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“I learned to build my life on my own merit”

Sabir Bade Shrestha is the CEO at NABIL Invest. He holds more than eight years of international experience in audit, accounting, advisory and finance including a tenure with BDO International, the fifth largest multinational audit and assurance firm, and six years of senior managerial experience in the Nepali capital market with two of the most prestigious bank subsidiaries – NIBL Capital and NABIL Invest. In this issue of B360, Shrestha shares the five things that have impacted his work and life.

My father’s influence

During my childhood, I have seen my father reach the executive position. He was the former CEO of Karmachari Sanchaya Kosh which was a huge achievement for him. He worked hard, faced challenges and reached that place. I was enthused by his drive as well as the subject matter: finance. As a child I wanted to follow in my father’s path. When everyone had high aims of becoming either a doctor or an engineer, I was contemplating a career in finance. I always drew inspiration from my father. I remember there used to be days when he used to share his thoughts about the financial market with me just as he would do with a friend. This worked as a vocational training for me. I wasn’t forced into it. My enthusiasm about finance grew organically.

Schooling

Childhood influences have shaped me. My St. Xavier’s school motto “Live for God, Lead for Nepal” has stayed with me forever. Directly or indirectly it was grooming us to be leaders in life. Our school taught us to lead lives with our heads held high… to be good in whatever field we chose and to be leaders.

Experiences abroad

I started working in the UK in 2006 as a part of my articleship. I worked in a family-run company as a junior accountant and built my accountancy base there. This job taught me professionalism. When you are sitting in a working environment in any organisation, it doesn’t matter if you are a trainee or a permanent staff, you are expected to deliver some output, communicate, understand and become self-sufficient. This grooming took place when I was aged between 19 and 22. This phase of my life transformed me from a boy to a man. After gaining experiences from smaller firms, I started working with BDO International, the fifth largest audit firm in the world. Also, when I was 19, I was doing a student part-time job. It was my first few months in the UK and I was working outside the university. My then supervisor who was 10-15 years older than me, spoke to me in a very harsh manner because I wasn’t serious at work. I was angry and my first reaction was “how dare you speak to me like that”. Later, when I was home, I thought “why wouldn’t he talk to me like that”. In Nepal, family name is influential; people know your family and they are automatically nice to you. So, things are handed over in a silver platter. But in the UK, I was on my own. In a foreign land, you are no one’s son or brother. If you mess up at work, it is not necessary that the concerned person will be nice to you. At that moment, I learned that respect needs to be earned. Later, at work, I didn’t make it an issue. This also pushed me to build my life on my merit.

The decision to return to my homeland

I had bought a house in the UK and more or less I had decided to stay there. Asking my parents to shift along wasn’t ideal as Nepali parents hardly stay in foreign land during their old age. When I was 29, I realised that if I don’t go now, I will never go back. Later, other priorities will take over and it would be difficult to move back.

Also, I was observing Nepal’s capital market and noted that during 2012-13, the market was growing. NABIL as well as NIBL was in the process of licensing in the investment avenue. This drew my interest and as part of an intense research, I discovered Nepal as an emerging market. Investment avenues were less so organisations creating opportunities for stock market or business related investment avenues will always have a place in Nepal and some of the organisations had already got their licenses. And I believed it was the right moment to enter the market. I was pleased with my research as it gave me better opportunities besides audit in Nepal. Audit overseas was attractive but here it wasn’t so. I wanted to go into investments. I got appointed in NIBL as a Senior Manager. They respected my seven years of experience in the UK as an Audit Manager in a multinational company. This saved me from restarting from scratch. If I had stayed back in the UK, I would have been a Senior Manager at a multinational with decent earning but work-life balance wouldn’t have been possible. People are workaholics there and even the system tends to make you work extra hard until retirement. Here the laid-back culture and the scope of innovation balances life. Further, this soil is immensely attractive creativity-wise.  So, returning back was one of my best decisions.

Working hard in a Nepali context

I quickly grasped the Nepali corporate culture, understood the need, the pulse of the investors and the need of the hour. I learned a lot while working with NIBL and realised the market here isn’t very complicated at the same time, it isn’t very global either. It is very easy to make relations with people here and the social element complements the business aspect quite well. On the other hand, people abroad are quite skeptic. Gradually blending and streamlining my experience with social elements, I practiced my way of working which is straightforward and beneficial for the individual. I believe at the end of the day a person should be happy at an individual level that s/he is contributing to the output of the organisation: this is the best motivation.

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