It’s a $100 billion encore for Kundapur, Vaman Kamath, who is the first head of the five nation (Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa) bank, officially known as the New Development Bank. Kamath has been credited with transforming the banking industry in India. ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank was founded under Kamath’s leadership in 1994, now commands an asset base of over $100 billion. China made the biggest contribution of $41 billion to the fund while Russia, Brazil and India contributed $§8 billion each. South Africa’s investment was $5 billion.
The New Development Bank is headquartered in Shanghai where Kamath spent a good amount of time during his tenure at Asian Development Bank between 1988 and 1996. The 68-year old banker is affectionately known as ‘KV’ by his friends, began his career in 1971 at ICICI, the erstwhile financial institution that was incidentally set up at the initiative of the World Bank. ICIC Bank was later set up as subsidiary of ICICI Ltd in 1994, while the parent later merged it in 2002. As Chief Executive Officer, he led the group’s transformation into a diversified, technology-driven financial service group that has leadership positions across banking insurance and asset management in India and abroad.
Back in 2008 when ICICI Bank was hit by widespread rumours of ‘run-on-the-bank’, Kamath lead from the front and brought everything back into order, even as hundreds of bank customers were queuing at branches and ATM’s to withdraw funds. Kamath said the rumours were ‘baseless and malicious’.
He retired as Managing Director and CEO in 2009 and became its non-executive chairman. Kamath has a mechanical engineering qualification and an MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. He’s also served on the board of several other companies, including that of IT giant Infosys where he also serves as a non-executive chairman.
A Padma Bushan awardee, Kamath has always been a believer in the India growth story, including during the years of slower growth. Recently too, when some industry leaders including eminent banker, Deepak Parekh, expressed dismay over delay in reforms, Kamath remained confident about deliverables of the new government. He went to the extent of chiding the industry leaders to first set their own houses in order by improving their balance sheets.
Friends, colleagues and other industry leaders have known Kamath as a man of ‘big ideas and numbers’. When the entire world was heading towards a deep meltdown in 2008 – 2009, Kamath continued to exude confidence in the long-term growth potential of the Indian economy, the Indian banking sector and the Indian markets. In an interview with PTI, Kamath had said that he wanted a few Indian banks, including ICICI Bank, to be part of what he called ‘Ivy League of global banks’. He had also forecast that a few banks from China would be part of that league.
Some Chinese banks have indeed made it to the top of the charts globally, although the Indian banks had to cut down their global presence in the recent years due to a slowdown in the world economy.