ICICI Bank building in Mumbai, India (Photographer: Adeel Halim/Bloomberg News)

Girish Chaturvedi Banks On Experience In Financial Sector To Steer ICICI Bank

Former bureaucrat Girish Chandra Chaturvedi is taking over as the chairman of ICICI Bank Ltd. at a time when it is facing a number of uneasy questions on corporate governance and impropriety.

Chaturvedi, who’s been on the board of other lenders, such as IDBI Bank Ltd., Bank of Baroda Ltd. and Canara Bank Ltd., will have to steer the country’s largest private sector bank by assets through this tumultuous phase. In an interview to BloombergQuint, he said he expects his past experience in the financial sector to help him in his new role.

ICICI Bank recently appointed Sandeep Bakhshi its Chief Operating Officer, who will report to Chaturvedi-led board till the probe against Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Chanda Kochhar is over. While Chaturvedi the chairman-designate didn’t comment on the controversy, he said he will ensure that corporate governance standards are followed at the bank.

Watch the full interview here:

Here are the edited excerpts:

What is your view on how the ICICI Bank board has conducted itself in the last several months as it faces this very unusual crisis. And what will you be able to do differently to put to rest all the various investor concerns that have come to fore as a result of the challenges that the board has faced?

Let me be blunt and cut you short and say that I’m nobody to comment on how the ICICI Bank board has worked. Don’t ask me to comment on how the ICICI Bank board has been working so far. But what I can definitely say is that the board (from here on) will ensure good corporate governance principles are followed.

I’m sure that would be the case, but we do want to seek your comments on the way or the manner in which this appointment has happened. It was well known that the incumbent chairman’s term was coming to an end, and yet the board was not able to make up its mind on who his successor will be. Does this make it a very difficult transition for you? Had you had some advance notice, would it have been an easier transition for you?

No, that doesn’t make a difference. In fact, how has it happened, I have no knowledge again, but definitely we will look towards a good future, that’s all I can say.

What is your comment on the ongoing effort to put in a probe headed by retired Justice Srikrishna. ICICI Bank has finally confirmed that he has been appointed to head this probe. Should the probe be done in a fixed timeline? What is your personal view?

I’m not privy to what kind of terms have been given to the commission. I believe that there are already some terms and conditions and Justice Srikrishna will definitely work according to them. Since I don’t know about them, it would not be right on my part to comment on it.

When were you first informed of this news? And what made you accept such a challenging position in such a difficult time for this bank?

There is no running away from any position of responsibility like that. And you’ve given me the news. By you I mean the media.

Are you suggesting that you have not received any formal official communication from ICICI Bank?

No I have no official confirmation so far.

So they had not even informed you in advance that such a decision was being taken today?

No. In fact, they had asked for my bio data, nothing else.

In that case I should ask you on behalf of the board if you will accept this position?

I say yes.

Do you have any inclination of the timeline as to when you have to take on responsibilities as a director?

No, nothing.

The standard process will follow.

Yes.

So when they asked for that were you at all curious to what this was going to result in?

No no, they said kindly send your bio data, and I did that. That’s all.

Sir do you have any indication of the timeline as to when you have to take on responsibilities as a director?

No. But the normal process will take place and it has to go according to that.

Do you think it would have been wise on part of the board to have made this decision, even at least a month ago? So that you would have had a month to work with the existing chairman (MK Sharma), and therefore, make for a more smooth transition?

I have no comment to make on that...you can ask the current board about it. Why are you asking me?

Because you will be tasked with the onerous responsibility of not just being the chairman of the board of the country’s largest private sector bank but also of the one with very serious crisis. So wouldn’t you wish you had a few months of transition?

Things don’t work according to my wish. There are so many things that keep happening and I have no knowledge about those circumstances. So it will not be fair on my part to say whether they should have followed this or that.

You must have some personal views?

Personal views have no value here, we have to take things as they happen.

What kind of transition would you like? The new COO will be reporting to the board in Chanda Kochhar’s absence. You will be effectively in charge for the next few months, till at least the probe is over.

I have to be well aware of the situation. So since I’m not aware of the actual situation, again, I would say the same thing – it is too early and premature on my part to make any comment.

Do you think you have ever experienced such a situation in your career so far?

All officers who work in states and government of India are prepared, and if they have some previous experience in the financial sector that helps. I have that experience so I think I can meet this challenge.

Can you take us through your experiences in the financial sector that have prepared you for being able to take on this role?

It’ll definitely help. I’ve worked in the financial sector for a fairly long time.

Also Read: Mirror, Mirror, Who’s the Real ICICI Boss?

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