Khunjeli becomes first woman to head Nepali bankNewly appointed Chief Executive Officer Anupama Khunjeli of Mega Bank Nepal has earned the distinction of being the first woman to head a commercial bank in Nepal. She has been involved in Nepal’s banking sector for almost three decades, and believes that opportunity and hard work are the keys to success.
Newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Anupama Khunjeli of Mega Bank Nepal has earned the distinction of being the first woman to head a commercial bank in Nepal. She has been involved in Nepal’s banking sector for almost three decades, and believes that opportunity and hard work are the keys to success.
With banks suffering from a shortage of loanable funds and facing criticism that they have not been able to extend services to rural areas, Khunjeli feels that her main responsibility as the head of a private bank is to address these challenges.
“As the CEO of Mega Bank, my first priority would be to bring unbanked rural people into the banking network,” Khunjeli said. “I will put all my efforts into safeguarding the interests of stakeholders, promoters and customers of the bank while ensuring compliance with the regulations of the central bank and government bodies to benefit society at large,” she said.
The banking sector has been emerging as one of the most attractive places to work in Nepal, particularly among women, and Khunjeli’s appointment to the top post in a class A bank is an inspiration to aspiring women bankers. She stresses the need to promote the involvement of women in the banking sector.
Khunjeli has been involved in Mega Bank since its inception. She ascended to the top post after former CEO Anil Shah left as per Nepal Rastra Bank’s regulation. The central bank bars the CEO of a bank from serving more than two terms, and Shah has moved to Nabil Bank.
Khunjeli started her banking career 27 years ago as an assistant at the then ANZ Grindlays Bank Nepal which was later acquired by Standard Chartered Bank Nepal.
After working at Standard Chartered Bank for over a decade, Khunjeli moved to Nabil Bank as senior manager. Later, accompanying Shah’s team, she joined Mega Bank during its establishment.
Khunjeli studied at St Mary’s School and then moved to India for higher studies. Returning to Nepal, she joined Shankar Dev Campus from where she earned a bachelor’s degree in management. Subsequently, she earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the Ace Institute of Management.
Khunjeli believes that the country’s financial sector can yield the desired economic transformation if it increases investments in productive sectors. “However, there should be clarity in the government’s policy regarding productive sectors. In addition, there is a need to introduce more derivative products to boost the financial market.”
At present, commercial banks have been struggling to manage adequate loanable funds to meet demand. The shortage of loanable funds with banks has pushed up interest rates on loans significantly. “We have to accept the ups and downs in the business cycle and move accordingly to deal with the challenges,” Khunjeli said. The first woman CEO of a bank said it was years of experience that provided her strength to face the current challenges. “It is experience that helps one to cope with the cycle of growth and the challenges that crop up in the business.”
Khunjeli attributed the rise in interest rates to the central bank’s regulation requiring banks to increase their paid-up capital fourfold. According to her, this has created pressure on banks to increase their business and return to shareholders. “If the central bank’s policy to reduce the number of commercial banks through mergers had been successful, such a severe problem might not have arisen.”
Committed to giving continuity to Mega Bank’s policy of investing in ‘Halo to Hydro’, Khunjeli said the bank would focus on covering the country’s entire economic pyramid to promote investment. Refuting claims that the syndicate system had emerged in the banking sector, Khunjeli said that the systemic problem needed to be solved through mutual cooperation among stakeholders.
Mega Bank has been providing easy loans through its micro lending and group lending programmes in rural areas of Birgunj, Pokhara, Arghakhanchi, Darchula, Dailekh and other places. Khunjeli said the bank would strictly follow the government rule requiring banks to extend financial services to all 753 local units.
Shah is confident that Mega Bank will reach new heights under Khunjeli’s leadership. “I praise the bank board for taking the right decision to promote Khunjeli to the post of CEO. As she has been with the bank since its establishment, she has a thorough knowledge of the bank’s legacy, promoters, customers and other stakeholders,” Shah said. He added that Khunjeli would be able to lead the bank during difficult times.