Book Review: The Incredible Banker

This guy can write... 

End of review. Those four words sum it up. This is the second book of Mr Subramanian that I have read.. and I loved it from start to finish. Awesome book, with a cracking pace and a super plot! The single point that I love about Ravi Subramanian is how he can take simple processes and convert them into the base of a cracking plot. And, you dont need to be a banker since it has been put in such simple terms and words... and class book! 

The Characters

Deepak Sarup: Quintessential Sales Guy. Zero on basics, Zero on processes, high on numbers...
Karan Punjabi: Class. Sheer Class. Wish there were more like him...
Sanjit: Main toh chalaa... jidhar chale rastaa! Haan, par thodi si gairat abhi baaki hai...
Savitha: If the road is not there, make it.... any which way!
Ronald McCain: The C Man: Clueless, Careless, Crafty, Cunning, Capricious CEO!

The Plot
Ronald McCain, the new CEO, gets a summons from the RBI Governor. The GB2 Bank gets the riot act read to them; RBI intends to give them a farewell party of the rather permanent variety over a teensy weensy small matter of GB2 not knowing who exactly were there customers - unless Mr McCain and Co can be good boys all along the line. The bank was slightly peeved, but RBI had kind of sent reminders to them once or twice in the past 2 years, which were ignored. Not a very smart method of doing business, methinks - ignoring the RBI. Well, the Bank did  do something - delegated the objections and the details of finding solutions to the process team. And found a new head for that team, Excellent, brilliant. Guess who they found: a Sales guy. Stroke of pure genius, that strategy. Who better to figure out the loopholes? Smart, isnt it? Would have been - except loopholes have a tendency to start leaking unless permanently plugged. And as the icing on the cake, they promptly forgot all about it. Wow. Forgetting the RBI, of all people. And if you delegate and do not diligently follow up on the nitty-gritty of the issues- that is what it tantamounts to. That is the background, as certain unsavoury "gentlemen" find the loopholes before the Bank does, and decide to have some fun, Fun for them, not so funny for India. And GB2 is caught right in the middle of it all...

The Analysis

The stunning ease with which the author has created a fast-paced rapid account out of something as staid and potentially boring as processes and KYC documents is a thing of beauty: this can happen is a thought that occurs more than once, The attention to detail is, as usual, phenomenal: having worked in the financial services industry, I can vouch for that. The pace builds up right from the start, and continues throughout till the taut ending. At no point does the story flag, or fail to hold attention.

The story goes back-and-forth in time, and the various time-frames have been skillfully weaved together. The story changes tack at just the precise point which builds up suspense: what will happen next? For that, you have to wait a few pages... problem is, there is the parallel track running that is also at a critical point, so you dont fret. This not only keeps the pace, it also builds suspense and keeps you glued to the book. Character development is adequate; the characters are well defined and their behaviour is in within the acceptable limits for the personality profile. For example, Deepak's approach seems very natural and real -having seen innumerable  such people in real life. Similar is the case with all the other characters.The best part is that the writing is relatively clean; financial terms are kept to a minimum, and the language as well as the content is easy to comprehend.

As I stated about his latest novel, his books are a must read for all in Corporate India, and MBA students, as well as anyone looking to get into the rat rate. One might think that it is far fetched, that lack of focus on processes and basics of business can lead to crime. All those who think so are advised to do a little googling for themselves for corporate names across levels whose reputations were tarnished or destroyed by skirmishes with the law. And from all levels of organisations! Beats me why people still try to buck sound operational logic and processes for the sake of numbers.

 Both the books I have read zero in on the precise same problem - lack of attention to processes that lead to disaster for the organisation; and how mindless number-chasing can lead to disaster unless tempered with a sound 360-degree strategy, and buttressed with solid fundamentals and sturdy processes. Business is a fine balance between processes and numbers: go too heavy on any one side, and you get problems. But even more that that, the book also showcases a lack of moral direction and plain and simple ethics; and how that connects with the overall business atmosphere to create trouble. I am not stating that they lead to crime; but they do lead to trouble, And in some cases, crime as well - even in the real world.


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