NEW DELHI: The ICICI Bank board, which has till now extended unflinching support to MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar, has finally loosened its grip with multiple agencies like the CBI and Sebi closing in on the quid pro quo allegations and the loans extended to Videocon and Essar Group.
In an SoS meeting held Monday, the board let Kochhar proceed on an indefinite leave, or at least until the bank’s independent probe into allegations of impropriety against her is done and dusted.
It also appointed Sandeep Bakhshi as whole-time director & COO-designate for five years, subject to regulatory approvals. Bakshi will take over from Tuesday or upon receiving regulatory approvals, whichever is later.
He will look after all businesses and corporate centre functions of the bank, while all executive directors and the executive management will report to him.
Bakhshi himself will report to Kochhar, who will continue as MD & CEO. But since Kochhar is on leave, ‘to uphold governance and corporate standards’ till the completion of the enquiry, he will instead report to the board for now.
The board members during their marathon meeting —which the government nominee chose to skip once again — has broken a sweat roping in an interim COO just ahead of the proposed enquiry headed by retired Justice B N Srikrishna to probe allegations of Kochhar’s conflict of interest.
Anticipating the management reshuffle, investors appeared convinced with shares of ICICI surging 4.10 per cent to Rs 293.90 on the BSE, adding Rs 6,631.15 crore to its market valuation. The scrip was also the top gainer in the 30-share Sensex basket.
The board is scheduled to meet again next week, on June 27, which will probably be the last meeting for its chairman M K Sharma, whose term expires on June 30. According to sources, Sharma may not seek an extension. The bank is believed to have zeroed in on his replacement, which will be announced shortly. The ICICI Bank Board also appointed N S Kannan as MD & CEO of ICICI Prudential.
Who is Sandeep Bakhshi?
Having started his career with ICICI in 1986, Bakhshi has extensive experience of leading both corporate and retail businesses across ICICI Group. He has also served as deputy MD of ICICI Bank, where he headed the retail and wholesale business. Bakhshi is a Mechanical Engineer from Punjab Engineering College
End of the road for her?
One of India’s most celebrated bankers, Chanda Kochhar has so far enjoyed solid support from the ICICI Bank board amid allegations of a conflict of interest over loans made to the Videocon Group, whose chairman Venugopal Dhoot had business links with her husband Deepak Kochhar.
In April, the board gave her a clean chit rejecting allegations, which first surfaced in 2016. However, experts believe Monday’s decision shows the board may have lost faith in her.