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BW Businessworld

Taking On Challenges

Shikha Sharma has kept her focus on growing Axis Bank’s retail franchise and has proved to be an excellent manager of change

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Over a career spanning many illustrious decades, Shikha Sharma has won many an awards and recognition to her contribution to the world of finance and banking. Now as the CEO and MD of Axis Bank, the country’s third largest private sector bank, Shikha has proved adept at managing change and driving new growth initiatives on the retail banking front.

In the past few years, she focussed on strengthening the retail lending franchise at the same time enlarging its investment banking and advisory capabilities. Now she also overseeing the slew of payment products and foraying aggressively into digital initiatives.

Lately, the bank ran into NPA problems, but Sharma focussed on building the retail banking business, continuously launching new products for the retail consumer, including home loans.

Back in her early career, Sharma was hand-picked to head the life insurance division of ICICI when it became the first private-sector bank to get a license for insurance. She since then made it the largest private-sector life insurance company in India and was its director till April 2009 (as also independent director, ACC, from December 2006 to May 2009).

Born to an Army officer, discipline helped her career, as she carved a niche in the male-dominated financial world, considering every job as a challenge. No wonder then that she was almost unanimously chosen CEO of Axis Bank. She also has a post-graduate diploma in software technology from the National Institute of Software Technology, Mumbai.

She is one of two women to helm private banks in India.

Besides, since 2015 she has chaired the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Committee on Banking. She has been a member of the RBI’s Technical Advisory Committee and on its panel on Financial Inclusion, and its Committee on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Businesses and Low-Income Household. She was co-chair of The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)’s Banking & Financial Institutions Committee 2013-15 and is a member of Visa’s Senior Client Council for APCEMEA (Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa).

Beginning her career with The Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI) in 1980, after graduating from IIM, Ahmadabad, Shikha Sharma has more than three decades’ experience in the financial sector. Her 29-year tenure with the ICICI group, saw the setting up ICICI Securities, a joint venture of ICICI and JP Morgan, besides various group businesses, including investment banking and retail finance.

Deputed to J.P Morgan, in 1997 she rejoined ICICI as General Manager, Strategic Planning and Development. In 1998, she became MD, ICICI Personal Financial Services, being instrumental in setting up the bank's personal financial services business. Here, she launched an innovative micro insurance cover of $1 a month for poor people in India.

In acknowledgement, Harvard Business School has published in 2013 a case study on 'Managing Change at Axis Bank'.