Forbes India – Employee wellbeing creates collective resilience : Nippon Life Asset Management CHRO


Sundeep Sikka, CEO (left) and Rajesh Derhgawen, CHRO of Nippo Life India Asset Management Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India

AAt the office of the asset management company Nippon Life India Asset Management (NLIAM) in Mumbai, employees are back at work, but there is a difference: the office is open four days a week and employees come every three days while Fridays are work from home (FMH). The hybrid model of three days a week from the office is here to stay, pandemic-intensive, and there’s the option of six months of WFH, if required, which can be extended to a year.
These are the lessons of the pandemic codified in policy changes from the company, which at the start of the pandemic had set up the WFH even before the first lockdown was announced. Like several other companies, comprehensive and holistic medical insurance and memberships have become the norm. A family support plan – an amount equivalent to the annual CTC for two years or a minimum of Rs 20 lakh – in case of any eventuality, not just Covid-19, has also been put in place.
The pandemic came at a time when the company was in a transition phase – Nippon Life Insurance completed its acquisition of Reliance Mutual Fund’s stake in late 2019 – and yet, ironically, the past two years have been one of the best periods for the company. “Agile needs to be deeply embedded in every organization, and that’s what has served us well,” says Rajesh Derhgawen, Director of Human Resources, NLIAM. “It wasn’t a business challenge, it was survival. So it’s very important that as a company we have collective resilience. That’s what got us through and we were able to bounce back faster.
In this financial year alone, the company grew faster than the industry – according to the company, in nine months its assets under management (AUM) increased by 23% to 280,600 crore. rupees, while market share at 7.34% increased by 22 basis points in 9MFY22. “What is more interesting is that one of the three investors entering this industry is coming to us,” says Sundeep Sikka, Executive Director and CEO of NLIAM. The company has a unique investor base touching 1 crore or 33% of the total unique investor base in the industry and Nippon India Mutual Fund added 3.1 million investors vs. 7.8 million for industry in 9MFY22.
What also helped was the stability of the team that has worked together for a long time and the company’s employee-centric policies. NLIAM has positioned “employee wellbeing” among its top three business responsibilities, says Kamal Karanth, co-founder of specialist staffing firm Xpheno. While the primary responsibility is ethics, transparency and accountability, the second is sustainability, and the third revolves around employee well-being.
The stability comes from the fact that the average seniority of employees in the company is six and a half to seven years, says Sikka, who has been with the company for 18 years. Derhgawen has also been with her for 16 years, while many senior positions have been with the company for 10-15 years. “In a highly competitive business environment, this is impressive. Long tenures at the top reflect positively on the pyramid as a sign of company stability,” says Karanth. The company has approximately 960 employees at more than 270 locations.
It follows that a majority of their leaders are of local origin and that growth opportunities are one of the factors that attract new employees. Programs like the Leap Club, designed to nurture and prepare young talent to prepare them for mid-management positions, and the flagship CEO Club, an initiative to recognize and prepare employees for future leadership positions, have helped company to create a sustainable internal pipeline. of management.
Despite the competitive environment and the so-called year of the great quit, attrition rates are actually down, “from around 17% before the pandemic to around 14% today,” explains Derhgawen. Their female diversity rate has also increased from 17% to 19% over the past year. Policies such as double endorsements for female candidates and maternity benefits seem to be playing their part.
Ultimately, however, in addition to creating a stimulating and supportive environment for employees and providing opportunities for growth, what sets the company apart is the “human touch”, having a connection and comfort factor, not only among themselves but also with families. “It’s a very interesting mix of very high goal orientation, having a very strong approach to business, meritocracy, empowerment and agility, but having a very human touch” , says Sikka, who is a firm believer that people will forget what you said, but never forget how you made them feel.
Gifts of appreciation and letters of promotion are sent to parents and spouses, and children who do well in board exams are congratulated. Messages about personal accomplishments are shared between teams and leaders as often as messages about achieving goals and targets. “We always say that business results are very, very important, but how you get them is just as important, if not more so,” says Derhgawen.

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(This story appears in the March 11, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our archive, click here.)


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