Interview : Manish Manhar (EEE – 2010)
Please state your current profile and explain your profile. If possible help us understand any previous profiles you’ve worked for.
I am currently working with the Reserve Bank of India as a Manager in Policy Division of Department of Co-operative Bank Regulation (DCBR) for the past 2 years and 8 months. My role involves initiation of policy notes on various functional areas related to co-operative banks, viz. Liquidity Ratios (CRR / SLR), liquidity management facilities (LAF / MSF), Deposits, Customer Service, implementation of Core Banking Solution etc. I am also required to assist in the process of providing policy interpretation of regulatory guidelines issued by RBI to various stakeholders.
Prior to RBI, I worked with ICICI Bank for 2.5 years in the capacity of Relationship Manager for Small and Medium Enterprises and Corporate Agri Group (SMEAG). It was a Corporate Finance role where I was responsible for arranging fund and non-fund based working capital finance, and long term finance facilities to small and medium sized corporates. The role involved assessment of credit requirement of customers, preparing proposal notes, due-diligence with internal gatekeepers, sanctioning / disbursement, and continuous monitoring of facilities disbursed.
I also had a short term stint at Milaap.org. My role at Milaap was as a fellow for Asset Liability Management (ALM), which involved assessment of liquidity profile of the company, cash flow projection, preparation of excel based ALM models, and assisting the firm in securing long-term credit line.
What made you decide to pursue a career in finance? What are the challenges in pursuing such a career?
For me, the decision of pursuing a career in the finance sector was purely instinctual. I opted for global electives offered by the MBA department during last semesters of B.Tech and realized that I had an affinity towards topics involving financial concepts. Subsequently, during my PGDM from IIM Bangalore, I performed well in Finance subjects vis-à-vis other areas like marketing /strategy/ operations.
The top opportunities in finance like Investment Banking/Private Equity/Global Markets are highly coveted but very numbered, so the competition to land these jobs is very tough. Other areas like corporate finance, research analyst, retail banking etc are relatively easier to get. Finance jobs are generally demanding and involve long working hours, continuous delivery pressure, ensuring regulatory compliance, and competitive peers.
How does one effectively transition from engineering to a career in finance and analytics?
I would restrict the answer to finance because analytics is altogether a different domain.
For a career in finance, one has to build their profile in such a manner that clear inclination is visible for the recruiter. This can be done by pursuing basic certifications (NCFM) or advance certifications (CFA / FRM), opting for finance internships, taking finance/accounting/economics electives if offered by other departments. This is purely from a resume point of view.
In addition, one has to be genuinely interested and keep themself updated with the latest developments in the financial sector through newspapers / business channels / blogs / websites. If done with sincerity this will also help in understanding the various career choices available in financial sector. However, I want to make it clear that financial sector recruiters offer limited profiles at the undergraduate level. An MBA through a reputed institute can provide the wide range of opportunities which the financial sector offers.
In NITT, we now have the option of applying for minors in other departments. Is a minor in Economics useful from a recruiter’s point of view? How much importance is given to it?
As I have answered in above, in isolation it may be of little significance, however, when combined with other things it may one’s interest in the field of finance. Also, though I am not clear what all subjects they offer as part of a minor in economics, but subjects which provide basics of accounting / management / financial products will be definitely helpful.
You have done a lot of finance based certifications. Could you elaborate on them a little, providing a little insight into what each of them offer? Is it advisable to take any of these certifications while pursuing a UG degree?
My certifications are more work-related and may not be relevant for students as such.
However, those who are seriously interested in making a career in finance after UG or MBA, can begin with basic modules of NCFM such as Financial Markets, Commercial Banking, Securities Markets etc.
Students can also pursue beginner level courses offered on Coursera. Next stage can be certifications like CFA / FRM which are more advanced in nature. Students can pursue these courses during the time available to them. But one has to take into account the nature of companies which visit for placement. If not many companies with finance profiles visit the campus, then these certifications will only be helpful in case you pursue MBA after UG studies.
Is it necessary to get an MBA for an engineer to make the transition into banking?
If you aspire for top finance jobs like Investment Banking / Private Equity / Capital Markets then an MBA is necessary. If your target is corporate finance / retail banking kind of roles then MBA is not necessary. For latter kind of roles Public Sector Banks conduct their own examination, and some Indian Private Banks have their own customized programs in collaboration with institutes like Sikkim Manipal. Foreign Private Banks normally hire MBA / CA for good profiles.
How useful is the technical knowledge you gained at college in your career now?
Since finance is altogether a different field, the technical skills acquired in college are not directly applicable. However, the supplementary skills like analytical acumen, data processing skills, IT competency which we acquire while pursuing engineering form the foundation of a career in finance.
What are the soft skills to be acquired for work culture? Has college equipped you with any of them?
For me, the top three soft skills would be interpersonal skills, prioritization of work/time management, and personal upkeep.
During college time I was a member of a few clubs/societies like Aayaam and ConnectNIT. I also actively took part in the organization of inter/intra college events and all these helped me in developing my interpersonal skills. Managing studies and extracurricular activities simultaneously improved my time management/prioritization of work. During our engineering days, we hardly realise the importance of personal upkeep, but a presentable personality makes a lot of a difference to a recruiter in addition to individuals knowledge and skills.
How permanent is any choice of career? Do you think one should stick to a particular field or keep changing and experimenting as they grow in the industry?
In my opinion, if someone wants to truly gain in professional life then the choice of career has to be stable. Specialisation in any field requires an investment of time. One is also required to keep themselves aware of macro developments in the sector and keep rebuilding their skill sets.
Unlike in older times, it is not possible now to spend an entire career with the same skill sets. Change of career also depends on the type of job one has. It is a known fact that fields which require specialised knowledge like tech jobs, change of career is difficult as prior experience is always called for. However, I am not averse to experimentation, but that should be done after one attains specialisation in some domain.
What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
I wish that I would have known about certifications offered by NCFM / CFA Institute / GARP earlier. Four years of engineering provides a lot of free time, and probably I would have completed some of these then.
In your opinion, what is the extent one should go to find a balance between work satisfaction and monetary satisfaction?
If you find your work interesting then money becomes just incidental. This may sound like a cliché but it is also the truth.
With a good pedigree of college like ours it is easy to get decent paying jobs, however, I have seen many getting disillusioned and frustrated with these jobs soon after. This happens because they are not able to find the self-worth which is very important in any career choice. All said and done, money is important, but only to the extent that you are able to live life with necessary comforts. So, opt for a career choice which rewards you with necessary monetary satisfaction but ultimate work satisfaction and where you can contribute with passion and commitment.
Is there any advice you’d give to engineering students?
Four years of engineering are among the most important years of your life. A lot of free time is available during these four years and students should use it wisely.
Focus on academics is important, but developing an all-round personality is equally important. Students should get involved in extracurricular activities especially which requires teamwork. This helps not only in developing practical skills which are marketable but also provides practical experience of working in a professional environment.
Last but not the least, students should also focus on personal fitness. Your body should be healthy enough to sustain the next 40 years of professional life. Physical activities like exercise or sports should become part of your daily schedule, and four years of engineering are sufficient enough to develop this as a habit.