The FE Best Banks Awards have always feted the best in the world of finance. This time around, former central bank governor and current chairman of the Fourteenth Finance Commission, Yaga Venugopal Reddy has been conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his achievements as a central banker. Aditya Puri, CEO and managing director, HDFC Bank, takes home the award for Banker of the Year for the tremendous track record in profitability that the bank has and enormous shareholder value it has created. State Bank of India has walked away with the award for Initiative in Financial Inclusion having taken banking to the farthest corners of this country.
If there was one central banker who was not afraid to speak his mind and take tough decisions, it was Reddy whose immense contribution to central banking raised the bar in policy making; Reddy ring-fenced the Indian banking system and the economy from the spillover effects of the global financial crisis, earning recognition for his prudential approach. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz commended Reddy for having had the insight and intuition to foresee the fallout of the 2008 global asset bubble meltdown. As chairman of the Fourteenth Finance Commission, Reddy will take a fresh look at the finances of the Centre and the states against the backdrop of the radical restructuring of India’s indirect tax system.
Under Aditya Puri’s leadership, HDFC Bank has become the country’s most valued bank having earned a reputation for being efficient, profitable and reliable; the bank has grown its profits by 30% every year for more than a decade now and has the cleanest book in the business. It has managed to sustain a net interest margin of over 4% and has leveraged its strong deposits franchise to grow the business. All this it has achieved in the face of keen competition. The bank today is a role model for the industry.
With the kind of impeccable track record that he has, the five-member jury comprising Adil Zainulbhai, chairman –India, McKinsey & Co, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman & group CEO, Bharti Group, Isher Judge Ahluwalia, chairperson, ICRIER, Sanjay Nayar, CEO, KKR India Advisors and Hemendra Kothari, chairman, DSP Blackrock Investment Managers, had no hesitation in selecting Puri the winner.
The jury also felt that State Bank of India, which has shouldered the responsibility of taking banking to the masses in the hinterland, with determination and great success, should be commended for its work. Apart from strengthening the branch network – 273 branches and another 553 ATMs were set up in rural areas in 2010-11 – the bank also created around 8,000 customer service points taking the tally around 21,000. SBI has its own proprietary Management Information System for dealing with Business Correspondents – 60,000 of them. Indeed, SBI stands out both in scale and style, having launched SBI ‘Tatkal” a scheme that targets the urban poor. The USP of this initiative is that customers can transfer money to their families in their native towns and villages without actually opening an account.