Just back from the US after dropping her child to school, Vibha Padalkar, Executive Director & CFO, HDFC Life, has been busy talking to stakeholders and consultants to take India's third-largest private life insurer in terms of assets under management public.
Padalkar, a chartered accountant from London, is a known expert in listing companies on exchanges. HDFC Life hired her in 2008 after she had listed WNS on the New York Stock Exchange. But then, the global financial crisis and regulatory revamp of the insurance sector hit the company's IPO plans. But as Padalkar says: "There has never been a single day when I have not been busy. There is always something happening internally or externally that has kept me occupied for the past eight years."
While her immediate goal is listing, she isn't averse to an M&A (merger and acquisition) either. "It's unfortunate that the deal between Max Life and HDFC Life was called off in July," says Padalkar, who was an active participant in the merger process. "We will buy a company that has a great distribution set-up and not one that is running after top-line growth," she says. "Our focus has been on delivering consistent and profitable growth."
Avinash Gupta, an ex-investment banker who has known Padalkar for six years and is consulting HDFC Life on the IPO says, "She is the complete package. Apart from being very good in her domain, she is someone who doesn't hesitate to take on challenges and get her hands dirty. Her most important trait is her attention to detail. Plus, she is approachable and witty. This is a rare combination."
Padalkar, the only woman on the top management of HDFC Life, says the companys culture ensures that she is free to express herself and take crucial decisions. She is also credited with mitigating risk by starting two subsidiaries. The first was the pension business, which was started in 2012 and at the end of March 31, 2017, had assets of around Rs 1,162 crore. The other was the overseas business in Dubai to cater to Indians based in the Gulf region.
Fond of travelling to small European villages, Padalkar's yoga and exercise schedule has taken a hit of late due to travel and meetings. Still, she finds time to run on the treadmill. But the most important thing for her is catching up on seven hours of sleep, which not only helps her de-stress but also keeps her active. Padalkar, a workaholic, says her role model is her mother, an IAS officer, who taught her how to maintain work-life balance. She is also thankful to her celluloid-director husband, who encouraged her to follow the path of growth while he ran the support system at home by taking up freelance work.