Anshula Kant is the Managing Director and Group Chief Financial Officer of the World Bank. In this role, she is responsible for the financial and risk management of the World Bank Group, reporting to the President. Among other essential management duties, her work includes oversight of financial reporting, risk management and mobilization of IDA and other financial resources. She was the Managing Director and member of the Board of SBI from September 2018 to August 2019. With direct responsibility for the SBI’s Risk, Compliance, and Stressed Asset Portfolio, Kant led the creation of investment opportunities while empowering risk management throughout the bank.
Anshula Kant, who hails from Roorkee, a small city in Uttarakhand, India, has always aspired to venture into bigger cities and have a career in the field of economy. Growing up, Kant was fascinated by economics and excelled at a time when there was little scope for the subject in the country. “When my father said that if I had to do engineering and would have to study in Roorkee, I decided against it and took admissions at the Lady Shri Ram College to study economics,” says Kant.
She then pursued a post-graduation in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics and held a certification from the Indian Institute of Bankers. She started her career working at The State Bank of India in 1983 as a probationary officer. However, as fate would have it, her desire for life beyond small cities was short-lived when the bank posted her in the branch within the Roorkee college campus. However, after her marriage, she moved to the pilgrim town of Varanasi.
The new city gave Kant multiple opportunities and supportive in-laws who cared for her children so she could focus on her job. “I was a free bird at work,” says Kant. “My in-laws supported me so much that I never had to worry about my two children. They grew up with them.”
With the strong support of her in-laws at home, Kant worked relentlessly at SBI and broke several misconceptions about working women in the male-dominated field. For instance, many Indian women at the time gave up on their careers after marriage and pregnancy because of the new added responsibilities they presented. But Kant was determined to continue her career. However, at one point in time, she almost decided to resign when she was transferred to a branch in Lucknow and did not know how she would be able to manage it all. But, with her family’s unending support and SBI’s residential colony’s assistance, she continued her upward journey and inspired others along the way.
Due to her hard work and perseverance, Kant soon got the opportunity to run an independent bank as well, in a way a start-up, in an overseas market where regulations are more stringent in nature, Singapore.
During her stint in Singapore, she was responsible for launching retail operations for the bank in Singapore, the first Indian bank in the region. Talking about her experience running the bank, Kant says, “At the time, I was in the thick of operations since we had just got the retail licence there. I was hiring people, managing the technical teams, setting up ATMs, new branches; it was almost like an independent bank there.”
However, that led the way for more responsibilities and achievements for Kant. She soon became the Managing Director; in addition, Kant previously served as the Chief General Manager of Mumbai SBI and was Deputy MD of Operations for the National Banking Group. The bank witnessed a massive improvement in its asset quality as gross non-performing assets reduced to 7.53 per cent of gross advances in end-March 2019 as against 10.91 per cent by the end of March 2018.
As the CFO of SBI, Kant made $38 billion in revenues and total assets of $500 billion. Spearheading the organization, she significantly improved the capital base and focused on the long-term sustainability of SBI within her mandate.
Considering all the challenges she faced as a woman, Kant decided to make it easier for other women to grow and excel in their careers. In 2017, when Kant was serving as the Deputy Managing Director & CFO, SBI had about 46,000 female employees, about 22 per cent of the bank’s labour force, a considerable increase in a male-dominated industry. To bring forth a change, Kant made several changes in the employee policies, such as leave eligibility and other approaches to support women to continue their careers.
In addition, under Kant’s tenure in May 2017, SBI also permitted the ‘work from Home option to its employees, extending for more than a year for its women employees. Furthermore, to avoid the husband’s transfers affecting their wife’s career, the bank also devised a scheme to provide transfers to married women employees to their preferred location within the country.
Having exceptionally managed the country’s largest government bank, making vital economic decisions and implementing several employee benefit policies, Kant has set out to rewrite history as the first woman Managing Director and Group Chief Financial Officer of the World Bank.
While in this role, Kant also impressively dealt with the pandemic with the World Bank Group responding to the crisis immediately. She says, “The World Bank is acting fast and decisively to help countries respond and get their development progress back on track: we have pledged to make up to $160bn available over 15 months.” While talking about the World Bank’s priorities, she adds, “We are working to help countries meet the dual challenges they now face: addressing the health threat, and the social and economic impacts of the crisis, while maintaining a line of sight to their long-term development vision, including efforts to meet targets under the Sustainable Development Goals. Our response aims to help client countries assist at least one billion people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis while building momentum to achieve the twin goals of eradicating poverty and boosting shared prosperity. “
In addition, she also feels that the pandemic has crystalized the opportunity for sustainable investment to benefit everyone. She says, “Our goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity are built on a foundation of sustainable development. On the funding side, World Bank bonds offer investors the opportunity to earn a market-based financial return while contributing to the betterment of society globally. Our Sustainable Development Bonds also serve as a model to increase transparency, which helps investors manage ESG risks and see how their investments help achieve development impact goals.”
In conclusion, her advice to all budding leaders is, “Ultimately, though, no matter what path you choose, you have to enjoy what you do and know what drives you. Personally, I’ve found that roles that challenge me have driven me to work at my peak.”