India’s Most Powerful Bankers


Women are playing a pivotal role in India’s banking sector. In fact, the sector has had a large number of women at the helm of affairs with several women CEOs.India’s largest bank (by assets) is also run by a woman! Here is a list of India’s most powerful women bankers, who are calling the shots and shaping India’s future!

Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairperson, SBI

Arundhati Bhattacharya is the first woman Chairperson of the country’s largest bank by assets. Arundhati joined State Bank of India in 1977 as a probationary officer (PO). She held several key positions during her 36-year career with the bank which include, chief executive of the bank’s merchant banking arm – SBI Capital Markets; chief general manager in charge of new projects. She has also served at the bank’s New York office. She has been actively involved in the launch of several new businesses such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund. Before being the Chairperson, she held the posts of managing director and chief financial officer at SBI. 

Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director & CEO, ICICI Bank Limited

At the helm of India’s second-largest bank and the largest in the private sector, Chanda Kochhar is widely recognised for her role in shaping the retail banking sector in India and for her leadership of the ICICI Group, as well as her contributions to various forums in India and globally.Chanda Kochhar began her career, with erstwhile ICICI Limited in 1984 and was elevated to the Board of Directors of ICICI Bank in 2001. She was instrumental in establishing ICICI Bank during the 1990s, and subsequently headed the infrastructure finance and corporate banking business in ICICI Limited. In 2000, she took on the challenge of building the nascent retail business, with strong focus on technology, innovation, process reengineering and expansion of distribution and scale. The Bank achieved a leadership position in this business.

During 2006-2007, she successfully led the bank’s corporate and international banking businesses during a period of heightened activity and global expansion by Indian companies. From 2007 to 2009, she was the Joint Managing Director & Chief Financial Officer during a critical period of rapid change in the global financial landscape. She was elevated as Managing Director & CEO of ICICI Bank in 2009 and is responsible for the Bank’s diverse operations in India and overseas. She also chairs the boards of the Bank’s principal subsidiaries, which include India’s leading private sector life and general insurance companies.

In addition to her responsibilities at the ICICI Group, Chanda Kochhar is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry, the Board of Trade, High-Level Committee on Financing Infrastructure, US-India CEO Forum and UK-India CEO Forum. She is a member of the boards of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, National Institute of Securities Markets, Institute of International Finance and International Monetary Conference. She was co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2011. She was conferred with the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s highest civilian honours, in 2011.

Naina Lal Kidwai, Group General Manager & Country Head of HSBC India

Naina Lal Kidwai is the Country Head of HSBC India and is also the Executive Director on the Board.An MBA from Harvard Business School, Naina Lal Kidwai is recognized in India and abroad with several awards and listings for leadership and business. Repeatedly ranked in the Fortune global list of Top Women in Business, in the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times Global Listing of Women to Watch and listed by Time Magazine as one of the 15 Global Influencers in 2002.

Naina Lal Kidwai has also received the Padma Shri from the Government of India for her contribution to Trade and Industry. Her international engagements include being a non executive director on the board of Nestle SA, Chairman, City of London’s Advisory Council for India, Global Advisor, Harvard Business School and Chair of the Indian Advisory Board. Naina Kidwai’s interests include microfinance and livelihood creation for rural women and environment. She is also the President of FICCI.

Renu Sud Karnad, Managing Director, HDFC

Renu Sud Karnad is the Managing Director of HDFC. She is a graduate in law from the University of Mumbai and holds a Master’s degree in economics from the University of Delhi. She is a Parvin Fellow – Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, Princeton University, USA. She has been employed with the Corporation since 1978 and was appointed as the Executive Director of the Corporation in 2000 and was re-designated as the Joint Managing Director of the Corporation in October 2007. She was appointed as the Managing Director of the Corporation for a period of five years with effect from January 1, 2010. She is responsible for the Operations, Human Resources and Communications functions of the Corporation. She has been ranked by Wall Street Journal as the Top Ten women to watch out from Asia.Shikha Sharma, Managing Director & CEO, Axis Bank

Shikha Sharma is the Managing Director & CEO of Axis Bank since 2009. Shikha began her career with the ICICI group where she worked across various verticals like Project Finance, Retail Banking and Investment Banking. Her last assignment was as Managing Director & CEO of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company, a leading private sector life insurance company in the country. Shikha has received wide recognition for her achievements. She is a recipient of many business awards like ‘Transformational Business Leader of the Year’ at AIMA’s Managing India Awards, 2012, and ‘Woman Leader of the year’ at Blooomberg – UTV Financial Leadership Awards, 2012, and Businesworld’s Banker of the Year Award, 2012. She has also been listed in prominent publications, such as Forbes List of Asia’s 50 Power Business Women, 2012, Indian Express Most Powerful Indians, 2012 and India Today Power List of 25 Most Influential Women in 2012.Shubhalakshmi Panse, Chairman & MD, Allahabad Bank

Shubhalakshmi Panse assumed the office of CMD of the Bank in January 2012. Prior to her present appointment Ms Panse was the Executive Director of Vijaya Bank since November 2009. She was managing all the portfolios and was responsible for the administration and Business development of the bank. Ms Panse started her banking career by joining Bank of Maharashtra as Probationary Officer in 1976. She had wide exposure and expertise in diverse disciplines like Credit Management, Recovery, Treasury and Information Technology at various levels at several locations in the country during her tenure at Bank of Maharashtra. She was also Circle Head of South circle covering Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and Pondicherry.Ms Panse has undergone many trainings and courses at various prestigious institutes like NIBM, Pune, ASCII & JNIDBI, Hyderabad, MDI, Gurgaon, BTC & RBI, Mumbai, European School of Management, London, UK, Paris & France, Bank of International Settlement, Basle, Switzerland and MEFTEC, Bahrain.

She was felicitated by Pune Municipal Corporation for her contribution in the field of banking in 2000. She has won various awards such as the Wisitex Foundation’s (Mumbai) award of Banker of the year in 2005, Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavna Award for contribution in the field of IT in Banking Industry by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Orissa, in May 2008, Nari Chetna Award for the contribution in the field of IT in banking by MES Society Pune in June 2008 and Suryadatta National Award for 2011 for Excellence in the field of Banking and Finance. She is a market oriented banker with strong administrative and leadership skills and able motivator of her team.


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