In an exclusive interview with ET Sharma said that there was no substance to the media reports stating her impending resignation and that she was focused on doing her job.
“These are rumors that are flying around hot and fast, but there is no substance to it, these rumors don’t change who I am or the commitment to the institution,” Sharma said.
“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. The appointment of a search firm was in the interest of best governance, given that I would have done nine years with the bank in June 2018 and it does not preclude anything about whether I will do another term or not. You should wait to hear that announcement from the board at the appropriate time.”
Sharma, who took charge in 2009, is in her third term as the bank chief. Recently the Axis Bank board had hired executive search firm Egon Zehnder to find a successor. For several weeks rumors have been rife that Sharma may step down from her position once her term ends next year.
Recently it was reported that Sharma was headed to the Tata Group to head its financial services business which was later vehemently denied by the bank.
“There are these rumors that are going around some of them I don’t understand at all,” Sharma told ET. “Suddenly someone is saying Delhi is asking Shikha to go, I don’t know who they have spoken to, they have certainly not spoken to me, and nobody from my board has spoken to me. Then you say she is joining Bajaj, I have not met Sanjiv Bajaj for 7 years. So the point is these are just crazy rumors, Piramal is our client of course I will meet him, Chandra is our client of course I will meet Chandra it doesn’t mean I am joining Piramal or joining Chandra.”
According to the bank hiring of an executive search firm is part of a laid down process which the board undertakes at regular intervals. But the board has not undergone a similar process the last two times Sharma’s term was up for renewal. People in the know have in the past speculated that although there is no certainty that Sharma is on her way out, the bank’s board may have decided to begin a process to ensure that it is not caught off guard if she decides to step down.
Among major banks, Axis has delivered handsome returns since 2009, the year Sharma took charge. It has delivered 256% returns compared to that of 136% of ICICI Bank and 510% of HDFC Bank.
Despite this Sharma has also been criticized for the bank’s deteriorating asset quality and fall in profits. The bank saw its profits contract by 16% in the June quarter and concerns that slippages outside the watch-list have increased despite past assurances from the management.