“The first job gave me the insight to put efforts honestly, and optimistically”

RAMESH GHIMIRE, CEO, Deposit and Credit Guarantee Fund (DCGF)

For Ramesh Ghimire, the last 22 years have been the most important period of his life when career growth. Specializing in corporate legal affairs, he spent the majority of these years banking sector, before coming to telecommunications and now in the public sector. 

Starting from NIC Bank (now NIC Asia) in an assistant position in 2001, he went on to become Head of Legal Department and Company Secretary of Nepal SBI Bank in 2005. In 2016, he became the Managing Director & CEO of Nepal SBI Merchant Banking Limited before joining NCELL Axiata Limited as the Corporate and Regulatory Services Officer. In June 2022, the government appointed Ghimire as the CEO of the Deposit and Credit Guarantee Fund. In a conversation with the HRM, Ghimire talked about shifts in his career, what he learned during the first job and the scope of corporate law studies in Nepal. Excerpts: 

Q: Tell us about your first job.
A: It was on September 1, 2001, when I received an appointment letter from the NIC Bank (now NIC Asia) to join its Biratnagar branch as an Assistant- Credit. As I was doing my LL.M. Dissertation at that time, I was quite hesitant in accepting the offer. I politely communicated my constraint to the bank’s HR Head and urged him to consider my posting within the Kathmandu valley.

He told me that my posting to Biratnagar was not permanent, rather it was an On-the-Job- Training (OJT) for a period of a maximum of three months. He further said that the objective of my OJT was to develop me to take up the task of Legal Officer and they would be taking a final call for this role depending upon my OJT performance and skill development progress during the period. I then happily accepted the Letter and moved to Biratnagar the next day.

During OJT, I was tasked to handle the entire credit documentation of the branch under close guidance and supervision of the bank’s Legal Advisor and Head of the Branch Credit. This OJT turned into a wonderful fortune for me. This offered me an enormous opportunity to prove myself as an able legal resource, which ultimately led me to a new role of Head Legal barely in a span of three months. Interestingly, I was an Assistant cadre in the Corporate Title hierarchy but got an opportunity to take up the role of Head of Legal under direct reporting and supervision of the CEO. This helped me a lot to groom myself to take up new challenges and higher responsibilities. I spent about two years as an Assistant cadre and got a double promotion to Jr. Officer in November 2003. Perhaps, I was the only person getting rewarded with double promotion amongst my peers in NIC Bank.

Q: How did you get into the job? 
A: It was around May-June of 2001 when I was preparing for my LL.M. final exam. One of my friends showed me a vacancy notice published by NIC Bank in a newspaper. I applied, got shortlisted, appeared in the selection contest, and ultimately got an appointment offer.

Q: Did you find it difficult or easy to get a job at that time?
A: At that time, it was not easy to get a job in banking. The number of banks and their branches in the country was too low. Besides, it was difficult for private sector banks to entice customers to their fold as the banking business was dominated by public sector banks. Private sector banks were still struggling for creating trust and confidence among people. In such a scenario, the creation of new jobs in banking was very low compared to the number of aspiring graduates in the job market. However, I was able to secure the job on the first attempt.

Q: What challenges did you face after joining the job? 
A: After completion of my OJT, I was immediately transferred to the corporate office. The first task assigned to me was to set up a separate functional vertical for managing the bank’s legal affairs. So, the task of creating a separate vertical itself was a great challenge for a fresh graduate like me. I, however, could be able to overcome the challenge. Likewise, the bank didn’t have standardized templates for different loan documents, and there was an array of unresolved and complicated issues including critical audits and the central bank’s remarks with respect to loan documents of borrowing customers, a huge chunk of credit portfolio was turned to NPA, the Bank did not have defined process for managing default credits, there was a number of fraudulent borrowers in the bank but no legal action was taken against them, besides many other legal issues of critical nature.

Initially, I alone manned the department. I had to confront these challenges from the very first day the department was established. Nevertheless, I could be able to gradually overcome these changes and bring the department to a systematic track.

Q: Did the sector/field match your academic area? 
A: I was a law graduate with a specialization in commercial and banking laws. So, my academia somehow matched the sector.

Q:  What major lessons did you learn during the first job?
A: The job gave me the insight to put efforts honestly, and optimistically without compromising on ethics, morality and integrity and that the desired outcome is inevitable. I am very much owed to my boss at the bank Sashin Joshi for embedding and infusing this valuable insight into me. Besides, ‘synergic impact of team work’, ‘power of patience in professional life’, ‘how realistic approach works in service delivery,’ ‘why the managerial trait is stronger than academic trait in service industry’, ‘keeping yourself updated and renewed if you target upper ladder’, etc. are other key lessons that I learned from my first job.

Q: What were the major achievements for you professionally and personally?
A: On the professional front, I find myself among successful careerists in the country. I consider my existing leadership stature as my biggest achievement. My professional life spans almost 22 years, during this period I’ve been able to contribute to the banking and corporate community through expert views, policy advocacy and lobbying, trainings, education, counseling, etc. I take pride to see loan documentation templates widely used in the banking industry, which is broadly based on templates originally developed by me when I was in NIC Bank.

I founded a separate downstream company for the merchant banking business when I was in the Nepal SBI Bank. I have so far developed nearly 1,500 legal agreement templates for the corporate service industry for different purposes. I’ve contributed hundreds of key policy documents needed for the service industry. I’ve personally handled above 600 corporate lawsuits and contributed to the settlement of non-performing assets (NPAs) and resolved tax issues involving billions of rupees.

Q: You spent a long time in the banking and financial sector before joining NCELL in 2018. Now you are heading the government-owned Deposit and Credit Guarantee Fund. How has this shift been for you professionally? 
A: I was more interested to serve the public sector than the private sector during my early days. I, however, changed my thoughts and got to join the private sector. Lower monetary benefits and incentives in public service were the only trigger for me to change my thoughts. I still recall that the total salary of a government section officer at that time was hardly around Rs 5,000 compared to over Rs 25,000 for an entry-level officer cadre in banking. This huge monetary asymmetry enticed me toward the private sector. I’ve now reached a stage where social reputation and recognition count more rather than monetary value. Whatever I contributed so far as a private sector bureaucrat benefited more than a handful of investors but I never got the opportunity to contribute directly to the nation. So, I consider my shift to the public sector as a turning point for me to visibly prove myself as a national contributor.

Q: What differences in organizational management did you find in organizations of these three sectors?
A: The way organization management components work in an organization varies from entity to entity and is largely dependent on leadership. A banking entity warrants a strong governance structure to manage its operational transparency and compliance & governance functions to ensure adherence to prudential norms of the central bank, whilst a telecommunications company might not warrant an equally stronger governance structure for managing these stuff. Likewise, a government undertaking like DCGF warrants an entirely different governance structure in managing its operations as profit maximization is not a primary moto for it, unlike the organizations of the other sectors.

My experience shows a drastic difference between these 3 sectors (i.e., banking, telecommunications and government undertaking) in terms of organizational management. The banking sector is relatively ahead in terms of control and staff motivation, telco sector is more efficient and systematic in planning, organizing, and leading. Government undertakings like DCGF are more systematic in staffing, especially in recruitment and budgeting.

Q: As a professional with long experience in handling corporate legal affairs, how do you see the scope of corporate law studies in Nepal?
A: Our country has very good potential in terms of economic growth. Economic growth warrants strong growth in industrial activities. Industrial growth will create lots of opportunities for corporate law studies. As of today, corporate law studies primarily comprise company law, banking & insurance law, merchant banking and investment law, telco law, etc. With the growth of industrial activities, many new industries will come in. The evolution of the industrial activities in the country will ultimately expand the scope of corporate legal studies to infrastructure law, construction law, e-commerce law, fintech law and many more.

Q: What advice would you like to give to the young students of law aspiring to build their careers in commercial law?
A: A law graduate with commercial law education carries a sound knowledge in different spears of company management, including but not limited to corporate events, meetings, taxation, banking, insurance, economic analysis, HR, IR management, basic accounting and finance, etc. So, a corporate law student is fitted for multiple roles in a business enterprise. Besides the positions of legal officer, legal manager and company secretary, they can join a business enterprise or corporate body in any managerial role commensurable to their studies and groom themselves to a corporate leader. I strongly encourage corporate law students interested to join the corporate sector to get themselves prepared to pursue their career in any managerial role.

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