Women manage finance better: Chanda Kochhar (Interview)

April 30th, 2009 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anuradha Shukla
New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Chanda Deepak Kochhar, set to take over as managing director and chief executive of ICICI Bank, India’s largest in the private sector, firmly believes women make better bankers, even if a lot also depends on how they use the opportunities that come their way.

“So far as the financial sector is concerned, I feel women are always better with managing finance,” says the 47-year-old banker who takes charge Friday at the landmark ICICI Bank Towers in Bandra-Kurla Complex in suburban Mumbai.

“Sometimes women also make it an excuse for not doing certain tasks. But if you want equal opportunity you have to perform equally,” Kochhar said in an interview with IANS here before leaving for Mumbai.

According to her, ICICI Bank is an excellent example of equal opportunities as it employs over 10,000 women. “So it will be wrong to say they don’t get the opportunity. But then it also depends on how efficiently one uses this opportunity.”

Tracing her own 25-year journey in the institution, Kochhar says it has been full of challenges and also exciting - one in which there was a long and continuous process of both personal and professional growth.

“With my new role these challenges and excitement will be only bigger,” says the soft-spoken banker who had joined the institution as a trainee executive in 1984 when it was called the Industrial Credit and Investment Corp of India.

The priorities ahead are clear for this Jodhpur-born management student and a cost accountant who figures in Fortune magazine’s list of most powerful women in business.

“There is a strong legacy of ICICI Bank. But we have to mould the structure of our strategy to be in sync with the current market situation,” she says, and adds: “The main focus will be on retail investors.”

Kochhar says her aim is to increase retail deposits that will be at the core of business growth for the bank, since no revival was possible without this segment. She also says there will be a fresh approach to lending.

“As I said, our steps will be more measured. You will see many positive changes in the future,” she says. “There will be restructuring of our deposit base. I cannot divulge everything at this moment. You’ll have to wait for that. But as I said, there will be positive changes.”

Kochhar also does not buy the argument that banks were not lending, despite the measures taken by the country’s central bank that has resulted in huge addition to the quantum of money at their disposal to extend credit to the corporate sector.

“We have large exposures to small and medium enterprises and also to what we call micro, small and medium enterprises. So it will be wrong to say banks are not lending. In fact, I will say businesses are going slow on investment plans,” she says.

“That is the reason they are slow on borrowing.”

Ask her if ICICI Bank will consider an interest rate cut, another common demand from the corporate sector and households alike, and Kochhar turns a tad more serious and gives an answer that normally comes from any seasoned banker.

“Interest rates depend on many factors. Two main ones are inflation that is very stable and liquidity that is comfortable. There is enough liquidity at present. But there are other issues like fiscal deficit and external borrowing that we have to consider.”

Does that mean an interest rate cut?

“There is room for many corrections,” she answers. “You have to wait and watch.”

Kochhar, nevertheless, believes the Indian economy is on the road to recovery and in a much better position than many other countries.

“We have a very strong domestic market. There is a huge demand. Also, there are clear signs of recovery in sectors like steel and cement. But there are other sectors which will take some time to recover like real estate and auto,” she says.

“But overall, India’s revival will be quick and fast.”

(Anuradha Shukla can be reached at anuradha.s@ians.in)

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