Insider could be right fit for Axis Bank chief’s post: HR experts

An insider who is familiar with the culture and the operational problems  will be best suited for the top job at  Axis Bank, said human resource experts Moneycontrol spoke to.

On Monday, Axis Bank  MD & CEO Shikha Sharma said she was stepping down, but would stay in her role till December to ensure a smooth transition.

“In the past, the (bank) board had indicated that they would prefer a candidate from within,” said a senior human resource consultant on the condition of anonymity.

Sources said that the bank is now scouting for a large executive search firm to identify Sharma’s successor.

Sunil Goel, Managing Director of executive search firm GlobalHunt, said that there should be a fine mix between what an organisation needs today and what the growth strategy will be for the next five to ten years.

Goel added that the advantage of an insider is that they are operationally aware, and that they have grown with the system and know their strengths and weakness.

However,  he also said that someone with multi-company experience could help drive Axis Bank’s growth path going forward.

In 2017, the bank had chosen executive search firm Egon Zehnder to identify its next CEO. Sources said that the firm had also conducted an initial search for this process.

However, Axis Bank’s board decided to re-appoint Shikha Sharma for three more years starting June 1 this year.

A source close to the development said that since the bank is facing a mini-crisis situation, an insider who is aware of their exact market position will be beneficial.

“The bank is in the midst of closing the accounts for the last fiscal. On an immediate basis, the key is to assuage the concerns of the investors and for this an insider would do a good job. Also, eight months may not be an adequate period to get an outsider as a successor,” said the India head of a mid-size C-Suite search firm.

Axis Bank has, in the past, decided on a mandate to get a new chief, and even invited internal applicants to apply. But sources said that due to paucity of time and the fact that they were unable to arrive at a consensus on a candidate, the process was abandoned at that point.

According to another HR consultant who has been in talks with the bank in the past, the first step will be to get an interim CEO after Sharma steps down. Then a rejig could be done, after which a new CEO will be appointed.

However, the consultant added that given that Axis Bank has a large focus on retail lending, an external candidate with a good exposure to this space from the BFSI segment could be a good fit as the deputy chief executive officer.

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