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10 powerful Indian women who changed the financial industry

Updated On : March 2021

While supporting and celebrating women is an everyday responsibility, International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s to celebrate the achievements of women in various fields globally. It also takes a stand on women’s equality.

Indian women have been breaking barriers and pioneering different industries, the financial industry being one of them. Rising above sexism in workplaces, these women have moved up the ladder with their talent, hard work and intelligence. While we pay tribute to all the women achievers on Women’s Day, we pick these ten amazing women in the world of entrepreneurship and finance who have brought about the much-needed change in the financial landscape.

  • Naina Lal Kidwai

    Naina Lal Kidwai, one of the most powerful women in finance, served as the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India. She is the first woman to guide the functioning of a foreign bank in India. Besides being the first Indian woman to graduate as an MBA from Harvard Business School, she is also a Padma Shri recipient for her contribution in trade and industry.

    As President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Kidwai voiced her opinions on the state of women in India.

  • Arundhati Bhattacharya

    Another powerful woman, the former Chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), Arundhati Bhattacharya, is the youngest and first-ever woman to lead SBI in its over 210-year history. She started her career at SBI as a young probationary officer and over decades worked her way up to reach the top.

    She has taken up different initiatives for women such a starting an internal blog for women employees to share their problems and suggestions. She also initiated a two-year sabbatical policy for her women employees’ needs.

  • Alice Vaidyan

    A very influential person, Alice Vaidyan is the Chairperson-cum-Managing Director of General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re), India's first reinsurance company. She is also the first woman to become the chief of the state-owned enterprise and has over three decades of experience in the Indian insurance and reinsurance industry.

  • Kalpana Morparia

    Kalpana Morparia is ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the fifty most powerful women in international business. She is the CEO of JP Morgan India, the 2.1 trillion dollar American company’s Indian extension. She also serves as an independent Director on the Boards of several leading Indian companies. A graduate in law from Bombay University, Morparia has served on several committees constituted by the Government of India.

  • Shyamala Gopinath

    Shyamala Gopinath who help the position of the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for seven years from 2004 to 2011 joined RBI in 1972 and worked there for nearly 40 years. She held the position of the Non-Executive Chairperson of one of India's leading lenders, HDFC Bank, for three years.

    Gopinath’s forte was liquidity management and regulation and she handled crises, including the Kargil conflict of 1999, liquidity management during the India Millennium Bond redemption in 2000, and the Lehman brothers bankruptcy in 2008.

  • Shikha Sharma

    As CEO and MD of Axis Bank, India’s largest private bank (assets), Shikha Sharma has over 30 years of financial experience. To her credit, after joining Axis Bank, the bank’s stock went up by 90% and its assets grew by 30% in the financial year 2012-13. Shikha Sharma has won various awards, recognising her for her excellent leadership skills.

    In 2012, Sharma won Business World’s Banker of the Year Award, the ‘Woman Leader of the year’ award at Bloomberg-UTV Financial Leadership Awards and ‘Transformational Business Leader of the Year’ at AIMA’s Managing India Awards.

  • Shanti Ekambaram

    Shanti Ekambaram is the president of Consumer Banking of India’s fourth largest bank (market capitalization), Kotak Mahindra Bank. As the President of Corporate and Investment Banking, she was responsible for doubling the profit for the unit in 2012-13 even though the conditions of equity and debt markers were unstable.

    Hailed by Business Today as one of the Most Powerful Women in Indian Business in 2014, she is known for her astute decision-making skills and great leadership in the banking sector.

  • Usha Ananthasubramanian

    The chairperson and MD of Punjab National Bank, Usha Ananthasubramanian is honoured for establishing Bhartiya Mahila Bank by the Finance Ministry of India. Recognised for her achievements with various awards over the years, she has also been repeatedly named in the Fortune global list of Top Women in Business.

  • Ranjana Kumar

    Ranjana Kumar is the first woman to become Chairman and MD of a public sector bank in India. She has served as chairperson and managing director of Indian Bank and executive director of Canara Bank. When she was appointed, the Indian Bank was burdened with huge losses, but she ensured a turnaround of the bank.

    She started her career in the banking sector in 1966 as a probationary officer with Bank of India. Her contribution to institutions like Canara Bank and NABARD is without doubt, huge, but the undeniably important role she played in turning around Indian Bank won her the maximum recognition and acclaim.

  • Archana Bhargava

    Archana Bhargava joined Punjab National Bank (PNB) as a banking officer and after 34 years, joined Canara Bank as an Executive Director (ED) in 2011. In 2013, Archana Bhargava was appointed the MD and CEO of United Bank of India, which was one of the most unenviable tasks in the banking industry. The bank was struggling with rising Non-performing Asset (NPA) that was stunting the bank’s growth. She turned around the bank’s business and got it back on its feet, before leaving the bank in 2015.

    She is often referred to as the turnaround woman of the Indian banking industry.

As with successful women in every sphere, these ten women have hugely contributed to the growth of the financial sector in India and they have become role models for men and women alike. Reinstating the belief that hard work and talent are the key to success and gender has no role to play, they are heralding a nation of strong women out to carve their own spot in the sun.

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