Credit Risk, which is probably the biggest risk that financial institutions face, also presents an opportunity for banks to aid in large scale decision making related to energy, environment and overall economic development.

Nirali Joshi, our next pathbreaker, Associate Director, Wholesale Credit Risk at Royal Bank of Canada, adjudicates credit related decisions for Capital Market and Mid-Market Corporate Clients in Energy, Power and Utilities industries.

Nirali talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about taking up a career in corporate banking for its crucial role in balancing environmental concerns with business needs, due to a lot of concerns around climate.

For students, focus on skills rather than a job, and acquire as many diverse experiences as possible at a younger age !

Nirali, Your background?

I grew up in Mumbai, India. I did my BCom and CA. I joined HDFC Bank ltd. after completing my CA. 

Banking seemed global at that point in time as against a Corporate Finance job.

My father is a CA too and has his own practice. He did guide me throughout. I was quite inclined towards Finance from the start. 

I used to take part in extracurricular activities – swimming, tennis, chess, debates, competitions, keyboard at Intra-school/college and Inter-school level.

I moved to Canada at the age of 24 to gain additional experience and develop myself. I decided to start my new life with education in a new country. I did my MBA here to focus on soft skills like teamwork and management. This helped me with my first job with Royal Bank of Canada(RBC) where I currently work. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I did BCom and parallelly did my CA. I also completed CPA(USA) while in India. I also pursued an MBA from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University after my CA.

Each educational degree was focused on gaining different skills. 

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

My father was my key influencer. My managers at HDFC Bank were also mentors. I also got feedback from my managers to focus on team/leadership/management skills to develop myself.

One of the major turning points was the opportunity to settle in Canada as it provided the option to go to the country on Permanent Residency.  

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I always focused on global opportunities thinking about Skills rather than a Job. Focusing on Education, Thinking about the Big Picture/Long-Term, Hard Work, Intuition, Action/Execution, Growth Mindset/Focus on improving based on the feedback were some of the things that helped me.

My articleship when doing CA was quite a strenuous experience, especially balancing it with CA studies and my college. While my experiences at HDFC Bank were very encouraging/empowering, it also made me realise what/where I need to improve to grow in my career.

I was not quite aware of what the job was at the point of time. But I got into it, trusting my interviewer and the HDFC Bank Brand.

It was an extraordinary start in Banking. It was Retail Credit Policy/Strategy for Unsecured Lending products. It meant designing data-driven credit strategies/ policies for personal loans/ business loans/ credit cards – whom to give and how much? It was extra-ordinary as there was lot of momentum and empowerment. 

I started my career in Credit Risk. I loved the empowerment that job gave and a very clear understanding of retail credit products. However, I thought Corporate Credit Risk would be more aligned with my skillsets and interests – analysing a corporate balance sheet, capital markets, larger loan sizes and more relationship driven. I was planning to move to another Bank in India in Corporate Banking. However, I moved to Canada before I could start that new job, through my Permanent Residency.

I began my MBA in Canada with a long-term perspective in another country and joined RBC’s Leadership Development Program thereafter. The Royal Bank of Canada’s Leadership Development Program was a great experience that helped me understand the breadth of work in the bank, build my network, and groom myself.

After rotating through 4 different teams in the Bank, I have joined the Wholesale Credit Risk which is the Credit Risk side of Corporate Banking. Ultimately, I am in the team I envisioned myself in when leaving HDFC Bank. 

Of note, I chose to move to Canada as I loved the country when we had travelled in 2012 and it provided a long-term option based on permanent residency unlike many other countries. This independence was the driving force. However, a part of it is destiny! 

My Queen’s MBA experience was quite transformative. I gained a deep understanding of the Canadian culture as well as areas of development for me. Team Work – not as “taught” in Indian curriculum is of ‘unexplainable’ importance here. People skills (I still find it quite challenging) is one of the top skills here and I am sure it is in India as well as you grow in the Career. Networking, a whole new way of approaching job search, is quite a different way of working here.

I did US CPA as I was able to pursue it while in India, along with my work. This was to keep my core education global. 

How did you get your first break? 

My first break in India at HDFC Bank Ltd was through – online application – Interviewed by SVP for 15 mins.

My first break in Canada was through Networking and Campus.

Though they were 2 different countries and approaches, NETWORKING is important in both places.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1:  Figuring what to do? 

Generally, kids do face this challenge in India quite a bit.

Though options have increased far beyond, more options result in more confusion. But it is important for our education to be more relevant NOT JUST TODAY BUT 10 YEARS LATER. Educated parents and teachers can help guide students on what type of SKILLS will be needed vs jobs. 

Less focus on jobs but more on SKILLS!

Challenge 2: Next Steps

Once you take the first step, you will figure it out. The first step may be wrong but that is not the end of the world! It is merely A step. It helps you charter your journey. Always think of the next step. Don’t get bogged down by what you are hearing about yourself from people around you. Do not take it personally, take it more from a GROWTH perspective. 

Challenge 3: Perception vs Reality

How to manage this? Soft skills, team work, management, and people skills are far more important. This is not something that we are “taught” or guided on. IT IS WHO WE ARE. This will define our lives. This will never get outdated. It is becoming more and more important. It is one of the biggest challenges as we become more disconnected in a virtually connected world.

Where do you work now?  What problems do you solve? 

I work at Royal Bank of CANADA in the Wholesale Credit Risk – Energy sector. I make/assist in credit decisions – whether to lend to corporates or not ?

E.g. Company A approaches the bank for a loan. We “adjudicate”, meaning decide on whether to lend or not to that corporate. This is industry wise. 

We do fund – both traditional as well as new/clean energy companies. The Bank is quite cognizant of its Energy sector exposure, but balances business vs the climate space. 

The essence of my role is to make such recommendation based on a lot of information relating to the company financial performance ,industry metrics, type of business, management, etc.

Credit risk is the largest risk that a bank faces. The way to decide the same question is quite different on the Retail and Wholesale side. 

Retail meaning individuals. Wholesale is corporates. 

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

Analytical, decision making, communication, prioritizing, lots of reading/comprehending and communicating concisely are some of the key skills.

My work is a mix of quantitative as well as qualitative research.

Quantitative as we try to forecast the Company’s cash flows in the future based on its past financial performance. CASH IS KING. Cash flows are the main determinant in our decision making. 

What’s a typical day like?

It is more deal driven/transaction driven. It is a tight turn around, Involves lots of reading and writing and making recommendations.

What is it you love about this job? 

I like how decisions are made, what we are looking for and the challenge in communicating with our business partners.

How does your work benefit society? 

My role involves large scale decision making. Especially, in the Energy sector, where there is a lot of concern around climate. Whether to fund these companies? How to balance the environment and business? What do we look for? How is the industry changing? 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I taught as a mentor in TEACHINDIA when I was in Mumbai. I truly cherish that experience and would love to work more in the education sector. My dream is to build a for-profit School for the next decade! 

Your advice to students based on your experience?




Future Plans?

I am at a juncture between my personal and professional life. I hope to  grow in depth and build my interpersonal skills to grow vertically in my career.

My personal growth will also help me grow professionally. So, I am looking forward to growing(as usual).

I would like to focus on other aspects of life soon – writing and education.