MUMBAI: Aditya Puri, the longest-serving chief of any commercial bank in India, reminisced about how it all started while addressing shareholders in his last annual general meeting as CEO. Puri who is credited with setting up India’s biggest private bank, which with a market cap of Rs 6 lakh crore is also the most valuable, will step down after completing his term on October 2020 when he turns 70.
“We came to start this bank 25 years ago, a bunch of us so-called kids at that time, who had grown up in middle-class backgrounds sharing a coke and wearing Bata shoes,” said Aditya Puri. He added that while most of the executive had good jobs in foreign companies there was a passion to create a world-class Indian bank.
“I remember when I was hiring from the broken office in Sandoz House and telling them that if you want to join the best bank in the world, come and join us,” said Puri addressing shareholders.
“When we wanted to start, we did not have the money. So, we went to Kamala Mills and opened our office. When we came back in the morning, the computes would not work as the damn rats had eaten up the cables. We had a situation where initially we used to have our training centres under the trees,” he said. “Thank god we took the decision and we are where we are,” said Puri.
Puri dismissed rumours that the bank was seeing an exodus of senior executives ahead of his exit. According to Puri, the bank’s chief technology officer Munish Mittal had been keen to pursue further studies at Oxford for over a year but had agreed to stick on to complete some milestones. He also said that Abhay Aima group head of private banking had been wanting to quit for two years as he had developed a `Sadhguru kind of relationship referring to spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation. “All our fellows with Bata shoes, with god’s grace, can today live without a job,” said Puri.
Puri acknowledged that the bank’s internal inquiry into its vehicle financing business did throw up personal misconduct by a set of employees for which appropriate action was initiated. “Ashok Khanna being head of the business had also participated in the inquiry process and subsequently superannuated on March 2020,” said Puri.
Speaking on business prospects post Covid, Puri said that there could be moderation in the economy going forward as the pent up demand of the lockdown period loses steam.
According to Puri, to his mind, HDFC Bank always had a successor within the bank. It was now up to RBI to decide on the person from what the bank had recommended to the regulator.
He said that neither HDFC Bank nor its subsidiary HDB Finance had laid off staff adding that there was too much pessimism around Corona. He said that while a section of borrowers had availed moratorium for the first three months in the second round of moratorium, only 6% of the bank’s borrowers by value had availed of a moratorium on their loan repayments.