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Voice of Experience: Managing Director, Citi US Retail Bank

Harp RanaWhen Harp Rana’s daughter was younger, and they watched Scooby Doo together, she would say, “Be a Velma, not a Daphne, but don’t let Fred take all the credit.”

When she later had a son, she changed the messages slightly and added “Don’t be a Fred.”

The message, she says, is that you have to be confident in your abilities but refrain from stepping back because it will make someone else more comfortable. “Yes, we are all team players, but make sure your voice is heard when you have a role in a given decision or success,” she says. “You’re better than you think you are most of the time, but sometimes you’re not as good as you think.” The secret is in knowing that it will all shake out if you focus on building your career.

Consumer Behavior Drives Her Passion For Retail Banking

The majority of Rana’s career has been at Citi; she entered as a corporate financial management associate in finance, then moved to the retail bank in 2003 and eventually switched to the business side in 2014 when the right manager and opportunity came along.

One of her proudest moments came a couple of years ago, when she was placed in her current role with an immediate task of turning around efforts to complete the replacement of underlying systems at the US Retail Bank – without disrupting clients or Citibank’s reputation. She succeeded, while at the same time injecting a sense of goodwill and humor to rebuild morale. “There is great power in pulling together a functioning and productive team that can have fun even in difficult moments.”

“I have moved some big rocks. But the work that always has my heart is the work that we are doing to enhance our customers’ experience, products, or financial lives. For example, I am really excited about the work we are doing on Digital Banking. It has exemplified the power of our integrated cross functional teams – working on delivering the best to our customers and meeting their expectations around how they want to bank.”

Always eager to embrace the next challenge, she currently finds this to be a particularly interesting time to be in banking, in terms of client expectations and the economic environment. “I love retail banking because every advancement you read about on the macro side ends up being pertinent to your daily life in terms of client behavior and experience and how that impacts your numbers,” Rana says.

She adds that she is always excited to know what’s next, whether it’s digitization or another disruptor in the marketplace, in an industry that is constantly evolving. “Trends I read about that are not even specific to my seat eventually end up filtering down in a meaningful way through customer behavior,” she says; for example, something as simple as how to pay a friend evolves into advances in mobile. “I read anything I can that has to do with customer behavior and banking and then overlay the changing expectations clients have today around any company they engage with.”

Evolving from the Viewpoint of Gender as a Challenge

Rana has been fortunate to have had a host of sponsors over the year— mostly men, which means she’s never seen her gender as an obstacle. She acknowledges that there are personal challenges that most grapple with, specifically motherhood, but these days she has seen that the concept of “motherhood” has morphed to “parenthood,” as she sees men on the team wrestle with similar challenges.

She also sees that women’s attitudes toward one another have evolved. While there used to be the notion that there was just one seat at the table that women were fighting for, she sees that as a byproduct of yesteryear. “You have to know how good you are, but then also be supportive of the other women. There is more than one seat at the table, and none of us want that seat because we’re a women, but because we’ve earned it.”

While Rana has participated in multiple professional development programs, one that has been noteworthy is the Citi Women’s Leadership program, which she found extremely beneficial not only for the panelists and learning opportunities, but for the camaraderie she developed with fellow members. “We had many similar concerns or issues we were navigating, and it was helpful to have a group to discuss them with,” Rana says.

With two children, ages 16 and 19, Rana spends the majority of her “free time” outside of work with them. In fact, recently when asked to name something she was proud of in a meeting, she immediately said “My kids,” and heard several women mention they wished they had thought of it, too. “We’re so ingrained not to talk about being a mom, but if we truly want to be authentic at work, we can acknowledge that it’s a huge part of our identity.”