Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Gurugram - Gopika Gopaku­mar

MUM­BAI: The Re­serve Bank of In­dia (RBI) on Tues­day ap­proved the ap­point­ment of Sashidhar Jagdishan as the next chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) of HDFC Bank Ltd, sig­nalling the start of a widely awaited tran­si­tion at the coun­try’s largest pri­vate bank amid the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

Aditya Puri, the cur­rent man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, is set to re­tire in Oc­to­ber, after spend­ing 26 years at the helm, since the bank’s found­ing in 1994.

Jagdishan, who turned 55 this year, is a Puri con­fi­dant and has held a num­ber of se­nior po­si­tions in the bank, in fi­nance and hu­man resources (HR) roles among oth­ers. According to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter, Jagdishan was the bank’s top choice among the three short­listed can­di­dates it had sent RBI.

In November, the pri­vate bank had formed a six-mem­ber com­mit­tee and hired ex­ec­u­tive search com­pany Egon Zehn­der to look for a re­place­ment for Puri. The com­mit­tee had short­listed two in­ter­nal can­di­dates—Jagdishan and Kaizad Bharucha—and Su­nil Garg, the head of Citibank’s global com­mer­cial bank­ing business. Jagdishan who has served as an ad­di­tional di­rec­tor and the head of fi­nance at the pri­vate lender was el­e­vated to the role of a ‘change agent’ last year.

He, how­ever, con­tin­ued to over­see the fi­nance function of the bank.

An­a­lysts termed the ap­point­ment as a big pos­i­tive for the bank, with Suresh Gana­p­a­thy of Mac­quarie Se­cu­ri­ties de­scrib­ing him as a hard taskmas­ter—an im­por­tant at­tribute for any­one tak­ing over the reins of the lender amid the un­cer­tain­ties of the Covid-19 pan­demic. “In an un­cer­tain en­vi­ron­ment like this, we be­lieve an in­ter­nal can­di­date who is in sync with the out­go­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Mr Puri is the right choice. Sashi comes with a very di­verse ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing han­dled mul­ti­ple func­tions in the bank and, hence, we be­lieve that he is the ap­pro­pri­ate choice,” said Gana­p­a­thy. According to Jef­feries, the ap­point­ment should offer a smooth tran­si­tion as Jagdishan has been closely con­nected in­ter­nally with the man­age­ment team and the board of di­rec­tors, as well as the ex­ter­nal stake­hold­ers such as clients, in­vestors and reg­u­la­tors. “We be­lieve that he is well in sync with the on-the-ground re­al­i­ties, and this process would have also helped to es­tab­lish his rise as a business leader,’’ Jef­feries said in a note to its clients on Tues­day.

Nev­er­the­less, Jagdishan has large shoes to fill. Un­der Puri’s lead­er­ship, HDFC Bank has de­liv­ered con­sis­tent growth with a fo­cus on or­ganic ac­qui­si­tion of busi­nesses. The bank has de­liv­ered con­sis­tent re­turns on as­sets of around 2% and seen a val­u­a­tion be­tween 2.5-4 times, mak­ing it In­dia’s most valu­able lender. “Puri was known for his strat­egy, vi­sion and ex­e­cu­tion. But Sashi is seen to be ap­proach­able, con­sul­ta­tive and is known to make quick de­ci­sions,” said a se­nior HDFC banker who has worked with both men.

Sashidhar Jagdishan has held sev­eral se­nior roles at HDFC Bank in fi­nance and HR.

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