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HDFC Life’s Amitabh Chaudhry to succeed Shikha Sharma at helm of Axis Bank

Axis Bank, the country’s third-largest private sector lender, has chosen HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company’s Amitabh Chaudhry as its  next managing director and chief executive officer.

Chaudhry, currently MD and CEO at HDFC Life, will take over from Shikha Sharma, who will step down on December 31 after nearly a decade at the helm of Axis Bank.

In a stock-exchange disclosure, Axis Bank said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had approved the appointment.

Chaudhry will serve a three-year term that begins on January 1 next year and ends on December 31, 2021.

The lender said its board of directors would meet at a later date to formalise Chaudhry’s selection as an additional director.

“Amitabh has a proven track record and is well-equipped to lead Axis Bank in pursuing its growth ambitions balanced with a strong emphasis on risk and compliance management,” said Axis Bank chairman Dr Sanjiv Misra.  

The 54-year-old Chaudhry has been associated with HDFC Life since 2010. He was in charge when HDFC Life went public last November. It made a spectacular start, gaining almost 19% on listing and bucking the trend of Indian insurance companies making weak trading debuts.

HDFC Life had raised Rs 8,695 crore ($1.34 billion) through the initial public offering (IPO) at a valuation of Rs 58,260.22 crore. 

A graduate of BITS Pilani and Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, Chaudhry previously served as MD and CEO of Infosys BPO Ltd (now Infosys BPM), the business process management subsidiary of the homegrown tech giant. He also had stints at Bank of America and CLSA in roles related to technology investment banking.

End of an era

Chaudhry’s appointment comes after the incumbent Sharma had her tenure cut short by more than two years.

The board of Axis Bank had last December decided to renew Sharma's term by three years starting June 2018. However, it was announced in April that Sharma had asked the board to reduce the period up to 31 December 2018.

Axis Bank hadn’t specified any reason for the decision. However, Reserve Bank of India had reportedly raised questions when the bank’s board proposed to keep her in the chair for a fourth straight term. The move came at a time when the bank was under regulatory scrutiny for rising bad loans and other alleged lapses.

"I have spent over 9 years with the bank and I shall always look back at my journey with a deep sense of satisfaction and pride,” Sharma said in a statement.

One of India's most celebrated women bankers, Sharma joined Axis Bank in 2009 and is credited with transforming the lender that was previously known as UTI Bank. 

While the bank earlier focused on corporate clients, it rapidly built its retail lending book under her leadership.

Sharma began her career with ICICI Bank in 1980 and stayed there till joining Axis Bank. At ICICI group, she was instrumental in setting up brokerage firm ICICI Securities. In her last assignment at ICICI, she was managing director and CEO of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company.

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