Mher Ananyan: Woe to the leader who thinks he knows it all…

13.11.2023 | 00:02 Home / News / Interviews /
Within the "No Tie" interview series, we talked to CEO, Chairman of the Executive Board of AraratBank Mher Ananyan:

- Mr. Ananyan, how does your typical work day start?

- My work day always starts the same way: leaving home at 8:40 a.m. and, if nothing goes wrong on the road, arriving at work at 9:00 sharp. It’s interesting that when you leave the house in the morning, you meet the same people and cars at the same crossroads. That means you’re not the only one doing things with the same accuracy.

What’s most important is to come to work filled with the feeling that you are adding a new value. And here we are talking not only about material or financial values. Getting to know people you work with, making discoveries in their true human qualities is highly rewarding. It’s with these expectations in mind that I come to work every day.

- You hold a responsible position: How do you manage to balance work and family?

- There’s no issue of keeping a balance between work and family since they exist in different dimensions. The best-case model for me is to leave home in good spirits, anxious to get to work, which proceeds in such an atmosphere that at the end of the day everyone leaves the workplace in good spirits, anxious to get home. I’m trying to combine these two, and I never face any trouble with keeping a balance.

Mher Ananyan

The workplace is a huge machine. It starts working when all its parts are in place. These parts should work in unity so that the bank functions with maximum efficiency.

By the way, we devote a great deal of attention to the formation of strong and healthy families in our teams. We have examples of people meeting in the bank, getting married and continuing to work together. It’s very likely to be the result of our mutual efforts. I don’t think people would start bonding in an unstimulating working environment.

For us, family and work mutually reinforce and complement each other.

- Mr. Ananyan, what kind of relationship do you have with your team?

- I think it's better to ask my team members about it. Well, at least I believe they wouldn’t keep away from me, because I myself tend to treat people as the highest value.

Mher Ananyan

From the moment I arrive at work and get out of the car, I carefully look around to at least warmly greet all the employees I meet. It’s not a small thing: that's where our relationship starts. The most important task of the team, which I think they have recognized, is to perform the undertaken commitments with high responsibility. Deliberate errors are inexcusable, though the possibility of errors in the performance of a large system is not excluded. That’s why our divisions are arranged so that a mistake or omission can be detected and corrected at another level.

In any case, I think our employees have received the message that, in addition to professional abilities and academic education, human values are essential here.

- Are you a different person with and without a tie?

- I'm pretty much the same everywhere, with or without a tie. Garments are relevant only for procedural matters. The greatest value for me is the sense of shame: if you have it, with or without a tie, then nothing else matters. My childhood friends know that I haven't changed much, except that the opportunities for achieving goals have probably become different.

Sometimes it seems that bankers are cold individuals chasing money, when in fact they are not. All my friends working in the banking sector have true human values and interests, but delivering on our pledged commitments is really important in our business.

- We talked about the working day, and what about weekends?

- From 2003 until today, I've followed a tradition of doing sports on Saturdays. For 20 years now, we’ve been going to the sports complex with a group of friends - people from a wide range of fields. It’s only in special cases that we break this tradition on Saturdays. After sports, I try to spend time with my family and friends, depending, of course, on the realities of our country. Considering that I'm also the godfather of 17 families, I have to attend many events, and I sometimes don't make plans for the day because life has its own plans for me. I’d only like to add that for me personally, being a godfather is a great blessing and responsibility, but this subject deserves a separate discussion.

Whenever possible, I spend my free time surrounded by nature, especially in places unspoilt by humans where I can feel closer to the origins of nature.

- You have about 30 years of work experience in the banking system and not only that. You’ve always held leadership positions in crisis situations. What is your approach to facing challenges?

- Years of experience have shown that hasty decisions in the management of financial institutions lead to unintended negative consequences. In other words, when moving forward, you need to be more balanced and hurry up slowly. I think this crisis management skill can be highlighted among others.  

Mher Ananyan

As dictated by the realities of Armenia, promotion of business development, investment or stable economic growth require 4 indispensable factors - external security, internal political stability, monetary and fiscal policy stability. This is what people need to be able to plan their way forward. Over the past years, we have constantly found ourselves in circumstances of instability in both the security issues and internal politics, though we were able to ensure more or less stable monetary and fiscal policy. This means that despite the inadequate situation, we managed to develop the economy and ensure the stability of the banking system as an institutional structure.

I believe all our managers, directors, governing bodies are considered crisis management specialists. In any challenging situation that falls outside of standards, we exercise restraint and opt to address the matter in a calm and more balanced manner.

- Many people are looking to become a bank director. What’s the best advice you would offer them?

- We have more than a thousand employees in AraratBank, and it’s quite natural for every one of them to aspire to become the director of the bank, but in order to be promoted in their ranks, they must at least succeed in their position. It’s also essential to have the ability to listen to professionals and bear in mind that there’s always more to learn. Woe to the leader who thinks he knows it all and has nothing more to learn.

A person entrusted with a position should be provided with self-fulfillment opportunities, and there are no low-level positions in the banking system. All positions are significant since they all have their logical impact on the overall banking system and risk management quality.

- AraratBank is also known for its active contribution in corporate social responsibility programs, best illustrated by the documentary series “The will to get back on their feet again”. What do you think about the social responsibility function of financial institutions?  

- It’s widely accepted that earning and having a lot of money is the greatest goal of all, and people think that the availability of financial capacities is already the key to success. It’s crucial for financial institutions to serve as role models to prove that profit earning is not the greatest value, but an opportunity to be used for the implementation of programs on the way towards the greatest values. In other words, financial means are nothing if they don’t serve these programs, because the value of social impact projects is much greater than the amount spent on them.

The challenge ahead us is to bring together healthy forces through such social responsibility programs. In order to have a healthy society, we should initiate and implement various social projects. Clearly, this must be done sensitively and in an appropriate manner so that people don't associate it with the bank's promotion.

The two films of the trilogy “The will to get back on their feet again” are already released, and the third one is under production.
- I noticed Martiros Saryan’s “Armenia” hanging in your office. Do you have a special connection to painting or Saryan?

- Of course, I love Martiros Saryan’s works, but this painting has its own story. We received it as a gift from Soldier's Home Rehabilitation Center. Soldier's Home has undertaken an initiative related to Saryan's "Armenia". Hosted by Soldier's Home, AraratBank and other partner organizations have participated in making up the mosaic version of "Armenia" canvas, each fragment of which costs a certain amount and is donated to the rehabilitation center. The amount paid for each fragment targets a very important social issue: It is directed towards the treatment and full recovery of disabled soldiers.

Mher Ananyan

The canvas wasn’t chosen randomly. Just as Saryan aspired to see the future of Armenia in warm and bright colors, so we wish to create a safe and bright future for the defenders of our motherland.

- And finally, is there a book which you've re-read or which you periodically review?

- I have a special approach to books: I’ve read a lot, but I could hardly name a book that I read to the end. I’m impatient, and since I was a child, I couldn’t wait to finish the book. I would read the beginning, then jump to the middle and then to the end. I loved it when they kept the story short and clear. There were only few books that I truly enjoyed reading while going through all the narratives. And in recent years, I’ve mostly read specialized literature in the context of my occupation.

One thing is certain: Today more than ever, it’s of fundamental importance that we read books, whether it is fiction or professional literature.

Interview by Arpi Jilavyan
Photos by Emin Aristakesyan
Views 17125

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