Rajnish Kumar will be new SBI chairman: Govt

Kumar, an SBI veteran, having worked with the group since 1980, will take charge in one of the toughest phases of the bank, battling high NPAs

Published: Oct 4, 2017

Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.

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The change at the helm at India’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI), has been announced. The government on Wednesday said that Rajnish Kumar, an SBI veteran, who has worked with the bank since 1980, will be the new chairman. Kumar, currently the bank’s managing director, will take charge at the top, on Saturday (October 7). Current chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya’s term ends on October 6.

Kumar gets a three-year term as chairman and managing director (CMD). But stepping into Bhattacharya’s shoes (who was SBI’s first woman chairman) will be a daunting task for the 59-year-old Kumar.

Bhattacharya has been widely noted for driving deep-rooted cultural and process changes at SBI, particularly relating to technology and the spread of digital platforms.

She also played an instrumental role in the historic merger of SBI with five of its erstwhile associate banks and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) with itself. The merger will create a banking behemoth with more than ₹37 lakh crore in assets. Bhattacharya was granted a one-year extension in October 2016, to maintain continuity in leadership during the merger.

She has also been known for her honest views relating to sensitive issues like loan waivers, bank ordinance and the non-performing assets (NPA) mess.

Bhattacharya’s greatest challenge probably remained tackling the NPA problem, which has plagued most state-owned banks and some private banks.

In an interview to Forbes India in August, Bhattacharya had said that the only “regret” she has in terms of unfinished business, was that she had not been able to finish the NPA job.” The gross NPAs of the merged entity stood at 9.97 percent of gross advances during the April to June 2017 quarter, indicating the battle against bad loans is far from over.

Kumar currently looks after retail banking and latest initiatives in payments and digital banking. Prior to that, he headed SBI Capital Markets, the merchant banking arm of SBI, in the capacity of managing director and CEO.

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