Mumbai: Arundhati Bhattacharya, the youngest managing director and CFO who had put in more than three decades in State Bank of India, was on Monday appointed its chairperson, creating history by becoming the first woman to head the country's largest lender.

Bhattacharya, 57, succeeds Pratip Chaudhuri, who retired on September 30, and joins a select league of women bankers that include Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank, Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC India and Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank. She will have Allahabad Bank's Shubhalakshmi Panse and Bank of India's VR Iyer as compatriots at public sector banks.

The government announced the appointment of Bhattacharya, who has had a varied experience in SBI in different departments, for a period of three years. This is the first time that an SBI head will get three-year tenure, irrespective of when the person will retire. An SBI statement said Bhattacharya assumed charge as chairperson on Monday.

Bhattacharya, who piped SBI managing directors Hemant G Contractor, A Krishna Kumar and S Vishvanathan to the top post, joined the bank in 1977 as a probationary officer. She has served in various positions, including as head of SBI Capital Markets Ltd, the investment banking unit.

Prior to this, she served as a deputy managing director and corporate development officer at SBI. She has undertaken various assignments spanning credit, foreign exchange, treasury and retail operations. Besides, Bhattacharya had a brief stint at SBI's office in New York.

Bhattacharya's name was finalized for the SBI top job by a search panel comprising financial services secretary Rajiv Takru and Reserve Bank of India deputy governor Anand Sinha in September 2013. The Cabinet Committee on Appointments, headed by Prime Minister, gave its clearance to her name thereafter.

SBI, which has a chairman/chairperson unlike other Public Sector Banks (PSBs) who have a combined post of CMD, has four MDs.

Bhattacharya's elevation leaves one MD post vacant. It also has over a dozen deputy MDs and over 35 chief general managers (CGMs). Bhattacharya, the first woman to head the country's largest lender in its 207-year history, also played an important role in setting up general insurance, custody services and SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund subsidiaries, the SBI statement said.

Her appointment comes at a time when the government is all set to open the country's first bank dedicated for women, Bhartiya Mahila Bank. SBI and its five subsidiaries on Monday control over one-fifth of the nation's banking assets and is the 66th largest bank in the world.

The bank traces its roots to the British era when the English set up Bank of Calcutta in 1806, to be followed by Bank of Bombay in 1840 and Bank of Madras in 1843. In 1921, the British merged all these three banks to form the Imperial Bank of India, based in Calcutta and in 1955, the Nehru government nationalized the Imperial Bank and renamed it as the State Bank of India through an Act of Parliament.


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