Fusing leadership with philanthropy

CEO of Sanima Bank Bhuvan Kumar Dahal. Photo courtesy: Digital Economy Conclave

Sujan Tiwari

  • Read Time 5 min.

Kathmandu: Good leadership and management are indispensable, whether for running an institution, a political party, or a country. As a nation, we are faltering because of managerial shortcomings and the absence of a competent leader, says Bhuvan Kumar Dahal, CEO of Sanima Bank.

“Too many leaders can disrupt the progress of any organization. Similarly, too many leaders can impede the development of a nation as well,” opines Dahal, who has experience of 30 years in the banking industry of Nepal.   

Management philosophies

Dahal prefers to define a manager as a person who follows the rules and regulations, is knowledgeable of his profession, and possesses the ability to lead a team effectively, and says a leader is the one who can give a new vision. “A leader must have all the qualities of a good manager and more. Good managerial skills are the bedrock for a good leader, but vision is the quintessential skill needed to become a leader. This one trait separates a leader from a manager,” says Dahal. 

He says that a virtuous leader should also possess altruistic and philanthropic qualities and should be able to give, sacrifice for the team, and encourage fair sharing of opportunities in the team. “I believe that the CEO is the ultimate beneficiary if the team is motivated and works hard for results. So he should have a giving hand for his team when it comes to resources. Here at Sanima, we have a standard for that, for opportunities like travel and training. We reward hard-working staff and those who perform excellently. We have a sound rewarding and punishing system, and I approve of the carrot and stick approach,” explains Dahal.

“Good managerial skills are the bedrock for a good leader, but vision is the quintessential skill needed to become a leader. This one trait separates a leader from a manager.”

According to Dahal, a CEO should refrain from too much involvement in HR management, as it can give way to favoritism and nepotism. “I never interfere in the decisions of HR. I have been in difficult situations within my own family when I refused to recommend jobs in Sanima to my relatives, but I took a firm stand, and now no one asks me for such courtesies. A leader should never be involved in nepotism and favoritism, be ruthlessly fair, and discourage sycophancy,” says Dahal.

Also, Dahal says that there should be well-defined processes and flexibility and discretion for the decision-maker, as very scrupulous procedures can sometimes become a straitjacket for the decision-makers.   

About Sanima Bank

Established in 2012, Sanima Bank is the youngest commercial Bank of Nepal. Yet, according to Dahal, Sanima is among the top five in fundamental parameters. “We are at the second in terms of return on equity (investment of shareholders) among the 27 commercial banks. Despite being the youngest, we are number one in public deposit ratio out of all private banks in Nepal. We owe this success to the hardworking team and the teamwork we have at Sanima,” says the proud CEO.  

According to Dahal, there is no success without hard work, and there is no other secret. Dahal says he practices participatory management, as he believes that no person is omniscient, no one can know it all, and so it is all in teamwork. “However, the job and role of everyone in the team should be rightly defined, and the CEO should play the decisive role. A CEO should acknowledge the opinion of all while drawing vision and should take input from all. This helps in instilling ownership in everyone in the team,” opines Dahal.

Views on banking sector

Dahal opines that improvements and reforms are due in the commercial banking sector, and it has a long way to go, but it is still the most efficient and most regulated sector in Nepal. He says that accountability and transparency are the requisites for an organization to become an institution, and such mechanisms are in place in the banking sector.

“Accountability and transparency are the requisites for an organization to become an institution, and such mechanisms are in place in the banking sector.”

“The CEO isn’t at the top as many would like to believe; the Board of Directors continuously scrutinizes the CEO. As we say, management is planning, directing, and controlling; only the first two aspects are under my supervision. The Audit Department looks after me too; it doesn’t report to me; it reports directly to the Board, and so does the Risk Department. Yes, I do have the autonomy to make my decisions, but if I play against the rules, these two departments can take action against me too,” explains Dahal.  

Beginnings and journey to CEO

Born in Bhiman of Sindhuli, Dahal went to his first school there, but after grade two, he moved to Rautahat and completed his entire schooling there. Then he came to Kathmandu and did his Intermediate in Patan Campus. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Arts with English and Economics as a major at Ratna Rajya Multiple Campus and Mahendra Morang Multiple Campus. Many don’t know this, but before becoming a banker, Dahal worked a government job for around two years in the Parliament Secretariat.  

Dahal joined Nabil Bank in 1991 as an assistant. “At a point, I even repented joining Nabil Bank and the banking sector as I was an arts student,” recalls the seasoned banker. But he didn’t quit, and to further his career in banking, he did a Masters’ Degree in Business Administration (MBA) in Finance from Nepal Commerce Campus. He learned the ropes, worked very hard, and became the Chief Finance Officer at Nabil Bank, and he hasn’t looked back till today.

“While in Nabil Bank, I became an officer at age 23, and four years later, I was promoted to assistant manager. Many employees senior to me didn’t have that opportunity. I always got routinely promoted, as the management trusted me. I became Assistant General Manager before I was even 40. My career growth was rapid, and I consider myself very fortunate for that,” states he.  

Dahal joined Sanima Bank in 2013 as the deputy CEO after spending around 22 years in Nabil Bank. He was appointed the CEO of Sanima Bank in January 2014. An impeccable planner, Dahal even has his retirement planned. “I am retiring on January 25, 2022, after eight years of serving Sanima Bank as a CEO, and after three extraordinary decades in the banking journey,” says Dahal.  


Generally an optimist, Dahal says that the current state of affairs of the nation has made him a bit despondent. He rebukes the incompetence of the country’s leadership and the political turmoil for this pessimism. “We need a political breakthrough in the form of new political power. The existing stagnancy is taking the nation nowhere. The major political parties need to transform for the country to transform,” Dahal shares his disappointment with the status quo.

Dahal sees infinite potential in Nepal’s natural resources and says we can prosper as a country if we focus on those aspects. “I see hopes in tourism. We have a fantastic climate; we have incredible natural and religious locations. People from all over the world dream of climbing Mount Everest, or at least glimpsing it from near.  If we can devise a motorable road without damaging the existing trekking routes, we can have many tourists merely for that purpose,” says he.

“A leader should never be involved in nepotism and favoritism, be ruthlessly fair, and discourage sycophancy.”

According to Dahal, we can draw tourists of all inclinations; nature, culture, and adventure. He believes that religious sites like Lumbini, Pashupatinath, Janaki Mandir, Muktinath all have potential, but our lack of infrastructure enfeebles that potential, so we need to invest in infrastructure first.

“Another opportunity is in our water resources, not just hydropower but the water itself. India suffers from a massive shortage of drinking and irrigation water. We are only focusing on hydro, but the water itself is another potential for us to harness correctly,” explains he.

“But again, everything ultimately boils down to political leadership. For me,  management is the most important aspect, and a good manager can develop an institution and a nation as well,” concludes Dahal.