Deputy Managing Director (DMD) Hemant Contractor just took his next step on the ladder towards a top job at State Bank of India (SBI). As the new MD and CFO of India's largest bank, Contractor's name, along with another DMD Pratik Chaudhuri's, will be heard more in boardroom whispers than others as a successor to current Chairman OP Bhatt, who retires end March. The interviews for the top post was conducted on 16 December, less than two weeks after Contractor's promoted role was announced.
For infrastructure sectors, this may be good news as Contractor has been heading the corporate and wholesale banking business, and understands the infra business well. Being armed with this quiver may augur well for SBI's corporate lending, and for infrastructure lending, per se. In the first quarter of 2009, this division reinvented itself in a way to keep pace with other competitors in the corporate lending space in the then-crunch market: it developed a set of specialised services such as advisory, collection, capital market related services, treasury products, factoring, custodial services and investment advisory. During that period, Contractor took steps to address the tenure issues in lending. “Normally the credit period is seven years,” he had announced. “But in exceptional cases we have increased it to nine years. However, we are willing to increase it further to 11-12 years on a case-to-case basis to some power projects including the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs).” SBI's strategy in the 2009 financial slowdown was to forge ahead with lending, rather than take the more popular wait-and-watch route.