For third time within two years, UTI MF begins search for chief executive

Written by fe Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Nov 28 2012, 09:00am hrs
For the third time in less than two years, UTI Mutual Fund (UTI MF) has initiated a process to find a chief executive to lead the fund house that has seen its ranking slip gradually in the last few years.

The AMC has released an advertisement inviting applications for the position of CMD, after its board agreed to initiate a fresh process to fill the position. UTI MF, which was the largest fund house till 2006, has been struggling to appoint a chief executive ever since its chairman UK Sinha quit in February 2011 to take charge as the chief of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Currently, it is functioning with an acting CEO, Imtaiyazur Rahman, a UTI insider since 1998.

The selection process first ran into a roadblock in April 2011 when investment management firm T Rowe Price, its largest shareholder, protested against alleged attempts to influence the selection process to favour bureaucrat Jitesh Khosla, the brother of the then advisor to former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Interestingly, Khosla, who had stints in the ministry of finance and corporate affairs, emerged a front-runner for the post despite the fact that his name did not figure in the list of probable candidates drawn up by executive search firm Egon Zehnder.

The process also saw two of UTIs independent directors Prithvi Haldea and Anita Ramchandran quitting, citing personal reasons. As the selection process was going nowhere, it was even proposed that the job be split in two, with Khosla as the chairman and an industry person as the chief executive. This effectively ruled out some of the senior candidates who had been shortlisted since it was only the lure of being UTI CMD that had them interested in the job a split function didnt interest them.

Putting this embarrassment behind it, the UTI board together with its five shareholders Life Insurance Corporation of India, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda and US firm T Rowe Price met again in August this year to short-list a new set of candidates for the CMD post. The board was doubly keen this time round to ensure the selection process should be seen as transparent and put out advertisements in leading newspapers, singling out the criteria for selection as well as mandatory educational qualifications.

The efforts met with some success, with Leo Puri, former MD at McKinsey, emerging as a front-runner for the post. But, according to reports, his selection was thwarted by some institutional shareholders of UTI who cited certain mismatches between Puri's qualification and those listed in the eligibility criteria in the advertisement.