It was celebration time once again for India’s bankers. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was giving away the FE Best Banks Awards, 2016, now in their
19th year, at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. Cheering the winners was a large and distinguished gathering of bankers and businessmen.
HDFC Bank managing director Aditya Puri took home the award for lifetime achievement, the youngest ever recipient to do so. Past winners who have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to banking and finance include former Reserve Bank of India governors YV Reddy and C Rangarajan.
His mantra for success, Puri said, after receiving a standing ovation, was to keep the business simple and stay away from undue risk. In his inimitable style, Puri also advised his fellow bankers not to forget to maintain a work-life balance. Kotak Mahindra Bank Executive Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Uday Kotak and IndusInd Bank Managing Director Romesh Sobti were adjudged Banker of the Year for 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively. State Bank of India and Bandhan Financial Services walked away with the awards for special initiative in the field of financial inclusion. There were other prizes too, across a spectrum of categories, for the most profitable lender, the strongest one and the one that grew the fastest. Among those that bagged awards were Citibank, Deutsche Bank , Bank of Baroda and IndusInd Bank.
Ahead of the presentation ceremony, the Finance Minister observed in a candid conversation that the government would do everything in its powers to bring to book errant promoters. Jaitley said the government would see to it that loans were repaid by defaulters and legal action would be taken if necessary. Meanwhile,
with the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) getting a head soon, a decision on the creation of a stressed asset fund to buy bad loans would be taken, the FM said.
Earlier Viveck Goenka, Chairman & Managing Director, The Express Group, welcomed the guests and spoke on how disruptive technology was challenging the banking space. Later in the evening, a panel explored the same theme in a debate — Fintech: partner or disruptor. Kotak Mahindra Bank deputy managing director Dipak Gupta, IDFC Bank managing director and CEO Rajiv Lall, IndAsia Fund Advisors Chairman Pradip Shah, and Fino Paytech MD and CEO Rishi Gupta were convinced the unified payments interface (UPI), together with other digital applications and processes, had combined to give finance its WhatsApp moment. There could be gainers on both sides, they believed —banks and fintechs — though who these would be remained to be seen. It was evident, however, that all lenders would need to tailor their strategies to the digital environment. It was time to raise a toast to the achievers.