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Arundhati Bhattacharya, former chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), is the Business Standard Banker of the Year for 2016-17. She was selected by a five-member jury, headed by former economic affairs secretary C M Vasudev, for the bank’s deft handling of the demonetisation rush, battling bad debts but remaining profitable, pushing the financial inclusion agenda through a wide network of its rural and semi-urban branches and, at the same time, catering to tech-savvy customers through cutting-edge digital banking products.
The other jury members were former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor Anand Sinha, former Bank of Baroda chairman and managing director M D Mallya, IIFL Chairman Nirmal Jain, and Ambit Capital Chief Executive Officer Saurabh Mukherjea.
In the first screening, two filters were used: Asset size of over Rs 500 billion, and that the bank should be profit-making in 2016-17. The short-list threw up 18 names with a decent representation across public sector and both old and new private banks.
The jury then evaluated the financials on various parameters of growth (increase in assets, deposits, credit), profitability (measured by return on assets and return on equity), and quality of assets (non-performing asset ratio) and reduced the list to five banks. State Bank of India (SBI) was the only public sector one.
After the quantitative analysis, the jury decided to bring in qualitative aspects to their judgment. Since the year in review was dominated by demonetisation, it became imperative for the jury to delve deeper into which bank helped ease the pain of demonetisation-induced chaos.
The jury agreed that SBI, under the leadership of Bhattacharya, had shone through. Not only did Bhattacharya rise to the occasion and became a spokesperson for the banking industry, she also took charge in educating the masses through her interactions with the media and public about the benefits of adopting digital transactions.