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Purpose-Led Leadership and its Impact


Episode Summary

This episode of Behind the Growth covers the story and insights of Mahima Poddar, Group Head of Personal Banking at Equitable Bank. In conversation with host Imran Mian, Mahima traces her corporate journey that led her to EQ Bank’s digital platform, and eventually to the leadership seat of Personal Banking at the Bank. She considers networking and diverse reading to be the hallmark of creativity, and talks about its significance in chalking out intersections between distinct domains.

Mahima also shares Equitable Bank’s philosophy of prioritizing intellect, professional energy, and cultural adaptability over experience of the nuances of Canadian banking. She talks about the year-long metamorphosis of the bank’s operating model to boost productivity and streamline team dynamics by essentially giving precedence to diagnosis over deliverables.

Emphasizing the importance of customer satisfaction as the ultimate measure of success, Mahima conveys Equitable Bank’s strategies for sustainable innovation and successful purpose-led business management. She highlights the bank’s commitment to providing superior customer service and maintaining high satisfaction levels as benchmarks for success.

Featured Guest

  • Name: Mahima Poddar
  • What she does: Group Head, Personal Banking
  • Company: Equitable Bank
  • Noteworthy: Mahima Poddar is a force within the fast-moving world of digital banking and currently serves as SVP and Group Head, Personal Banking, at Equitable Bank, where she leads the bank’s award-winning and beloved digital arm, EQ Bank as well as Personal Lending, Marketing and Payments. Since joining in 2016, Mahima has been a catalyst for growth, steering EQ Bank beyond $8 billion in deposits through strategic acquisitions and the launch of innovative products. Her accolades include being named a Best Executive by the Globe and Mail and one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women by WXN. With a foundation from Western University and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Mahima’s blend of expertise and leadership continues to shape the future of banking.

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Key Insights

Embracing Diverse Learning to Foster Creativity
Mahima Poddar discusses the importance of broad learning and networking beyond one’s immediate professional sphere. She stresses that exposure to diverse fields like science, art, and technology enhances problem-solving skills and fosters creativity in business settings. By connecting dots between different knowledge areas, Mahima believes professionals can uncover innovative solutions and opportunities that might otherwise remain undiscovered. This approach has been integral to her success and leadership style, encouraging a culture of continuous learning and curiosity at Equitable Bank.

Strategic Talent Acquisition Beyond Conventional Banking
Mahima highlights a unique approach to talent acquisition at Equitable Bank, focusing on intellectual vigor and cultural fit over traditional banking experience. This strategy involves recruiting individuals from varied backgrounds such as tech and consulting, rather than limiting the talent pool to seasoned bankers. This diverse recruitment strategy aims to infuse fresh perspectives and drive innovation within the bank, ensuring the team remains agile and adaptable to new challenges in the financial sector.

Customer-Centricity in Banking Innovation
Throughout the podcast, Mahima underscores the significance of customer-centricity at Equitable Bank, particularly through the development of EQ Bank. She elaborates on the bank’s strategy to offer products that genuinely benefit the customer, such as low-fee banking services and higher interest on savings. This focus on customer needs and pain points is central to their business model, aiming to not only meet but exceed customer satisfaction through innovative banking solutions that prioritize transparency and value.

We are really focused on delightful customer experience. and so we're putting Gen AI tools in front of our customer care agents so that they get prompted with an answer or a solution that might make sense for the customer.

Episode Highlights

The Unintended Journey to Leadership

Mahima Poddar shares her initial career steps, from management consulting to a key leader in banking, highlighting the unplanned nature of her professional path. She credits her early experiences at Boston Consulting Group for her foundational skills in problem-solving and creativity, which paved her way into the banking industry.

“I wish I could say it was thoughtful, but I feel like I am one of those people who really stumbled through different career options until I really found something that I was both good at and that I enjoy doing.”

Cultural Challenges and Personal Growth

Mahima discusses the cultural challenges she faced due to her upbringing and how these influenced her professional relationships and leadership style. She emphasizes the importance of overcoming informal barriers and the impact this realization has had on her advocacy and activism work.

“I didn’t really invest enough in showing up. I have this sense that if I did really great work and I drove impact that my work would speak for itself.”

The Importance of Team Dynamics in Business Innovation

Here, Mahima highlights how prioritizing team dynamics over mere task completion has significantly improved operational efficiency and job satisfaction at Equitable. She details the shift to a more integrated and agile operational model, fostering better collaboration and accountability among teams.

“If we took a step back, I think we’d all admit and we went through a whole process. So we did admit to ourselves that the dynamics of how we were working together were really slowing us down.”

Customer-Centric Business Strategy

Mahima underscores the strategic focus on customer satisfaction that defines Equitable Bank’s approach. She explains the bank’s mission to create genuinely beneficial products that improve customer’s financial lives, avoiding ‘copycat’ products prevalent in the industry.

“Our value proposition on EQ Bank, which again is our direct-to-consumer digital bank, is less take more make. So what that means is that we offer everyday banking that takes less in the ways of fees, it means it’s lower spreads, there’s no gotcha moments, and, from the earn more perspective, it allows customers to earn more by actually paying them interest on a checking account, or we give them again, high cash back or other ways to earn rewards.”

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