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BS People: Hemant Contractor

Pipped at the post

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Being in the spotlight as one of the candidates in the race to head the largest bank in the country can be a quite challenge for a low-profile person. Perhaps this sums up the situation that Hemant Contractor, deputy managing director with State Bank of India, found himself in.

Hemant ContractorThough signals from the finance ministry suggest colleague and fellow Deputy Managing Director is likely to be chosen as the next chairman of SBI, Contractor will still have crucial tasks waiting for him; he is still in the running for the post of managing director.

If one were to go by the much talked about rule of seniority, Contractor was seen to be ahead of the three other deputy MDs in the race to succeed Bhatt, the present chairman, who hangs up his boots on March 31, 2011.

Contractor joined bank is 1974 after graduating as a bachelor of arts. He joined — a coveted job in those days — and his first posting was in the Gujarat circle. Like most public sector bankers, he moved from place to place for various assignments and had stints in Chandigarh and Chennai. Colleagues describe him as being thorough, articulate and effective.

Contractor’s stint with treasury in Mumbai at the middle-management level will stand him in good stead. It is a function that not many top bank officials have had exposure to. He became deputy MD in 2007 and will retire in 2014.

On his elevation as deputy MD, Contractor assumed charge of the wholesale business. A general impression about wholesale bankers is they are pushy and hence high-profile. Contractor is the exact antithesis. He goes about his tasks in a quiet manner. One of his colleagues defends his style, saying SBI as market leader has seen market dynamics change, with corporate now flocking to public sector banks for services.

Before moving up to occupy a board position as managing director, Contractor may look after the finance function. He has already been designated as such.

Perhaps this will groom him for wider public interaction, since the CFO needs to interact with an array of investors, from retail to sharp global bankers.

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