Monday, October 6, 2008

The Sarah Palins of ICICI bank

The current banking turmoil has been especially hard on western female bankers who had built stylish little careers and lifestyles wafting cluelessly amongst less pretty male counterparts.

..but alas, style and intelligent sounding drivel only works in bull markets when quite a few bankers are diagnosed with abnormally large brain cells that explains their enhanced financial acumen.. and such visions somehow evaporate at the end of bull markets.

Lovelies such as Erin Callan, Zoe Cruz, Sallie Krawchek.. are sorely missed for their exceptional skills, strategic vision and grasp of this faltering sector.. but even more for objective reasons.

Let us be clear.. these stylish things are confined to the banking world and their skirts have graced no trading seats except as talented "managers" of trading teams and stunning, exciting meetings they presided over. It was all very very stimulating.

Luddic Research reports an interesting analysis of the factors that make women get raises (and in turn makes them rise) in Wall Street's "high" finance and present a convincing argument how Sarah Palin would undoubtedly have risen far above three and possibly higher because of her (GodBlessHer) disconnect from reality and simple questions.. also her "doggone it" style would make it virtually impossible to fire or demote her.. since his decisions were mostly God's will.. and there is a litter of five(and a sixth derivatve) to feed..

But she has the rallyTheTroops talents to boldly make Grand asinine decisions and megalo visions that would put many a banker to shame.

Coming back to our local banking femmes, who though severely looks challenged have nevertheless dutifully tried to grace the financial pages with their vision and grasp of the banking /financial exploits and achievements.

Few months back Luddic Research had identified ICICI bank as a worthy torchbearer of the Great Indian DRIP Story that would eclipse the BRIC folly in short order .

There was this truly gifted leader KV Kamath of many talents and evergreen matinee idol looks who by some strange twist ended up running a bank instead of singing/ dancing around trees in romantic Bollywood musicals.

As expected, not one to let dull banking offices dim his magnetic attractiveness, he quickly embarked upon a mission to surround himself by female managers of all hues and their vision to think beyond their makeup and saris. It greatly helped that the bevy of financial birds surrounding his jet black hair added zest to all official gatherings, conferences and Industry meets that this visionaries from ICICI came to spend most of their waking hours gracing.. sure beat dull number crunching back in the cubicle.

So the growth trajectory of ICICI was clearly dominated by market share/growth/ think Big kind of excitement that just saw opportunity in any thing that walked or had a pulse .The game was to grow so fast and furiously that the nobody could ever calculate how much bad loans, capitalized expenses , NPAs etc. were buried under the ever piling books.
.. the rate of growth had to ensure nobody within the bank(much less a regulator or analyst) would ever be able to figure out the real profit (using the term very loosely) since inception.

This bank quickly caught the fancy of young and old, big and small, native and foreign.. wow.. what a growth trajectory and, what a visionary (and youthful) management team..The Indian growth story soon became synonymous with this bank and its conspiciously feminine Generals who rushed in where male bankers feared to lend.

The assortment of Chanda Kocchars, Kalpana Morparias, Renuka Ramanathans and such became household legends in this country for their far reaching insights and ability to shovel cash out into the countryside..

The corporate strategy meetings were fairly brief and everyone was totally on the same page:
.. mostly a session of complementing the management on their looks , jewelry and dresses(where did you get that.. very pretty!!) was towards the end punctuated with the agenda..
..OK that's decided now 12,000 new ATMs this year, 4500 new branches this KingFisher airlines to go global (airlines are the best users of our cash, we loooove Vijay Mallya .. he's dashing and dashes we couldn't find a bigger lemon than this airlines) .. lend to every car, house, salaried, two wheeler, Freddie, Fannie, Lehman , Builder, Construction company, SME this country has or if the growth targets falling short .. create these borrowers from the country side.. India is woefully under borrowed.

.. it got to a point that if anyone in the world (yes word got out) wanted to borrow and had difficulty answering some fairly simple questions .. he knew some ladies in India who had growth plans to match and cash to burn.. all he needed to do was answer some fairly simple questions at Sarah Palin's altitude and walk out with the cash.

Small wonder the bank seems to be involved in "offshore subsidiaries" who seem to have a little subPrime problem..

.. and the bank seem to be holding realEstate assets and such loans (at cost ofcourse) that reach into the furthest corners of the India.

..and the bank seems to have millions of lovely grass roots type of two wheeler and small loans which will likely pass on to next generation of original borrowers(and collection agents) before fully repayment.

.. and of course the housing loans book of ICICI bank across the country to strictly deserving applicants has proudly been hailed as the single biggest reason for unlocking the value in the Indian Real Estate sector which had for previous 50 years remained locked and hidden .

But sadly , the current turmoil has not gone down well in the envisaged growth plans of the Bank and unless quickly rectified by large Govt. bailouts, threatens to reveal certain accounting gymnastics at ICICI that could quickly disturb the composure and the hairStyle of KV Kamath.. and the confident noises Ms.Chanda Kocchar has been making to scotch any rumours.

For starters Ms.Kalpana Morparia has hopped across to JP Morgan (good timing surely!) and quickly announced grandiose ICICI style plans for expansion there.. much as in fashion of clueless American firms trying to monetise the enigmatic growth story of India that every one is sure of and can sense but nobody can actually pin it down. (When was the last time a white man actually took some profit out of an "emerging markets" ?.. tho we are not complaining ;)

So as all the other DRIP pillars have wilted these past months .. ICICI in that ingrained, go-getting manner has gone for the floodgates where others merely dripped.

What Kamath missed in his zest for youthful self-image and quest for visionary sounding legacy, was that you just cannot rustle up girls from the countryside and perch them in nice offices in Mumbai to do anything more useful than answering the phone or adding color to offsites.. no matter how debonair your looks or how dark your hair.

As per Luddic Research , the true measure of robust health and vitality in any company ( especially Banking) is inversely proportional to the percentage of top management coloring their hair artificially to bolster market share through misdirected Libido..

..just don't work.

Lastly, there is a rumor gaining ground here that ICICI bank is really an American Bank.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And I thought I was a cynic.....