanford University, California, 1989-1991
• Master in Management Science, J. Bajaj Institute, Bombay University, 1980-1982
• BA (Hons) Economics, St. Stephens College, University of Delhi, 1977-1980
August 2008 – present: President Director PT BANK ANZ Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia
2005-2008: Chief of Staff, Client Relationship, Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore
2002-2005: Head, Strategy & Product Management, Client Relationships, North East Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Kong
2001-2002: Project Leader-Acquisition and Due Diligence Team, Standard Chartered Bank, Indonesia
2000-2001: Managing Director and CEO, Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana Ltd.
1997-2000: Executive Director, Corporate and Institutional Banking, Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana Ltd.
1992-1997: Associate Director, Global Corporate and institutional Banking, Standard Chartered Bank, UK
1982-1989: Corporate Banking Manager, Standard Chartered Bank, India