Rajnish Kumar is said to be the frontrunner among candidates to head SBI

Rajnish Kumar is said to be the frontrunner among candidates to head State Bank of India, the country’s biggest bank, as Arundhati Bhattacharya’s term comes to an end this week.

If selected, Kumar will get a four-year term as chairman and managing director (CMD), according to two senior officials.

“A formal notification is expected shortly,” said one of the officials. Kumar, currently a managing director with the bank, joined SBI as a probationary officer in 1980 and has worked in various departments. He could not be immediately reached for comment. One of the other persons in close contention for the post was said to be PK Gupta, also a managing director of the bank.

Before becoming MD, national banking group, in 2015, Kumar was heading the merchant banking arm of the bank, SBI Capital Markets, as managing director and CEO.

Bhattacharya was chairman of SBI Caps before being appointed chairman and managing director of SBI. The Banks Board Bureau had interviewed all four SBI managing directors for the top position. Apart from Kumar and Gupta, the other two managing directors are B Sriram and Dinesh Kumar Khara.

The new head of the bank will have to lead it through the ongoing resolution of bad loans, while ensuring that it supports growth by stepping up lending. Bad loans are seen as a systemic risk while credit growth is a key element of India’s economic revival strategy.

Appointed in 2013 as the bank’s first woman chairman, Bhattacharya got a one-year extension in October 2016 to maintain continuity as SBI was preparing to absorb five associate banks and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank in April. That was seen as kicking off a much-anticipated wave of consolidation in the public sector banking space.

In 2015, while selecting private sector candidates for five large state-owned banks, the government had offered fixed three-year tenures subject to superannuation at 60. Management reforms in public sector banks were initiated the same year and the post of chairman and managing directorcum-CEO was split except for SBI. Kumar holds a master’s degree in physics, is an avid traveller and a good badminton player, according to the SBI website.

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