Saurabh Agrawal of Aditya Birla Group named Tata Sons CFO

Tata Sons is set to get its first chief financial officer, 5 years after Ishaat Hussain retired as group CFO, with Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran announcing on Monday that veteran investment banker Saurabh Agrawal would be CFO at the holding company.

Agrawal is currently head of strategy at the Aditya Birla Group. He will join the Tatas from July.

As group CFO at Tata Sons, he will have to focus on turning around some of the group's loss-making units such as Tata Teleservices and the group's UK steel business.

Agrawal was reportedly instrumental in the Idea-Vodafone merger deal as well as the Grasim-Aditya Birla Nuvo merger.

This will be the second big appointment by Chandrasekaran after that of Ankur Verma, former managing director of investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who joined the Tata Group in March.

Prior to the Birla job, Agrawal was heading corporate finance at Standard Chartered Bank in India and South Asia. He had also been the head of investment banking at DSP Merrill Lynch, where he worked with Chandrasekaran on Tata Consultancy Services' initial public offer in 2004.

''Agrawal brings deep capital markets knowledge and valuable cross-industry experience to this critical leadership role in the Tata Group. His expertise will help us in driving rigour and synergy in capital allocation decisions, investment management, as well as consolidation and optimisation of the group's business portfolio,'' Chandrasekaran said in a statement.

''I am honoured to join the Tata Group. It is an exciting time for the group under the leadership of Chandrasekaran,'' said Agrawal, a graduate of IIT Roorkee with a post-graduate management degree from IIM Calcutta.

One of the stated complaints of Tata Group doyen Ratan Tata against former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry was that he had not appointed a group CFO after Ishaat Hussain retired as Tata Sons' finance director in 2012.

The group CFO position is important and considered a second link between Tata Sons and its subsidiaries, after the chairman, Business Standard reports. Hussain, for example, joined the board of Tata Sons as executive director in July 1999 and was also a director of several Tata companies, including Tata Industries, Tata Steel and Voltas. He was also the chairman of Voltas and Tata Sky.

Group watchers say at least three entities – Tata Teleservices, Tata Power's Mundra project and Tata Steel's UK operations - need Agrawal's immediate attention.

Besides focusing on loss-making entities and allocating capital across companies, Chandra and the group CFO will also have to ensure that Tata Sons gives enough dividends to Tata Trusts, which own 66 per cent stake in the company. One reason given by Tata for Mistry's removal was that the latter was unable to do this.