Could Arundhati Bhattacharya Break The Glass Ceiling At The Reserve Bank?

20/06/2016 12:38 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Arundhati Bhattacharya, the chairman of the State Bank of India, the largest public sector bank in India, attends a press conference on the bank's financial results for the last financial year, in Kolkata on May 27, 2016. / AFP / Dibyangshu SARKAR (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Among the seven likely contenders for Reserve Bank's next governor, after the exit of Raghuram Rajan, is Arundhati Bhattacharya, the chairperson of State Bank of India. If she lands the appointment, she would become the first woman to head India’s central bank.

In 2016, Bhattacharya, 60, was ranked as the 25th most influential woman in the world by Forbes. According to media reports, Bhattacharya has taken a tough stance at bringing to book company owners who have defaulted on large loans to the bank. She has also been a staunch supporter of RBI’s mandate for Indian banks to clean up their balance sheets, and resolve their mounting pile of bad loans.

However, according to a Mint report, “the trouble with appointing Bhattacharya as the head of the central bank is that there is no precedent in recent times of a banker being appointed as the RBI governor.”

Bhattacharya, who joined SBI in 1977, took the office of chairperson at the bank in 2013, becoming the first woman to head the bank. She was also the first woman managing director at the bank.

In her 39-year tenure at the bank, Bhattacharya has held several senior roles at SBI including Managing Director Chief Financial Officer. Previously, she was the Deputy Managing Director and Corporate Development Officer of SBI. She was also the Managing Director and CEO of SBI’s investment banking arm, SBI Capital Markets. She is an alum of Jadavpur University.

If Bhattacharya lands the job, she would also be among a handful of women to head the central bank of a leading economy. In 2014, Janet Yellen became the first woman to become the head of the US Federal Reserve in over the 100 years of the institution’s history.

Women central bankers include:

  • Janet L. Yellen, chairwoman of the US Federal Reserve
  • Christine Lagarde, Head of International Monetary Fund
  • Chrystalla Georghadji, Governor of Central Bank of Cyprus
  • Elvira Nabiullina, Head of The Bank of Russia
  • Azeema Adam, Governor of the Central Bank of Maldives
  • Karnit Flug, Governor of Bank of Israel
  • Valeriya Gontareva , Governor of National Bank of Ukraine
  • Jorgovanka Tabakovic, Governor of National Bank of Serbia

According to a global index that tracks women central bankers, Official Monetary And Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF),and its findings from a survey a year ago, the index moved up slightly to 2.19 (out of a maximum of 10) at the end of 2015 from 2.07 the year before.

Rajan's replacement is expected to be announced within a month, according to media reports.

The other six candidates that are on the list of possible successors to Rajan include Vijay Kelkar, Rakesh Mohan, Ashok Lahiri, RBI deputy governor Urjit Patel, Subir Gokarn and Ashok Chawla, Reuters reported earlier.

ALSO READ: Raghuram Rajan's Exit Makes Modi Government Look Petty

On Saturday, Rajan said no to a second term in the post, a surprise decision the industry and opposition parties termed as nation's loss. "...on due reflection, and after consultation with the government, I want to share with you that I will be returning to academia when my term as Governor ends on September 4, 2016," Rajan said in a message to RBI staff.

With Reuters inputs.

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