Jaya Janardanan is the Chief Operating Officer, Indostar and is a leading force at Aspire for Her. 

Shilpa Jain: Operations is the backbone of banking. Is it correct to assume that and why?

Jaya Janardanan: Absolutely it’s the backbone of banking.  Let me explain with an example. The front end (Sales/ Business) works to connect with the customer and source them.  Post that the entire life cycle of a customer is then managed by Operations till the customer decides to exit the bank. The customer onboarding, KYC validation, account activation and ensuring the customer gets his deliverables like the cheque book, debit card at his stated address is the responsibility of operations. The customers’ transactions management is responsibility of Operations. For example, when a customer initiates a NEFT/RTGS/IMPS these are settled, reconciled and credited to customer account by the Operations teams. All queries of customers which relate to his life cycle in a bank is the responsibility of operations. Servicing a customer is a critical element in a bank and 90% of that element is handled at Operations.  So that’s why it is truly the backbone of a bank.

SJ: What are the various types of banking operations within which one can have gainful employment?

JJ: There are various functions that can be explored for a role in Banking Operations. Retail operations, asset operations, wholesale banking operations. Under these one has Customer Onboarding, Payments and Reconciliation. Other operations functions are Vendor Management, Customer service, MIS and regulatory reporting. Onboarding is a huge function by itself with KYC, documentation, data entry and other sub activities. Operations provides a plethora of activities where the opportunities are available.

SJ: Who should ideally pursue a career in banking operations and any particular skillset (including soft skills) that one should be adept in?

JJ: I subscribe to the following skill sets for Operations.

  1. Eye for detail. Any small lapse can put the bank to operational, regulatory or reputation risk.
  2. Discipline for process adherence. One cannot do an act on his/her own.
  3. Creative bent of mind. As in Operations it’s critical to reinvent all the times. Because the target is to build efficiency at low cost all the times.
  4. To collaborate with business and work with them to ensure seamless service for customers
  5. Beyond all, a positive attitude!

SJ: Banking operations is very process oriented with an eye for detail. Would such a job get mundane at times?

JJ: Operations is never mundane. Its because the entire bank’s efficiency and customer experience is based on how strong the operations is. So, it’s always a place for innovation. This enables the team to think continuously on what next can be done to build efficiency, reduce cost and be the best in the industry in term of service. One example I can share of excitement in Operations is in one of the organizations I worked for. We implemented Robotic Process Automation first and not just in the bank but also in the banking industry in the area of Payment Reconciliation. Yes I agree, eye of detail in very critical, but also an exciting place to do innovations. Any innovations done in Operations has a direct impact on business and service.

SJ: How rewarding is this career? Are there enough growth opportunities?

JJ: I feel that the exposure Operations gives to an employee, no other areas in the bank does!  It also has options to move across various areas in the Operations function and learn the entire banking. Ability to take on more, bringing in new ideas to run Operations and with process discipline, the path of growth is great in Operations. There are numerous examples of people being taken from Operations to other functions like Audit, Risk, Compliance and even business in bigger roles because , Operations gives an individual a wholistic approach of the bank and it is felt that they are geared up to take on any role. 

SJ: With new age banks like neo-banks coming into the fray, how important is to interweave fintech and technology into operations?

JJ: Today as we move towards the world of technology, digital and fintech, one of the functions of the bank that will drive it in a big way, is operations and the benefits it reaps from it is phenomenal. Be it a digital workflow which will automate the entire onboarding and checks, RPA for payments, reconciliation and fintech integration for cash collection instead of the traditional CMS are all part and parcel of technology in Operations. So, more physical t a function, the more the chance that will be move to be technology driven than any other function. And one of the standing examples is during COVID-19, Operations of the bank did not get impacted at all unlike any other function and all thanks to technology!

SJ: The pandemic has seen a lot of thrust into digital banking. How have banks/NBFC’S geared up operationally for this

JJ: Those who were not geared up or ready have struggled and those who were in there with readiness were managing it well and customer service was not impacted. Having said that it’s now a no-choice basis. Adopt it, or be out of the race for business. Earlier, it was a choice, now it’s a necessity.

SJ: Do you see a lot of women in this industry? Or is it largely male-dominated?

JJ: Operations is largely women dominated because of its very nature. Critical elements of the role like eye for detail, creativity, process adherence are clear traits that exist in women and they shine in this.

SJ: From banking to small payment bank to an NBFC. You have traversed the entire 360 degrees lifecycle in operations. What has been the highpoint of your career and can you also highlight the challenges faced?

JJ: While having worked for 25+ years in Banking Operations, I have specialized in execution of large technology driven projects for operations and also for the banks. Receiving the Asian Banker Award for the best banking project was the highpoint of my career.

Challenges have been manifold. It’s never easy to execute as you will have many roadblocks like having to spend time convincing colleagues, seniors of a concept, getting the required approval, implementation within timelines. Many a time, managing vendors is another great challenge.  Even with all these challenges, when you see how the project has impacted and the benefits, these challenges then no more remain challenges and it gets exciting to do more of it!


SJ: What is your advice to our young women on pursuing a career in banking operations?

JJ: It is not a boring or mundane job. It’s exciting and it gets the best of you in creativity! One should take it up and challenge oneself to do things differently. For example, if I am doing a job in 5 hours, is there a way to do in 1 hour and that will help you to keep yourself excited and going.


Rapid Fire!

Question: One person, fictional/real and dead/alive that you want to have dinner with 

Answer: Nandan Nilekani

Question: A book on your career field that you would recommend to or readers

Answer: The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.

Question: 3 things on your bucket list

Answer: Trek to Leh Ladakh, 50 countries stamp in my Passport, Create 1000 micro women entrepreneurs

Interviewed by: Shilpa Jain

Executive Director, Indusion Consulting Services (ex-banker, now a head-hunter)