Romesh Sobti, managing director & chief executive of IndusInd Bank, is the Business Standard Banker of the Year for 2013-14. He was chosen by a five-member jury headed by Subir Gokarn, former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), for the bank's consistent performance during a period of slow economic growth, high inflation, mounting non-performing assets and muted credit demand.
The other jury members were Mahindra & Mahindra Director Bharat Doshi, Ican Investment Advisors Chairman Anil Singhvi, State Bank of India's former managing director Diwakar Gupta, and Ambit Group CEO (institutional equities) Saurabh Mukherjea.
The jury had initially shortlisted three bankers from a list of nine on parameters ranging from business growth and efficiency ratios to quality of assets and employee productivity. Non-financial aspects like corporate governance standard, customer service quality and technology initiatives were also reviewed.
After deliberating for over an hour, the jury zeroed in on three candidates - all from the private-sector banking space. Two of India's lead bankers entered the last lap for the award. It was not an easy choice, as the two banks differed in size. While one exhibited its capability to withstand a slowing economy, reflected in its non-performing assets, the other took the bank to a different platform by tapping newer opportunities that promised to yield rich dividends as and when economic activity picked up.
Finally, the jury unanimously decided on Sobti as the chosen one.
The Business Standard Banking Annual, a special 52-page magazine being distributed with Monday's edition, carries a detailed profile and interview of Sobti.
When he took charge of IndusInd Bank in February, 2008, the private-sector lender was struggling with low profitability, mounting bad loans and an asset-liability mismatch. In Sobti's first full year in charge (2008-09), IndusInd Bank's net profit jumped 98 per cent. The next year was even better, with a 136 per cent rise in profit after tax. The year-on-year rise in the bank's 12-month net profit has never been less than 32 per cent since Sobti became its managing director & chief executive. And, Sobti indicates he is not inclined to "push the growth pedal" beyond this, to avoid the potential shocks during a slowdown. IndusInd Bank's growth in market capitalisation in 2013-14 was the highest among the banks that entered the final lap to win the award.
Sobti, previously the India chief of ABN Amro Bank, turned around IndusInd Bank and built a strong liability franchise, strengthening the corporate banking business and steadily improving the asset quality.
Apart from IndusInd Bank's consistent performance over the past few years, the jury was also impressed by Sobti's ability to keep both mid-management and senior management teams intact over the past six years.