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After a successful nine-year stint, the man who took Standard Chartered to the pinnacle of merger and acquisition in India and Southeast Asia has quit. Singapore-based Prahlad Shantigram, global head (M&A) of the bank, resigned in April.
Shantigram was with the bank since 2003 and for the past three years, was its global M&A head, first out of Mumbai and then relocated to Singapore in early 2011.
The sudden departure has taken the entire investment banking fraternity by surprise. Shantigram, 47, was seen as a key personnel in the bank, responsible for many bulge bracket transactions. Under him, the bank topped the M&A league tables in 2010, with Bharti's $10.7-billion acquisition of Zain Africa being the jewel in the crown.
“We can confirm that Prahlad Shantigram is no longer with Standard Chartered. We wish him the best in his future endeavours,” said a Standard Chartered spokesperson.
Even though the exact reasons and Shantigram’s next move are still unknown, bankers across the country see the exit as a big blow for the organisation and blame the present global restructuring and several manpower realignments at senior levels as a key reason.
Sources said, ever since Mark Dowie, formerly UBS’s head of Asia, came on board as the global head of corporate finance, the M&A department had to report to him. “The equations between the two were perhaps not the very best,” said a person in the know, on the condition of anonymity.
Dowie had also realigned assignments and roles of some of the other new and high profile entrants into the bank, especially in India.
Saurabh Agrawal, who joined in 2011 as the head of corporate finance for the Southeast Asia and South Asia, is now only managing the later.
“India was largely carrying the global operations of StanC. But now, it’s quite evident that the headquarter seems to be hitting back. It’s unfortunate,” added another senior investment banking official from a peer MNC.
There has been several senior level churn and relocations at the bank’s Indian operations in recent times. Neeraj Swaroop, the chief executive officer (India & South Asia), left the country and got transferred as the CEO (Southeast Asia). He was replaced by Sunil Kaushal. Arup Roy, the previous head of corporate banking in India, also moved out of the country to become the bank’s managing director of strategic client coverage business for India and Africa. Soumya Rajan, the earlier head of private banking in India, quit and was replaced by Sandeep Das.
Shantigram’s exit would once again trigger speculation of Manisha Girotra, the 42-year-old former India head of UBS, joining the British bank to head its global investment banking business.
Standard Chartered’s spokesperson refused to comment on the speculation, but Girotra told Business Standard, “I can categorically tell you I am not joining them.”
Shantigram joined Standard Chartered’s investment bank in 2003 from DSP Merill Lynch, after the non-compete agreement with Grindlays expired.
Shantigram was subsequently joined by V Anantharaman, an ace banker from Deutsche Bank and together they set up the highly successful corporate banking franchise for the bank. But “Ananth” – as he is popularly called — had left StanChart in 2006 for Credit Suisse as its managing director and was pivotal in setting up its investment banking team only to come back in 2010 as the head of corporate finance for India. Subsequently, he took a regional role, heading the entire South Asia function.
History-loving wanderlust, Shantigram is a mechanical engineer from Mumbai's VJTI and had begun his career at WMI Cranes. But his pursuit for higher academic excellence saw him join the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, for a management degree.
He also got dragged into controversy when the CBI questioned him in the past year regarding his involvement in the Maxis Communications and Aircel deal, which is under a political cloud at present. Shantigram was a key member of a team which advised Maxis when it bid for Aircel from businessman C Sivasankaran in March, 2006.
James Courtaney, the bank’s global head of project finance, will be replacing Shantigram as has be given additional responsibility.