Arundhati Bhattacharya becomes first woman to head SBI

Arundhati BhattacharyaArundhati Bhattacharya was on Monday appointed as chairperson of the country's largest bank, State Bank of India (SBI), becoming the first woman to head the state-run bank.

This is the first top-level appointment of  woman professional at the 207-year-old bank, which is also the 66th largest bank in the world.

Bhattacharya, 57, was managing director and CFO of the bank prior to her elevation and was the front-runner for the post.

She succeeds Pratip Chaudhuri who retired on 30 September, a statement issued by the bank said. She would serve a term of three years.

Others in the reckoning for the post included the other three managing directors of the bank - Hemant Contractor, A Krishna Kumar and S Vishvanathan.

SBI is the only state-run bank to have a chairman / chairperson unlike other public sector banks that have a combined post of chairman and managing director.

As the bank has four managing directors, Bhattacharya's elevation leaves one MD post vacant.

SBI also has over a dozen deputy MDs and over 35 chief general managers (CGMs).

Bhattacharya, who joined SBI as a probationary officer in 1977, had various stints in areas such as retail, treasury and corporate finance during her 36-year career.

Bhattacharya has spent 36 years in the bank and has served as head of SBI Capital Markets and managing director of SBI.

She has held various positions, including deputy managing director and corporate development officer and as chief general manager of the Bangalore circle and new businesses, SBI said in a statement.

Bhattacharya also played an important role in setting up general insurance, custody services and SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund subsidiaries, the statement added.

She also had a stint at the bank's New York office as the head of external audit and correspondent relations, SBI said.

Bhattacharya joins other women heads of public sector banks, including Allahabad Bank's Shubhalakshmi Panse and Bank of India's VR Iyer and private sector bank heads such as Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank, Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank and Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC India.

Her elevation also comes at a time when the government is all set to open the country's first bank dedicated for women, Bhartiya Mahila Bank.

SBI and its five subsidiaries control over 20 per cent of the nation's banking assets.