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Banking industry doyen N Vaghul dies at 88

Source: PTI
May 18, 2024 22:50 IST
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Veteran banker N Vaghul, who led the transformation of ICICI into a private sector lender, died on Saturday afternoon due to health complications.

He was 88.

Vaghul took over the reins of ICICI, then a public finance institution, in 1985 and turned it into a universal bank during his 11-year stint at the helm with the help of a young team as the economy liberalised.

He fell down at his Chennai home a few days ago and had to be put on ventilator support at a private hospital, where he breathed his last, sources said.


Vaghul is survived by his wife Padma, son Mohan and daughter Sudha, family sources said, adding that both the children are settled abroad.

The last rites of Vaghul are expected to be held in Chennai on Sunday, according to sources.

Vaghul was honoured with the country's third highest civilian award Padma Bhushan in 2010.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid condolences on the demise, calling Vaghul an eminent banker, team builder and mentor.

Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said Vaghul was a visionary who made huge contributions to India's financial sector.

Vaghul started his career as an officer with the State Bank of India in the pre-liberalisation era of the 1960s and quit the country's largest lender to take up a teaching job at the National Institute of Banking Management.

Within two years, he became the director at the Pune-based institute but returned to banking soon after as an executive director in the state-owned Central Bank of India.

In 1981, he became the chairman and managing director of the Bank of India at 44, becoming one of the youngest heads to steer any state-owned lender.

He was soon tasked as the ICICI CMD, where he led a team of young bankers and oversaw the transformation of the institution into a private sector bank.

K V Kamath, one of his ICICI colleagues, called Vaghul as a mentor and reminisced how he focused on doing something different, innovative and at scale, and executed the same to build the new ICICI.

"He was always supportive and encouraging of all the bold moves that we wanted to execute be it our foray into retail, the setting up of new businesses such as asset management, insurance and the merger of the parent and the bank," Kamath said.

The Madras University graduate, hailing from a rural family, served ICICI till 1996 and took up a slew of assignments in corporate India by serving company boards.

Auto major Mahindra and Mahindra was among the boards he served on.

Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra termed him as the "Bhishma Pitamaha" and called himself blessed to have known him and been guided by him.

Speaking to PTI, one of his family members said, Vaghul's visionary leadership and unwavering dedication have left an indelible mark on all.

Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said Vaghul played a crucial role in the financial sector reforms initiated by Manmohan Singh.

"He left his indelible mark both on public sector and private sector institutions, and will be remembered most for his impactful tenure at ICICI," Ramesh said, adding that Vaghul had an uncanny talent-spotting instinct.

Vaghul played an active role in deepening corporate philanthropy and was deeply associated with bodies like Pratham, which works on education.

At one point, he got industry leaders like Mukesh Ambani, Ajay Piramal, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Gautam Thapar and L N Mittal on the board of Pratham India Education Initiative.

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