Axis Bank Reappoints Leader After Consulting With Egon Zehnder

Axis Bank reappoints Shikha Sharma

August 3, 2017 – Axis Bank Ltd., India’s third-largest private bank, has reappointed Shikha Sharma as managing director and chief executive officer for a period of three years starting June 2018. The bank had appointed Egon Zehnder as its consultant to identify the next CEO. But the bank clarified that this was to be a board-approved process and may not necessarily lead to a change in management.

The early re-appointment comes against the backdrop of speculation that Ms. Sharma might not stay on to lead the bank beyond her current term, which was to end next June.

“The bank’s clarification clarifies that the appointment of a search firm was in the interest of best governance, given that I would have done nine years at the bank on June 2018, and that does not preclude anything about whether I will do another term or not,” Ms. Sharma said at a recent press conference. “I’m deeply excited about the opportunity of what’s possible in the financial services space in the country.”

Ms. Sharma has been heading the Mumbai-based bank since 2009 and is in now in her third term. She joined Axis Bank from ICICI Prudential Life, where she was the managing director and chief executive. She had replaced the first chairman and chief executive of Axis Bank, P. J. Nayak.

The Mumbai-based bank had been battling a surge in soured debt that led to a slump in profit for five straight quarters through March, exchange filings show. In April, chief financial officer Jairam Sridharan expressed confidence that the worst of the bank’s bad-loan issues were over. Still, shares more than tripled in the eight years under Ms. Sharma.

Trusted Partner

Egon Zehnder is no stranger to Axis Bank. The leadership provider, in fact, placed Ms. Sharma into the top role. That search included senior executive candidates from Indian and multinational firms in the finance sector.

Axis Bank offers a comprehensive suite of financial products. It has 3,300 branches, over 13,000 ATMs and nine international offices. It employs over 50,000 people and has a market capitalization of $16 billion.

Egon Zehnder’s global wholesale and investment banking practice works closely with international and regional banks and advisory firms to address executive hiring needs and support strategic assessment and development of individual leaders and teams. It has more than 45 consultants worldwide who are serving clients in this sector, advising boards, CEOs and executives on industry-specific leadership strategies, and are career advisors to many top professionals in the industry.

The firm has recently recruited a number of leaders for banks. In March, Egon Zehnder placed Christos Megalou as CEO of Piraeus Bank. Mr. Megalou more than satisfied the organization’s requirement of having at least 10 years of experience in a senior role abroad. He spent 15 years in investment banking at Credit Suisse Group AG prior to joining Eurobank in 2013.

The National Bank of Greece (NBG) not long ago selected the firm to lead its hunt for a new chairman. The new chair must have a good understanding of the regulatory, legal and economic environment in which the bank operates. That includes the ability to efficiently interact with various stakeholders (HFSF, for example, as well as other shareholders, the European Commission, regulators, other official or private sector institutions) and the media.

Banks Turn to Search Firms

Financial services organizations are facing a new competitive landscape, regulatory challenges and a constant struggle to manage cost and efficiency. This requires strategic leaders with a multidimensional skill-set. Like all financial institutions, banks continue to turn to executive recruitment firms to find new leaders. Here’s a sampling of some important recent searches that are either underway or recently completed, from the Hunt Scanlon Media Archives:

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Taps Heidrick for CEO
The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond has retained Heidrick & Struggles to lead its search for a new president and CEO. Jeffrey Lacker announced that he will retire in October after 28 years of public service at the Richmond Bank.

Korn Ferry recruited Doug Bowers as president and CEO of Banc of California. Most recently, Mr. Bowers was president and CEO of Square 1 Bank from 2011 until its sale to PacWest Bancorp. From 2009 to 2011, he served as a managing director of Lone Star Funds/ Hudson Advisors.

Kaplan Partners has been retained by Old Point National Bank to lead its search for a new chief financial officer. Current CFO Laurie Grabow plans to retire this summer after three decades with the Hampton, VA-based bank. Laurie’s dedication through the recession positioned our company well for the future,” said Rob Shuford Jr., Old Point National Bank’s president and CEO. 

Chrisman & Company placed Carl J. Chaney as CEO of New Orleans-headquartered First NBC Bank. Longtime leader and founder Ashton Ryan Jr. has stepped aside as CEO. Founding partner and principal Timothy Chrisman led the search along with partner Irwin Stalk;

Hanold Associates recently recruited Gaurav Sehgal as chief human resources officer (CHRO) and David Sarjantson as chief marketing officer (CMO) at Denver-based Fortis Private Bank. Fortis offers a comprehensive suite of banking, private wealth management, and investment management services. CEO Jason Hanold led both search assignments.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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