When Shikha Sharma joined Axis Bank in 2009 after almost 30 years at its competitor ICICI Bank, everybody was skeptical about her success in the new role, especially after the legendary PJ Nayak made Axis Bank one of the names to reckon with in the banking industry. Today, after almost 7 years at the helm, Mrs Sharma has already proved her critics wrong by registering a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent along with making the bank a full-fledged financial institution by offering services to both corporate and retail consumers apart from starting consulting and M & A Advisory business for its customers. One of the most conservative yet dynamic CEO of the Indian banking sector has been a hit with the third largest private sector bank in the country after initial hiccups.
Shikha Sharma: The Beginning
Daughter of an army officer, Sharma has always been put on tight leash right from her days at Loreto Convent in Delhi. Later, she studied at Lady Shri Ram College without having much idea about what to do with life after that. She completed her MBA with major in Finance from IIM Ahmadabad which also turned out to be the alma mater of her husband Sanajya Sharma. Sanjaya is a Tata veteran for 33 years now. Sharma has been an ICICI veteran where she joined in 1980 as a management trainee and after that, oversaw a lot of verticals at the bank such as personal finance business, insurance business etc. In 2009, she joined Axis Bank as the MD-CEO after PJ Nayak left the bank.
Shikha Sharma: Qualities that made her what she is today
She is conservative in some aspects still she is dynamic in a lot other aspects. Let us see the leadership skills that made her what she is today.
- Willing to take risks: The leader in her has always been ready to take new risks in life as well as in her business decisions. She spearheaded the business of ICICI Prudential which ventured into the Indian market after the market liberalization in 2000 for the insurance sector. Again in 2009, she decided to take the plunge out of her comfort zone in ICICI Bank.
- Willingness to learn: According to her own admission, she is always willing to learn and she does not have any ego when it comes to learning new things from others. This attitude has helped her learn new things wherever she has gone starting from her joining the ICICI Bank in 1980 as a management trainee.
- Work-life balance: It has been a milestone of her life since she married her batch mate at IIM-A in 1982 and she always makes it a point to come back to her family at the end of the day. She takes care of her kids – a son and a daughter – as any other mother will do. One example is that she decided to learn classical music by her own when she wanted her children to learn the same.
- Entrepreneurial Skills: The entrepreneur in her has always made it a point to support new businesses and also build new businesses. Her colleagues have always wondered about this quality of hers despite being at the helm of the third largest private sector of the country after ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.
- A Focused woman: Shikha Sharma is a focused woman with a mission as she says that she tries to understand the nuances of something but once she decides something, she goes on despite all the problems. It is this focus that has made her wait for all the hurdles that she faced while acquiring Enam Securities.
- Business Acumen: The daughter of the army officer has been always a lady with the business acumen required to start and sustain a business. She has made all the right decisions starting from expanding the reach of the bank after taking its charge in 2009.
- One of the Highest Paid Bank CEOs in India: Shikha Sharma, in the past financial year received a 28 per cent hike in her remuneration to Rs 5.50 crore a year.
Shikha Sharma: Awards for the Lady
The hard-nosed businesswoman has won many accolades in her illustrious career with both ICICI as well as Axis Bank. The contributions have been recognized many times during her career:
- She has received the Banker of the Year award in 2014-15 by Business Standard
- In 2013, she received the India’s Best Woman CEO by Business Today.
- She has been a member of the RBI’s Technical Advisory Committee as well as the Financial inclusion committee and also the Financial Services committee on low-income households.
- Shikha Sharma is the chairperson of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Committee on banking for the year 2015-16.
- Under her governance, the bank has received the best bank in corporate governance by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India in 2015.
Many say that Shikha Sharma left ICICI because she lost the top job to Mrs Chanda Kochchar but she says that she wanted to go out of her comfort zone and try something new even after three decades of her career in the financial sector. This is the attitude that has made her one of the role models of the Indian financial sector as well as for the young and aspiring women who want to make it big in life. She has done it despite hailing from a middle class background and many others can also do the same.