W Power 2024

Anshula Kant: From SBI to the World Bank

Anshula Kant, the World Bank's first woman managing director and chief financial officer, is trying to create impactful outcomes with efficient use of capital with new financing strategies

Neha Bothra
Published: Mar 15, 2024 05:45:31 PM IST
Updated: Apr 1, 2024 03:48:30 PM IST

Anshula Kant: From SBI to the World BankAnshula Kant, MD and CFO, World Bank

From managing finances of India’s largest bank, the State Bank of India (SBI), to now tackling major global challenges such as climate change and inequality as the first woman managing director and chief financial officer of the World Bank, Anshula Kant is one of the most respected bankers who has successfully led teams through several crises over nearly four decades. 

Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson and CEO, Salesforce India, who was the first woman chairperson of SBI, fondly recounts her experience of working with Kant. “Anshula is a truly motivated person. No matter what assignment she got, she ensured it was successfully carried out. A great team player and a pleasure to work with,” Bhattacharya says. Kant served as SBI’s chief financial officer and managing director before she joined the World Bank in October 2019.

SBI Stint

Kant joined SBI as a probationary officer in 1983. Over the next 36 years, she held a wide range of responsibilities across different cities such as Roorkee, Varanasi, Lucknow and Mumbai. In fact, Kant was entrusted to launch SBI’s retail operations in Singapore. SBI’s Singapore unit was the first Indian bank in the region, and Kant built the business ground-up to meet the region’s stringent regulatory norms.

Anshula Kant: From SBI to the World BankKant played a key role in strengthening SBI’s balance sheet as she managed total assets to the tune of $500 billion and revenues of $38 billion. Adept risk management frameworks helped the bank improve its capital allocation and create adequate reserves to absorb shocks in the banking ecosystem.

Kant’s handling of the stressed asset portfolio helped the bank to reduce gross non-performing assets to 7.5 percent in March 2019 versus 10.9 percent in March 2018, for example. As a result, SBI was favourably placed to tap into growth opportunities when the economy recovered.

The demonetisation phase was another period when Kant’s leadership shone through the chaos of policy flip-flops and agitated customers, and helped SBI glide through the challenge.

“It’s important to be credible, transparent and consistent. Most of all, I think it’s important to be flexible and to always keep learning,” Kant says.

World Bank: Task Cut Out

The Covid pandemic struck six months after Kant joined World Bank. Her task was cut out as developing and low-income countries depended on the World Bank for aid and support. The World Bank responded with a pledge to extend a lifeline of $160 billion over 15 months.

“It’s one of the biggest crises we’ve ever faced, and countries need help. There was a lot of strength in the World Bank balance sheet, and we were able to step up and lean forward. We immediately increased our financing capacity for the most vulnerable countries. We put together Covid-related programmes and packages,” Kant explains.

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Kant oversees risk management and mobilisation of financial resources to meet the organisation’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, boosting overall prosperity, while addressing climate change concerns.  Her team seeks to measure the outcome and impact of projects even as it seeks to undertake projects that are scalable and replicable in different parts of the world to solve some of the pressing problems the world is facing.

“We are trying to create innovations through new structures, new products which will deliver more from the same capital. There are a lot of efforts that are going on to make us more efficient in terms of speed, in terms of volumes, in terms of impact at scale, in terms of what we bring,” Kant points out.

Uncertainties and challenges notwithstanding, Kant is hopeful of a gradual global economic recovery. “I guess slow touchdown to a soft landing over the next 12 months, maybe,” she adds.

Also read: Ananya Tripathi: From coder to real estate queen

Key Learnings

Kant is extremely grateful to her family as they have supported her at every step of her professional journey. “I don’t have regrets. I can’t for a moment imagine not working or not being passionate about my career because that defines me as much as being a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife or mom,” she says.

In the course of her journey, Kant has learnt to never hesitate to ask for help, and to have self-confidence. “Have the confidence that you will be able to do things and achieve goals,” she advises. But most importantly, what pushed Kant to excel in her chosen field was her passion for her work: “When you’re working for 10 to 11 hours a day, it’s important to be interested and passionate about what you’re doing.”  

(This story appears in the 22 March, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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