The Power Women

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The Power Women
The Power Women

As women continue to scale newer heights in every field, we write an ode to 20 great women in the Indian financial sector. By Nirmala Konjengbam, Aparajita Gupta and Deepika Asthana

Usha Sangwan MD, LIC of India

Sangwan is the first ever woman Managing Director of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). A Post Graduate in Economics, Post Graduate Diploma holder in Human Resource Management and licentiate from Insurance Institute of India, she joined the company as Direct Recruit Officer in 1981. Since then, Sangwan has worked in all core areas of life insurance and her expertise lies in analytics, strategy, execution, people skill, customer centricity, use of technology (particularly in marketing and servicing) and setting up of systems. At LIC, she is instrumental in starting direct marketing channel, SMS-based helpline, online sales of policies, app-based services and social media promotions. Further, she has institutionalised many corporate communication activities and taken several initiatives in marketing, to create role model agents in every branch.

Vani Kola Managing Director (MD), Kalaari Capital

Vani Kola is a renowned investor and a visionary known for identifying emerging markets. Under her leadership, Kalaari Capitals is committed to promote Indian entrepreneurs with the conviction that Indian companies are poised to become global players. Having been a successful entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley for 22 years, she now works with first-time entrepreneurs to build strong global companies. She focuses on technology companies, leveraging domestic growth to create high-growth enterprises. Kola has successfully led investments in sectors like e-commerce, telecom, education and healthcare. She said, “The notable successes in the venture capital space in last 20 years were MakeMyTrip, Flipkart, Myntra and Freecharge. Healthtech, consumer brands, mobile content and entertainment, agritech and fintech are the sectors that are likely to grow in the near future.”

Roopa Kudva,  MD, Omidyar Network India

In her role, Kudva leads the organisation’s overall investment strategy, operations and portfolio development. She helps Omidyar Network manage and develop its India-based portfolio across core initiatives. Prior to coming on board at Omidyar Network, Kudva spent 23 years with CRISIL where she served as its MD and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She led CRISIL’s transformation from being India’s premier rating agency into a diversified global analytical company. Kudva also worked for S&P’s Paris office, as director, financial institutions ratings. Kudva holds a postgraduate diploma in management from IIM, Ahmedabad.

Swati Kulkarni Executive Vice President and Fund Manager – Equity, UTI AMC

Kulkarni  has a professional experience of 32 years, of which for the last 26 years, she has been with Unit Trust of India AMC. She was appointed in her current role in 2004. Prior to this, she was a part of the fund management team involved in analysing companies across sectors and has handled mutual fund research, market research, product reviews and quantitative analysis. “For last 32 years, my association with this fund has been like a dream. First 20 years, as an investor and the last 12 years, both as an investor and as a portfolio manager. I feel fortunate to be a participant and a contributor in this wealth creation journey,” she said.

Archana Hingorani  Founder & Managing Partner, Siana Capital Management

Hingorani has over 30 years of experience in the asset management business, teaching and research. She is the Founder of Siana Capital Management, an asset manager focused on encouraging science and technology related investments in India, and currently serving as its Managing Partner. Prior to that, she was a Founding Member of the IL&FS private equity practice and worked there until 2017. She has served on 20 plus boards in the past, including their corporate governance, compensation and audit committees.  “Entrepreneurs in turn have grasped the potential for better growth through these channels, as well as the need to be accountable for performance. Newer asset classes focusing on infrastructure, real estate and distressed assets and newer investment formats such as crowd funding and alternative investment funds (AIF)have all added to the depth of this asset class. From a few hundred million market size in the 90s, in 2017 alone, the deals transacted crossed $25 billion.” she said.

Zarin Daruwala CEO, Standard Chartered Bank, India

A qualified chartered accountant and company secretary with over 25 years of experience in investment banking, Daruwala is currently the CEO, Standard Chartered Bank, India. She took over the role on November 18, 2015. At ICICI, she worked in various departments including resources, investment banking, corporate planning and corporate banking. She served as the Group Executive of Wholesale Banking at ICICI Bank since 2010. She was also the Non- Executive Director of ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company Limited since October 18, 2010 until January 5, 2016. She had also served as an Independent Director of ICICI Securities until February 24, 2016.

Roshi Jain,  Vice President, Portfolio Manager - Equities , Franklin Templeton AMC (India)

Jain is the portfolio manager for Franklin Build India Fund, Franklin India High Growth Companies Fund and Franklin Asian Equity Fund. Also she is the Co-portfolio Manager for Franklin India Bluechip Fund. Starting her career in 2001, she joined Franklin Templeton in 2005. Prior to that, she worked as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs. A chattered accountant and chartered financial analyst, she serves as an Assistant Vice President, Equities Research Analyst, and Co-Portfolio Manager at Franklin Templeton Asset Management (India) and its various funds. She is responsible for providing research support on cement, construction, engineering, retail and power sectors for India and Association of Southeast Asian Nation.

Radhika Gupta CEO, Edelweiss Asset Management Company

With an enormous experience in both global and local market, Gupta has handled wide range of products that included asset classes, investor segments, and investment management and distribution. She started her career at McKinsey & Company, and then was a hedge fund manager with AQR Capital. Later, she moved to India to start Forefront Capital Management, an alternative asset management firm, which was acquired by Edelweiss in 2014. Gupta built one of India’s most prominent public market alternatives businesses at Edelweiss, and also led Edelweiss’s acquisition of JP Morgan’s mutual fund business and Ambit Capital’s AIF business in 2016.  In 2017, she was appointed as the CEO of the company.

Gupta says, “Mutual funds have a solution for every investment requirement and there will come a time, not too far in the future, when they will become a core investment product for all investors.”

Anju Chhajer Debt Fund Manager, Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management

Chhajer joined Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management in October 2007 as a debt fund manager. A chartered accountant with an experience of over 16 years in the financial services sector, she manages investments for debt schemes at the firm. Prior to this, she worked in the Treasury Operations Department at National Insurance and managed the debt investment portfolios of the firm. Her earlier stint was from 1997 to 2007, where she used to manage the debt investment portfolio of the company. Prior to that, she was employed at Dharewa and Company. Chhajer says, “Indian investors have been historically investing in non-financial assets like real estate and gold. Over the last couple of years, investment behaviour has changed. The share of physical assets in overall household savings has come down from highs of 70 per cent in FY 2013 to 58  per cent in FY 2017, thanks to demonetisation and formalisation of the economy. The preferred investments in financial assets have been predominantly in the  form of cash or in fixed deposits with banks and post offices (52 per cent), life insurance policies (25 per cent) and pension and provident funds (22 per cent). These instruments, though safe, do not beat inflation consistently.”

Lakshmi Iyer, CIO of Debt and Head of Products, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company

Iyer is the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of Debt and Head of Products at Kotak and was previously a Senior Vice President, Head of Fixed Income Products, Portfolio Specialist, and Fund Manager. She joined the firm on November 1, 1999. From 1999 to 2006, she was responsible for credit research as well as deal execution, managing fund performance across all debt funds, and assisting sales in client interaction. From September 2006 till September 2008, she was heading products where her primary responsibilities were product-related initiatives, pricing, and coordinating with the funds management and sales team. Since September 2008, Iyer is heading the fixed income and products team. As a fund manager, she was responsible for credit research as well as deal execution, managing fund performance across all debt funds and assisting sales in  client interaction.

Usha Thorat Former Deputy Governor,  RBI

After a distinguished service of nearly four decades with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Thorat retired as its Deputy Governor, a post that she held for four-five years. As the Deputy Governor, Thorat’s responsibilities comprised banking regulation and supervision, currency management and also overseeing rural and urban cooperative banks. Thorat also played a pivotal part in RBI’s developmental role in facilitating inclusive growth pertaining to SME, rural credits and financial inclusion.

Other important positions held by Thorat during the same period, include Chairperson of the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran, member on Board of SEBI and Director on the Board of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Sunaina daCunha, Fund Manager, Aditya Birla Sun Life Asset Management

As a part of the fixed income team at the firm, daCunha handles credit risk funds, liquid funds, mid-term plans and saving funds. Prior to this, she worked at Aditya Birla Management Corporation as a Management Trainee. She is a chartered financial analyst, who has over 13 years of experience in the financial sector.

Rekha M.Menon, Chairperson and Senior MD, Accenture in India

In her role, Menon is responsible for building Accenture’s business, strengthening and enhancing its profile in India with a long-term vision. A thought leader and an industry influencer, Menon is responsible for forging and maintaining relationships with key external stakeholders. She joined Accenture in 2004, and since then held several strategic and leadership roles. In her last two roles, she was the lead for geographic operations for India, Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Asia-Pacific delivery centres, and Human Resources lead for Accenture’s growth markets. Vocal about her social concerns, she is engaged in Accenture’s Inclusion and Diversity and Corporate Citizenship initiatives - an active advocate for giving back to society and improving the way the world lives. Widely acclaimed and recognised across industries for her work, Menon has 25 years of experience in her  field.

Kaku Nakhate, Country Head, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (India)

President and Country Head at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, India, Nakhate is responsible for building a market-leading franchise in the country, and overseeing its strategy and direction. Born in 1967, she went on to earn a degree in management from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in 1988, after completing her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Poddar College under Mumbai University. Nakhate started her career in 1989 with DSP Merrill Lynch and by the time she left the organisation in 2009, she was already the Head of Global Markets. After DSP Merrill Lynch, she joined JP Morgan as Vice Chairperson where she was in charge of equities, equity derivatives, futures and options, and world securities services franchises in India. After Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch globally in 2010, Nakhate was offered the position to head its India operations. Nakhate is currently a member of the National Executive Board of American Chamber of Commerce and Chairperson of its western chapter.

Vibha  Padalkar, MD and CEO, HDFC Standard Life Insurance


Prior to this, Padalkar was the Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of HDFC Life since August 2008. With over 10-year experience at HDFC Life, she heads finance, legal, secretarial and compliance and internal audit and risk functions, as well as oversight of pension subsidiary, HDFC Pension. During the year, she has taken additional responsibility of hub operations, claims and payouts, underwriting and medical operations.

Earlier, she was associated with WNS Global Services, Colgate Palmolive (India) and with PricewaterhouseCoopers.  She says, “The perception that life insurance is a complicated product has been changing – slowly but surely. It is a must have for every individual and as insurers, we need to ensure that the reach of the product increases and it is made available in a convenient manner. Technology has contributed, in a big way, to make this possible.”

She also has worked in varied sectors such as business process outsourcing and FMCG.

Alice G Vaidyan Chairperson-cum-MD, General Insurance Corporation

Vaidyan is the first woman officer to hold this post at General Insurance Corporation and also the first woman in the post in the public-sector insurance industry (non-life), under Ministry of Finance in India. With an experience of over 30 years in the insurance and reinsurance industry, Vaidyan has been holding this position since January 23, 2016.  She has also served as its CFO and its General Manager. She had joined the public sector general insurance industry as a direct recruit officer in 1983 with The New India Assurance Company. A Harvard Business School graduate, Vaidyan is a Fellow of the Insurance Institute of India. She is also on the boards of Life Insurance Corporation of India, ECGC, Kenindia Assurance, Indian Register of Shipping, GIC Housing Finance, and others. She is also a member of the Council of Asian Reinsurance Corporation, Bangkok and International Insurance Society, US.

Yaquta  Mandviwala,Partner, Bain & Company


Mandviwala leads Bain India’s Customer Strategy and Marketing Practice. Her work is focused on helping companies to make decisions in terms of business strategy, innovation, organisation, sales and marketing and private equity. Passionate about driving customer-led growth and a customer-oriented culture in organisations, she has worked with clients in diverse sectors. She has close to 15 years of experience with more than 10 years in management consulting across India, Europe and Africa. Working along with leadership teams in some of the largest businesses in India, Mandviwala has led multi-year engagements driving changes on the ground and delivering results. She said, “India is fundamentally a growth story. Few countries can boast of the kind of GDP growth we are witnessing. Needs and aspirations of India’s next 200 million consumers will shape the business models of the future.” Mandviwala has an MBA from IIM Calcutta. (Sources: Company websites, Bloomberg) nirmala@outlookindia.com,  aparajita@outlookindia.com, asthanad@gmail.com

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