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ICICI Bank shuts door on ex-employees

Ahead of new banks' entry, clampdown seen as a contrarian move

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A senior employee of a foreign financial services firm recently got a call from his former boss at ICICI Bank. The latter had got a new plum assignment within the bank and was building a team. Both hit it off instantly and decided to take their engagement to the next level. They knew the bank had a moratorium on former employees and since the former had already completed that, there should not be a problem in his return.

That’s when the human resource (HR) dropped the bomb. “There is a change in policy. We are not taking back former employees, at all.”

The new policy at the largest private-sector lender in the country, with a muster roll of over 58,000 employees (as of March 2012), would apply across the group; so, the old boys could not even join a sister concern, according to officials. Business Standard has also reviewed an internal communication that asked staff not to refer “ex-employees” for a managerial position.

An spokesperson did not offer any comment.

HR experts say this is a contrarian strategy at a time when several companies are actively engaging with alumni, some even looking at them as unannointed brand ambassadors and potential customers — not to mention some banks’ famous revolving door with the government in the US.

Kris Lakshmikanth, founder & CEO, The Headhunters India, said: “Most companies take back old employees, unless there is a specific problem. In a knowledge industry like banking, where there is a talent crunch, I am not sure if one can afford to do this.”

The clampdown assumes significance as it comes ahead of new private banks’ entry, which is likely to push demand for banking talent. The new HR policy could act as a potential deterrent for employees who might want to jump ships to the newer players, say some.

ICICI Group has been a fertile hunting ground for recruiters in the financial services industry in the recent past. Axis Bank’s Shikha Sharma, JPMorgan’s and Capital First’s are some of the top draws from the ICICI assembly line to have shone elsewhere.

Being the industry leader, ICICI invests significantly in training new talent. “Last financial year, the capacity of our flagship Probationary Officer (PO) programme was enhanced from 1,400 to 2,400 a year. The programme received more than 250,000 applications for 2,400 seats.

The bank also launched two programmes under the aegis of ICICI Business Leadership Programme, one in partnership with NIIT University and the other with the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM). These programmes aim to create a talent pool for specialised functions, such as wholesale banking, risk management, treasury and information technology,” the bank said in its annual report.

Public-sector banks are already on a hiring spree. Twenty government banks are close to completing a process under which they will induct close to 12,000 probationary officers/management trainees.

The selection process conducted through the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection arrived at this lot through a two-stage selection process.

State Bank of India has received a whopping 1.7 million applications for 1,500 PO vacancies. Another 30,000 clerical-level are up for grabs in these government banks.

Until recently, the lender used to welcome ex-employees on their way back. For example, Rajiv Sabharwal, executive director and head of retail banking at ICICI Bank, had left the bank in 2008 after an over-one-decade stint. Sabharwal, who was a senior general manager at the bank then, joined Sequoia Capital as executive director. However, after just one year, he returned to ICICI Bank.

  • ICICI Bank not to take former employees across group firms
  • Referral requests specifically ask staff not to refer former employees
  • likely to face talent crunch as new players enter
  • ICICI Bank big talent source for competitors
  • Govt banks already on a hiring spree

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