Newly appointed State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar has his priorities cut out – tackling bad debts which have risen after it absorbed subsidiary banks, and reviving credit growth which has slowed down recently.
"We are already in discussions on how we revive credit growth, how we resolve the (non-performing assets). That discussion, we will try to bring it to a conclusion very quickly. And you will see some changes," he said at a press conference at SBI's Mumbai headquarters, underlining the bank’s priorities.
India’s banks, particularly the state-run, have seen an exponential rise in bad assets in the past years and this has had an impact on their books as well.
However, Kumar said that the bank will not shy away from opportunities to grow, including in infrastructure lending.
Rajnish Kumar said SBI had tackled issues that came as a result of absorbing its subsidiaries and said that asset quality numbers would "look much better than in the past".
The bank, which has more than 40 crore customers, is considering having separate senior executives to deal with stressed assets and lending, to avoid having too many top managers focused on bad debts.
Despite the focus on troubled assets, SBI would continue to chase growth, Kumar said, describing infrastructure lending opportunities as "unlimited".
"There is definitely a change in the underwriting standards... We will be much more cautious," he said.
"Sometimes people equate it with risk aversion - but let me tell you it is not risk aversion. We are still looking for opportunities in financing good infrastructure projects," he said.
Kumar, who takes over on October 7 from Arundhati Bhattacharya, serves as a Managing Director at SBI and has served under various capacities in his 38-year-long career with India’s largest lender.
He will have a three-year term at the helm of State Bank of India.