After Chanda Kochhar, what now? With its Chief Executive Officer on leave pending allegations of conflict of interest, ICICI has brought in its senior-most executive Sandeep Bakhshi as Chief Operating Officer. The move works both ways. Should Kochhar be cleared and return, Bakhshi will remain COO - a confidence building exercise for the bank's unhappy institutional investors. On the other hand, if Kochhar doesn't return, Bakhshi could be a comforting choice for CEO.
Insiders say the bank's board is already debating bringing in more independent directors. For the interim, the entire management will report to Bakhshi who reports to the board.
An old ICICI hand, what goes against Bakhshi, is his reputation of being conservative. In 2002, he was asked to build up ICICI's general insurance business and then returned as Deputy Managing Director to head retail banking. When the baton passed from KV Kamath to the then-young Chanda Kochhar, many senior executives walked out. Bakhshi stayed - he replaced V Vaidyanathan as CEO of the bank's largest life insurance subsidiary.
In the current scenario of slipping asset quality, Bakhshi's non-aggressive style (quite removed from the aggressive growth management that ICICI traditionally favoured), may well prove the best choice. The question is, since he's been away from banking too long, will that prove a limitation?