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Arundhati Bhattacharya takes charge at State Bank

Country's largest lender gets first woman chairperson; 3-year tenure

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

Arundhati Bhattacharya
Arundhati Bhattacharya

Arundhati Bhattacharya, 57, has become the first woman to head the country’s largest bank, State Bank of India.

The government, on Monday, announced the appointment of Bhattacharya for three years, a week after the retirement of Pratip Chaudhuri as the chairman.

Bhattacharya was managing director and chief financial officer prior to her elevation. Along with Bhattacharya, three other MDs were interviewed for the top position — Hemant Contractor, A Krishnakumar and S Vishwanathan. However, Bhattacharya was the only one with a three-year residual service. Her name was finalised after clearance from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The appointment comes at a time when the bank is going through a rough patch because of a slowing economy and rising cases of corporate debt restructuring. Its non-performing assets were 5.5 per cent of all assets in the June quarter. Net profit in the first quarter fell 13.6 per cent to Rs 3,241 crore against Rs 3,751 crore in the same quarter last year.

Arundhati Bhattacharya was on Monday appointed chairperson of State Bank of India, the first woman to head the country’s largest lender in its 207-year history. She joins these illustrious women heading other banks in the public sector
Shubhalakshmi Panse
Shubhalakshmi Panse
Chairman and managing director,
Allahabad Bank
V R Iyer
V R Iyer
Chairperson and managing director,
Bank of India
Archana Bhargava
Archana Bhargava
Chairman and managing director,
United Bank of India
Usha Ananthasubramanian
Usha Ananthasubramanian
Executive director,
Punjab National Bank and is set to head Bhartiya Mahila Bank

In recent years, India's banking sector has seen the entry of a number of women heads. Shubhalakshmi Panse, Vijaylakshmi R Iyer and Archana Bhargava are heading state-run Allahabad Bank, Bank of India and United Bank of India, respectively. Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma head ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, two of the largest private sector lenders.

An SBI officer said: “She has a collaborative leadership style, which will help her in dealing with trade unions, which the former chairman faced problems with.”

Bhattacharya joined the bank in 1977 as a probationary officer and has served in various positions during these 36 years. These include being head of SBI Capital Markets, its investment banking unit. Prior to this, she had served as a deputy MD and corporate development officer. She has undertaken various assignments spanning credit, foreign exchange, treasury and retail operations.

In addition, she played an important role in setting up general insurance, custody services and SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund subsidiaries, said a bank statement. She also had a brief stint at the office in New York. Her appointment also comes at a time when the government is set to open the country's first bank dedicated for women, Bhartiya Mahila Bank.

To be SBBJ ex-officio chief
The State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (SBBJ) on Monday said Bhattacharya has also been appointed as its ex-officio chairman the same day. “Central government has appointed Arundhati Bhattacharya as chairman of the SBI, and also she is the ex-officio chairman of SBBJ w.e.f. Monday,” it said in a filing to the BSE.

Arundhati Bhattacharya on SBI

* Has adequate capital to meet regulatory norms, for growth business

* Has taken steps to improve asset quality

* Has sufficient surplus funds

* Hit by economic slowdown

* Moody’s rating action (downgrade) was unwarranted

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First Published: Tue, October 08 2013. 00:30 IST