Arundhati SBI’s first woman chief

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SummaryArundhati Bhattacharya took over as the chairperson at the State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday. She succeeds Pratip Chaudhuri

Arundhati Bhattacharya took over as the chairperson at the State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday. She succeeds Pratip Chaudhuri, who retired as chairman on September 30.

Bhattacharya, the first woman to head SBI, takes charge at a time when India’s largest bank is fighting worsening asset quality. As on June 30, gross non-performing assets (NPAs) at SBI stood at R60,891 crore, up 29% from a year ago. As a ratio to total assets, gross NPAs stood at 5.56%. The bulk of asset quality concerns during the April-June period came from its small and medium enterprises and mid-corporate segments.

“Even companies that were doing well are not getting the kind of orders or the kind of business they needed in order to ensure that the stresses don't show. So, obviously, there is a concern on asset quality,” Bhattacharya had told FE in an interview in August.

The bank's profitability suffered during the first quarter, with net profit falling 13.6% from a year ago, to Rs 3,241 crore. Net interest margin too has contracted significantly from a high of 4.17% in March 2012, to 3.44% at the end of the June quarter, this year.

Bhattacharya is the first woman to take the top job at India's largest bank. She had taken over as the bank's managing director (MD) and chief financial officer (CFO) in August this year, after serving as head of SBI Capital Markets. The 57-year old was one of the four candidates for the top job at SBI. The others were MDs A Krishnakumar, S Vishvanathan and Hemant Contractor.

All four candidates were interviewed on September 21, by a committee, which included financial services secretary Rajiv Takru and Anand Sinha, deputy governor at Reserve Bank of India.

Bhattacharya joined SBI as a probationary officer in 1977. During her tenure of 36 years with State Bank of India, she has held a number of important positions including those of deputy managing director & corporate development officer, chief general manager (Bangalore circle) and chief general manager (new businesses).

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