Mumbai: HDFC Bank has identified three contenders to succeed CEO Aditya Puri, two people aware of the matter said. They include Sashidhar (Sashi) Jagdishan and Kaizad Bharucha, both executive directors of the bank, and Sunil Garg, global CEO of Citi Commercial Bank. The candidatures will be discussed at a board meeting on April 18, said one of the persons cited above.

“The nomination and recruitment committee (NRC) of the board has already shortlisted these three names with the help of global executive search firm Egon Zehnder and this will be placed before the board this week,” the person said. “The plan is to send the recommendations to the RBI before April end.”

In response to ET’s query, HDFC Bank said it doesn’t comment on market rumours as a matter of policy.

Email sent to Sunil Garg did not elicit a response.

Puri, 69, is credited with building the bank from scratch since its 1994 inception and turning it into a financial giant with a balance sheet size of nearly ₹14 lakh crore. His term will end in October 2020.

The bank constituted a six-member search committee last year to find a replacement and appointed Egon Zehnder to assist in the hunt. Puri, who has more than 40 years of experience in the banking sector, is an advisor to the search committee.

‘Recommendations with Search Panel’

Puri said on a recent media call that an announcement on his successor is likely to be made soon.

“The recommendations are with the search committee and before April an appropriate person who will take the bank to the future will be announced,” he had said.

There has been speculation over whether his successor will be from within the bank or outside. In an interview with ET in February, Puri said that the board acknowledges the contributions of insiders to the evolution of the bank.

“I believe that this theory (of favouring insiders) has a lot of merit,” said Puri. “Obviously, we know whoever is within the organisation. If a lot of them have created a $100 billion franchise, they must be competent. The board also acknowledges that we have very strong internal candidates. But there were some people who felt that we should also look at external candidates so that we won’t miss out on anyone.” The bank reshuffled top management roles and named Jagdishan as a “change agent” in August last year, making him head of all important portfolios at the bank. This was seen as a signal that he might be Puri’s successor if the board chose an internal candidate. Kaizad Bharucha, another HDFC Bank veteran, heads the wholesale banking portfolio for the lender.

The lender’s board had recently cleared Jagdishan and Bharucha as executive directors. However, earlier this month, the RBI directed HDFC Bank to keep the appointments in abeyance, saying that the choice of candidates should be left to the incoming chief executive. Garg is a veteran Citibanker and is responsible for its commercial banking business, which has about 50,000 clients in 24 countries.

The regulator recently revised its guidelines on how recommendations for private sector bank heads are made. As per the new rules, proposals for the appointment of managing directors and CEOs of banks should include a panel of at least two persons in the order of preference and should be submitted at least four months before the expiry of the term of office of the incumbent.

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