Kamath hires old comrade to power Jio Fin juggernaut

This is the first big move of K.V. Kamath, recently appointed chairman of Jio Financial Services. Photo: Mint
This is the first big move of K.V. Kamath, recently appointed chairman of Jio Financial Services. Photo: Mint


Manish Singh, a former ICICI Bank executive, is the first lateral hire made by Kamath.

K.V. Kamath, recently appointed chairman of Jio Financial Services, has entrusted a former colleague from ICICI Bank to help build a team for the youngest business under the Reliance conglomerate.

Manish Singh, a former ICICI Bank executive, is the first lateral hire made by Kamath, who was earlier this month appointed as chairman for a five-year term.

Singh, currently based in Abu Dhabi, was the chief human resources officer at the New Development Bank (NDB) from 2016 until last year. NDB (formerly known as Brics bank) is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in Brics countries and other emerging economies. Kamath earlier headed the Shanghai-based bank, and Singh was in his team.

Later, Singh moved on. His last assignment was as chief human resources officer for a financial institution in Abu Dhabi.

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“Kamath is a strong draw for attracting talent," said the first executive, who has worked with both Reliance and ICICI Bank.

“This is the first of the big moves," said a second executive, who is affiliated with an HR consultancy firm. “This is an effort to get experienced retail bankers on board. If it (Jio Financials) takes off, we will see more people from blue chip banks joining the financial services arm," the executive said on condition of anonymity.

Macquarie Research, in a 21 November report titled, The Jio juggernaut—Can it rule the roost?, gave an inkling on the ambitions the RIL group has placed on the new financial services company.

“After demerger, Jio Financial Services (JFS) could be the fifth-largest financial services company in terms of net worth," the report said.

“RIL would transfer 6.1% RIL shares held by its wholly owned subsidiary to JFS. This clearly shows the grand ambitions the group has in financial services," it said.

A rough calculation shows that the 6.1% stake in Reliance Industries is today worth 1,06,579 crore ( 1.06 trillion).

“Hiring a senior HR professional at Jio Financial indicates clearly that HR is no longer a part of share services and they will have a strong say in the building of the business," said the second executive.

“As a policy, we do not comment on individuals joining RIL," a spokesperson for RIL said in response to an email query.

“JFS will differ from most other fintechs, as it will have access to huge amounts of data, gathered from non-financial relationships; it can process and analyse this data in real time to offer financial services similar to Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Also, unlike other fintechs, JFS will have a large balance sheet, not be asset-light and eventually manufacture most product offerings, giving it a significant competitive advantage, in our view," Macquarie said.

Macquarie also hinted that with Kamath at the helm, “JFS’s growth pursuits are likely to be aggressive. Kamath has a legacy of spotting newer markets and opportunities based on his past track record and can scale up JFS’s business verticals."

At the same time, Macquarie said that considering banks have a significant cost-of-funds advantage and the ability to do a lot more business that NBFCs cannot do, JFS’s impact on the banking sector could be a bit more moderate. “We remain positive on HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank in the longer run, and they are our top picks in the sector. Among NBFCs/fintech, BAF (Bajaj Finance) and Paytm could be the most at risk," it said.

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