Chanda Kochhar, ICICI Bank Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), has quit the bank with immediate effect. Kochhar led ICICI Bank since 2009 and her third term was due to end in March 2019. Sandeep Bakhshi, who was appointed the bank’s COO in June, will succeed Kochhar.
“The Board of Directors of ICICI Bank accepted the request of Chanda Kochhar to seek early retirement from the bank at the earliest. The Board accepted this request with immediate effect,” the company informed the bourses on Thursday.
In June, Kochhar went on an indefinite leave pending an external enquiry against her on allegations of conflict of interest and quid pro quo charges relating to a loan given to Videocon group.
ICICI Bank was quick to assure that the ongoing probe into allegations of financial impropriety and conflict of interest against her will remain unaffected. “The enquiry instituted by the Board will remain unaffected by this and certain benefits will be subject to the outcome of the enquiry,” the board said.
“The Board has decided to appoint Sandeep Bakhshi as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer. His appointment will be for a period of five years until October 3, 2023, subject to regulatory and other approvals. The other terms and conditions of his appointment, such as remuneration, would remain unchanged,” according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the bank said independent director MD Mallya has resigned from the board. Kochhar will also relinquish office from the Board of Directors of the bank’s subsidiaries.
Kochhar is the subject of an investigation for allegedly flouting corporate governance norms. Allegations of impropriety against her were first raised in October 2016 by an ICICI Bank shareholder, who alleged a quid pro quo on Kochhar’s part as ICICI Bank had granted loans to Videocon Group, whose promoter Venugopal Dhoot had investments in NuPower Renewables, which is owned by Chanda’s husband Deepak Kochhar.
The whistleblower had written a letter to the Finance Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and various investigation agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Following the letter, ICICI Bank said that it had conducted an internal probe, but did not find any merit in the allegations.
However, in March end, the allegations came into the spotlight yet again worrying shareholders, investors, depositors and other stakeholders. Thereafter, in June, Kochhar went on an indefinite leave.
Career at ICICI Bank
During her initial years at the bank, Kochhar handled project appraisal, while monitoring and evaluating projects in the textile, paper and cement industries.
Kochhar was part of the core team that setup ICICI Bank and was promoted to assistant general manager in 1994 before becoming the deputy general manager in 1996.
She was tasked with handling the newly-established Infrastructure Industry Group of the bank, which created industry expertise in areas of telecom, power and transportation.
In 1998, Kochhar was promoted as General Manager and was tasked with handling the bank’s top 200 clients. She also oversaw the e-commerce wing of the lender.
Leading India’s largest private bank
In 2006, Kochhar started working on the bank’s international operations before becoming the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Managing Director (MD) in 2007. Just two years later, she was promoted and became the CEO, a position she has held since.
The 56-year-old also serves as the President of the International Monetary Conference and Deputy Chairman of the Indian Banks Association.
She has been a member of multiple organisations and was the co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2011.
In 2016, Kochhar was ranked fifth on the Fortune list of “Most Powerful Women International 2016”, comprising 50 influential women outside the US. She also featured on the Forbes list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2016”. A year prior to this, she was named as one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in the world.