Retired Indian bankers in demand; million-dollar salaries on offer

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 09, 2013 06:28 hrs

Former heads of Indian banks and retired Reserve Bank of India governors and deputy governors have never had it so good. For, companies aspiring to set up banks are offering salaries up to $1 million (Rs 5.4 crore) a year to these bankers to get help on bank licence applications and, if successful, with setting up the bank.

Among the banking aspirants are the Tatas, the Aditya Birla Group, Reliance Industries, Shriram group, the Mahindra Group and Videocon, among others. According to headhunters, these former bankers will be hired as consultants on contracts of up to five years. Many bankers are insisting on a five-year term even if the company is denied a licence by the banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

“Companies have begun identifying personnel for key roles. Given that hiring is a six-to-nine month process, most institutions have paid headhunters to identify available talent. While the packages offered by the new players might not be drastically different, stock options will make their offers financially attractive,” says the CEO of a head-hunting firm, recruiting for some companies interested in a banking foray.

So, if former Corporation Bank Chairman and Managing Director V K Chopra has been roped in by the India Infoline group, former Bank of Baroda chairman M D Mallya's experience would come in handy for the Tata Group if it is lucky enough to get the coveted licence.

Similarly, A C Mahajan, former chairman of Canara Bank, has been recruited by Religare as an independent director. Religare is a strong aspirant for the banking business. And, the advice of former SBI Chairman A K Purwar, who is already heading Piramal Capital, could prove useful for the Piramal group's banking ambitions.

It's not only commercial bankers who are sought. Former central bankers are also in high demand - former central banker A K Khound, who retired from RBI as chief general manager of the banking operations and development department, which drafted the licensing norms, will share his knowledge with Aditya Birla Financial Services.

Even consultants advising corporate houses on banking licences are  aggressive in getting former bankers into their folds. KPMG, for example, has roped in former RBI chief general manager Vinay Baijal as senior advisor.

Shinjini Kumar, director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes banking is different from other sectors, as credibility with the regulator is important, apart from attributes such as experience and relationships.

"Given the strict fit and proper' expectations, identifying the right person is also about strategic positioning. The wider context is that, in India, banks not only need to look at regulatory expertise as a matter of zero-tolerance compliance (which is common to many jurisdictions), but also as a necessary prerequisite for making the right strategic choices in an environment of constraining regulations and changing macroeconomic scenario," Kumar said. She was with RBI until a few years back.

Some experts, however, say this excitement to rope in as many former bankers as possible might be short-lived; it might ebb with the growing realisation that the central bank is likely to allow only a few new entities. New licences are expected to come by March-April next year.

Former bank/RBI officials roped in by various organisations
  • V K Chopra (CMD, Corporation Bank)
    India Infoline group
  • A K Purwar (chairman, State Bank of India)
    Piramal group
  • A C Mahajan (CMD, Canara Bank)
  • A K Khound (CGM, Reserve Bank of India)
    AdiTYa Birla Fin Serv
  • M D Mallya (CMD, Bank of Baroda)
    Tata group
  • Vinay Baijal (CGM, Reserve Bank of India)

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