A Banker for all seasons

Posted on February 16, 2011 | View 1134

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Nagesh Pydah, the CMD of Oriental Bank of Commerce, is among the few bank chiefs who always wanted to be a career banker, unlike some of his peers who stumbled into this profession after graduating in English literature or after obtaining a degree in engineering. 
Nagesh pursued a degree in commerce at Madras University with the single-minded aim of pursuing a career in banking. Son of an army officer, Nagesh started his career as a probationary officer with Bank of India, where he spent the best and the worst time of his professional life. 

As a junior officer, he was posted in New York for four years where he learnt how sophisticated markets operate. While in India, he was in charge of several zones such as Delhi, Hyderabad and even Mumbai, and these postings helped in grooming him in areas such as sourcing credit and managing the credit portfolio. OBC will benefit from the experience that Nagesh gained while working closely as a field officer with S 
Narayanasamy, the former CMD of Bank of India, who is known for taking quick decisions and also with one of best speakers among state-run banks — KR Kamath, CMD of Punjab National Bank, where he was executive director prior to joining OBC. 
Nagesh’s well-wishers say he is very polished and sophisticated, but his critics find him arrogant and aloof at times. The past, no doubt, has changed 
him, is what his friends say.
The past, which they are referring to, relates to Sant Singh Chatwal who had defaulted on loans given by BoI’s New York branch and the case was soon referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Nagesh, who was posted in New York when the loan was sanctioned, was one among the three officials (along with Jagdish Pai ED of Canara Bank) who came under the CBI lens. Insiders from BoI say these officials were investigated on the ground of minor procedural lapses while senior officials who had sanctioned the loan got away. 

The CBI probe continued for seven years — between 1993 to 1999. The bank management generally does not promote officials who are under investigation, owing to fears that if those who are probed are promoted and later found guilty, it would attract negative publicity for the bank.
As a result, he missed a couple of promotion opportunities and was stuck in the post of chief manager for a while.
That changed in 1999, when CBI gave him a clean chit and he was promoted to the assistant general manager’s post.
While Nagesh claims he has emerged as a stronger person, his old colleagues say that this incident has led to his being more detached. His biggest challenge, however, would be to maintain the reputation that his predecessor, TY Prabhu, created for the bank as a very cautious lender.
The second major challenge would be to increase the ratio of low-cost deposits — CASA — which is just one fourth of its total deposit base compared to half the deposit base for SBI and HDFC Bank. 
Interestingly, he is one of the rare bank chairmen who has chalked out plans for life after retirement.
Due to retire in February 2012, Nagesh, who is a firm believer of Radhasoami faith, has been allotted a house at Agra at Radhasoami Dayalbagh where he plans to move, post-retirement. “Transition to retirement is also a challenge,” says Nagesh, who joined OBC this January.

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