Chanda Kochhar, managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO), ICICI Bank, interacted with the media for the first time after reports of allegations of a quid pro quo involving the bank’s loan to Videocon group, which in turn had invested in her husband Deepak Kochhar's firm NuPower Renewables. Kochhar said the board would fully cooperate with regulators and investigative agencies and answered questions on the bank’s performance. Edited excerpts:
If the board discussed corporate governance issues
Today, there was no discussion at all on the issue. The board has made its stand very clear in its meeting on March 20. As far as the bank's operations are concerned, you can see the stability and the enhancement of franchise in the results.
On whether she will stay on till the end of her term in March 2019
Today, we are talking only about the fourth quarter results, and we have never talked about any CEO's tenure in any results presentation.
If the past few weeks have been difficult
The board has said it would fully cooperate with regulatory and investigative agencies. I think a professional should focus on the job.
If board will discuss corporate governance issues in its meeting on May 8
Tomorrow’s board meeting happens every year. When the year begins we focus on strategy, we focus on budgets and plans for the year.
On steps taken to curb erosion of investors’ wealth
What we focus on is our performance and the markets then respond to the performance. The past few years have been challenging in terms of asset quality.
At the same time, we focused on de-risking our balance sheet but we are very clear that the steps we have taken over the past few years, about changing the proportion of the loan mix, improving the ratings of the incremental portfolio, and reducing the concentration risks have now created a strong position that will allow us to attain growth with stability.
On strategy of increasing retail loan book
We are not saying we will concentrate only on retail and not corporate. But our approach is to make our balance sheet more granular and to de-risk it. Our retail franchise is very strong and it is growing at 20 per cent per annum, while our corporate loan book growth is at 17 per cent. We will reduce our concentration limits in the corporate book. So, the corporate book will continue to grow under the new concentration limits and, therefore, the proportion in the entire loan book will reduce.
On stress in the banking sector
A lot of stress on the balance sheets of various banks has now got recognised. It is not like there will not be any additions to the non-performing assets (NPAs) but first our target is to ensure that the NPA additions going forward from now will be less than what is was in the previous quarters. Secondly, we will continue to focus on resolution and recovery, for which we may get some write-back, in addition to reducing our concentration limits, and reducing the corporate loan book.
Our plan and projections are based on a combination of the above strategies. We do see some green shoots like in consumption, for example higher vehicle sales. The second area is the positive effect on small and medium enterprises because of government spending in areas such as defence, roads or railways. The third area is the improvement in capacity utilisation, hence of working capital demand.