MUMBAI: Shikha Sharma was reappointed chief executive of Axis Bank for another three-year term as the board felt the need for “continuity” with the industry undergoing stress and facing challenges on many fronts, including technology-led change. With her current term set to end next year, this will extend her tenure to June 2021.
The search for a possible successor has been abandoned as the board wanted to put an end to speculation about the 58-year-old CEO’s exit from the bank, said two people with knowledge of the process. “The bank has an exciting future and I am just focused on trying to do the best we can as a team together for the bank and the stakeholders,” Sharma told ET.
There has been talk of Sharma’s possible departure from the bank for more than a year. First there was speculation that she would helm Ajay Piramal’s financial services business under the Shriram group of companies.
Aggressive Approach Towards Growth
Of late, there had been talk of her moving to the Tata Group or joining Bajaj Finserv.
Sharma made light of the various reports. “You say she is joining Bajaj — I have not met Sanjiv Bajaj for seven years. So, the point is these are just crazy rumours,” she said. “Piramal is our client — of course I will meet him. Chandra (Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran) is our client, of course I will meet Chandra. It doesn’t mean I am joining Piramal or joining Chandra.”
Sharma has pushed aggressively for growth, which has helped her build the business but has also drawn criticism for missteps such as lending to infrastructure projects. After succeeding PJ Nayak, Sharma acquired Enam Group’s investment and broking business, propelling Axis to the top position in equities advisory and mergers and acquisitions.
On Thursday, she led the takeover of fintech company FreeCharge for Rs 385 crore, bringing into the fold millions of new, young customers who are looking for quick and easy payment solutions.
The turnaround of fortunes at the bank after a subdued fiscal 2017 is still evolving, she said.
“As a bank we are dealing with a bulky corporate book. We are dealing with issues that are outside our control,’’ Sharma said. “What is happening to metals, power is outside our control. So we are also dealing with it as best as we can,” referring to sectors that are struggling.