These may be tough times for bankers but the mood at FE (The Financial Express) Best Banks Awards, on February 20 in Mumbai, was upbeat. Shrugging aside their worries, the who’s who of Indian banking celebrated the industry’s success stories, raised a toast to the achievers and saluted the winners. The camaraderie was visible as bankers compared notes and shared experiences. The top honchos of the banking industry were in full attendance, which included HDFC Bank’s managing director Aditya Puri, HSBC India’s group general manager & CEO Stuart Milne, Deutsche Bank’s MD & CEO Ranveet Gill, HDFC Bank ED, Paresh Sukthankar,Corporation Bank CMD Ajai Kumar, Bank of Baroda chairman and MD SS Mundra, Standard Chartered Bank CFO Anurag Adlakha and SBI national banking MD Krishna Kumar. Top executives from India Inc included McKinsey & Co’s chairman Adil Zainulbhai, Vodafone India’s MD and CEO Marten Pieters, Blackstone India’s senior MD & and chairman Akhil Gupta, Tata Motors vice chairman Ravi Kant, JM Financial chairman N imesh Kampani, ICICI Ventures’ MD & CEO Vishakha Mulye, and L&T’s whole-time director & CFO R Shankar Raman.
It was an evening of introspection but the underlying mood was tinged with optimism. While the winners drew applause, it was YV Reddy, recipient of the FE Lifetime Achievement Award, who had the crowd in splits with his quips. “I take this award as a recognition for the importance of public policy in general,” Reddy said in his acceptance speech, “I have been told that this award is for the lifetime achievement as a banker but I’ve spent the major part of my career as a non-banker. Some even thought I was an anti-banker during my stint as the RBI governor.”Alluding to a remark from Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Express Group, that none of the Indian banks featured among the top 20 banks of the world, the former RBI governor said that ‘big’ was not necessarily good. “It depends on the context. If big happens to be such that it cannot fail then that can be problematic. Big is good provided there are sufficient safeguards,” he said. Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said that the fundamentals of the Indian economy remained strong and India had to now focus on its strengths. “Our high savings rate should be channelled into investments,” he said. Sharma also asked banks to lend to small entrepreneurs, artisans and weavers at affordable rates. The