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SBI may have 8 chiefs in 4 years, says analyst 

Suresh Nair  
Mumbai, March 3: The State Bank of India may end up witnessing a musical chair game at the top once the present chairman GG Vaidya retires on October 31, this year. If seniority is the key to promotion, Vaidya's likely successors Santosh Mukerjee and Vepa Kamesam will end up having one and ten months of tenure, respectively, as chairmen of the country's largest financial intermediary.

Since 1995, the State Bank has at least two chiefs with very short stints. They are MK Sinha who had a one-month stint (September 1995) and MP Radhakrishnan (December 1998-January 1999). There have been at least two more instances where the SBI chairmen had only a one-month stint-VS Natarajan (December 20, 1982-January 30, 1983) and V Atal (January 15-February 27, 1990).

"Going by the seniority principal, SBI will have eight chairmen in the next four years. We are concerned that the organisation may consequently suffer from lack of long-term strategy, continuity and focus," said Hemindra Hazari, an analyst with Ask-Raymond James in its February report on the State Bank. According to Hazari, the management depth and balance sheet strength have enabled the SBI to "weather the eccentricities of the Government policy" and a "difficult legal and economic environment".

The centre have been trying to "break away" from the seniority norm while choosing the SBI chief for quite sometime now. It has not been able to change the policy as "supersession" at the top level may end up giving a "culture shock" to the organisation. "The only way to do this is to bring in an outsider for the top job and start grooming in-house talents at an early stage," an SBI insider pointed out. As SBI enters the new millennium it requires visionary leadership combined with a reasonable tenure.

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