From starting his career as an intern in an audit firm to becoming CEO of Nepal Life Insurance Company Ltd (NLIC), Vivek Jha’s journey is filled with exciting stories. When Jha was appointed as the CEO of the company, many thought he was unfit for the position. However, after assuming office, Jha’s management skills and hard work silenced his doubters. The overall business of NLIC increased after Jha assumed office in 2011. In a conversation with Ashim Neupane of New Business Age at NLIC’s head office in Kamaladi, Kathmandu, Jha shared some interesting tidbits from his career.
Jha completed his schooling from Laboratory School in Kathmandu with good grades in the SLC examination. Despite being interested in management and accounts, Jha joined Intermediate of Science (ISc) at a science college in Motihari, India. At that time, the general conception was that students with good grades should enrol in the science faculty. After completing ISc from India, Jha returned to Nepal and joined Bachelor’s of Science (BSc) degree at Tri Chandra Multiple Campus with physics, mathematics and meteorology as major subjects. Jha completed his Bachelor’s course, but he was still interested in the management sector. So, he went to India to study Chartered Accountancy. He joined the Delhi-based Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. As Jha was from a science background, initially it was tough for him to familiarise with the concept of accountancy like debit/ credit, income/ expenditure, asset/liability etc. He still remembers that during the initial phase he used to ask many silly questions to the lecturers in the coaching classes. Despite challenges, Jha completed his CA course in 2002.
In 2000, during the final year of his Chartered Accountancy course, Jha joined ‘R Bajracharya and Company’ – an audit firm that was a member of Nexia International. Jha, who had joined as an intern in the company, was one of the partners when he left.Jha shares that he learned a lot about operation activities while auditing in different corporate offices like financial institutions, Insurance companies, Govt. organisations, Development agencies and FMCG companies. Jha shares that the experience he gained while auditing in different firms developed a desire within him to work at the top management level, and apply his strategies to run the company. So, he left R Bajracharya in 2006-07 and joined a general insurance company.
Entering the Corporate World
After working for almost six years in the audit firm, Jha shifted to the corporate world by joining a general insurance company as DGM, finance & technical in 2006. Jha shares that he had joined the company for a year to complete a special assignment. After completing the assignment, Jha again joined R Bajracharya and Company, where he worked for another year. Then, in late 2008, Jha joined Machhapuchchhre Bank as Internal Audit & Compliance Chief. In 2010, Nepal Life Insurance Company (NLIC) approached Jha. Jha accepted their offer and joined the insurance company as senior deputy general manager. Jha was holding the position of deputy manager when he left Machhapuchchhre Bank. When the then CEO left NLIC, the board gave him the opportunity to run the company as General Manager in 2011, and with his satisfactory performance, he was appointed to lead the company as CEO in 2012.
Learning While Teaching
After coming to Nepal and completing his chartered accountancy in 2002, Jha took the opportunity to share his ideas and taught CA/ACCA students at different institutions such as The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal (ICAN), Prime Chartered Academy, CCMA and National College of Accountancy. While being the faculty member at NCA, one of the subjects Jha taught was Business Analysis. The paper was about strategic planning, management, operational skills, and how to run a business. Jha shares that the paper was quite relevant for the leaders in the corporate world, and he enjoyed teaching that subject as it was equally complementing him in his own career. Jha had to study and prepare before taking classes thoroughly. “Being a faculty member for professional accounting students, I got to prepare thoroughly,” he shares. But in 2013, Jha decided to discontinue teaching due to time constraints.
When Jha became the CEO, there were many challenges in the company. The acturial valuation of the company was pending for the last three years, which is quite an important part for finalisation of accounts and ascertainment of liability and profit. After the valuation was completed, the company was able to finalise its accounts, and for the first time, it declared the record dividend in the history of life insurance in Nepal @ 126 percent (70 percent bonus share and 56.3 percent cash dividend) to the shareholders. The general public started trusting the insurance company and invested in it. With this, the share prices of NLIC skyrocketed as it had reached Rs 5,600 per unit at one stage. The company continues its growth in business, and during Jha’s term till date, the company is able to distribute around 450 percent dividend to its shareholders. When Jha became the CEO, the annual new business (First Premium Income) of the company was around Rs 530 million, which increased year on year and last year it stood at 9 billion. Likewise, under his leadership, the company’s investment reached to 78 billion as against 7 billion, shareholder’s fund reached around 8 billion from 370 million. Today, he feels quite happy that NLIC secures around 35 percent market share in the life insurance sector, though there were ten new entrants last year only.
The company announced further public offerings (FPO) amounting Rs 4.4 billion in 2017. The FPO was oversubscribed, and the company received applications for shares amounting to Rs 54 billion. Jha shares that it was the most satisfying moment in his career. “The record number of applications received by the company proved that the general public trusted NLIC. And, it was possible with all the hard work in the previous years,” Jha shares. The FPO was issued at Rs 1,425 per unit.
When Jha became the CEO, some didn’t believe in him, and said, “He is too young to be the CEO”. Jha was just 38 when he assumed the position of CEO at NLIC. Jha shares that during his tenure, the company bagged almost eight awards as a best life insurance company under his leadership by different national and international institutions.
Suggestion for Graduates
Jha suggests that fresh graduates should work hard in whatever sector they are involved in. “Graduates should not stop learning. They should read regularly,” he said, adding that youths can engage in entrepreneurship. “Capital is not a constraint for starting a business. If graduates have a brilliant idea, capital will never be an issue. There are examples of startups starting a business with a few thousand rupees,” he adds.
“As the world is changing so fast, one should prepare for the future. In the coming days, the job of data scientists, actuary etc. will be in high demand. Everyone has their unique speciality, which they should try to find out and expertise. We should enjoy our work,” says Jha.
Jha has developed a habit of reading business books for the last five years. A sports lover, Jha regularly watches football and cricket. He is a big fan of T20 cricket. He also likes to listen to music. Jha is a spiritual person, so he loves to visit temples during weekends. Before coming into the corporate world, Jha used to go to the gym regularly. But after becoming busy in his professional life, Jha had to quit the gym. “I used to measure my biceps regularly in the past. But now, I am more conscious about the measurement of my stomach,” he laughed. Jha is planning to hit the gym again. Despite being busy, Jha tries to spend as much time as possible with his family.