North American Head of Direct Channels, TD Bank
Since moving to Albany, N.Y., from Calcutta, India, 28 years ago, Nandita Bakhshi has seemingly been everywhere and done everything. She lived and worked in more than five cities and four countries, and pivoted from retail banking to payments to bank product management.
Through those changes, she has learned how to read any room and tailor her management style accordingly.
"What it allows you to do is, it gives you the ability to read and respond to cultures," she says. "You can walk in and understand the culture, understand what works here, because not everything works everywhere."
But proving herself to those around her has been one of the greatest career challenges. The disadvantage of such constant change is "that people don't know who you are," she says.
Bakhshi is the North American head of direct channels at TD Bank, a position in which she oversees digital, telephone and ATM banking. Previously, she was head of consumer banking.
She began her banking career as a teller, soon after moving from India with her husband, who now helps lead Ericsson's telecom strategy in Africa and the Middle East.
"What I liked about it — and I really feel passionate about it — is to serve the customer," Bakhshi says. "So whether you serve the customer on the front lines, or you create the products to serve the customer, the challenge is providing legendary service across all channels."
Bakhshi started at the former Bank One, and followed her boss to a company on the West Coast. Then a fellow board member of MasterCard's Maestro debit network offered her a position at Fleet Financial running products and channels. When Fleet was purchased by Bank of America, First Data hired her as managing director of its mobile solutions business unit, working out of Europe. She later moved to the former Washington Mutual in Seattle to run consumer deposits and payments before coming to TD in 2009.
Bakhshi's background in payments led her to what she calls one of the best jobs she has ever had — as a volunteer helping microfinance organizations in India lend to women. Now she's exploring how TD can do microfinance in North America.
The key to establishing herself as a good leader, she says, has been her ability to balance "EQ and IQ." Relationship-building skills are essential to advance, as letting the work speak for itself is not enough.
"After a point, everybody's smart, everybody works hard, it becomes table tennis," she says. "Your ability to relate to people, to inspire people, to motivate them, to bring them along is what differentiates you from another colleague of yours who is just as smart if not smarter."