Is State Bank of India a tougher gig than the World Bank?

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Anshula Kant’s background at SBI means that she is uniquely prepared for her new job.

Anshula Kant_780
Anshula Kant moves from State Bank of India to become CFO of the World Bank


To most people, being appointed CFO of the World Bank would bring a level of complexity and nuance far beyond any role they’d ever previously held.

For Anshula Kant, we’re not entirely sure that’s the case.

Kant was appointed managing director and CFO of the World Bank Group by president David Malpass on July 12, becoming the first woman to hold the post.

Kant joins from State Bank of India, where she has worked since 1983 in a host of different roles, most recently as CFO, and also managing director in charge of stressed assets, risk and compliance.

Which is the bigger job? The World Bank, as the multilateral’s multilateral, clearly has the international scale and influence and the political complexity that comes with having 189 member countries.

Quirks

But State Bank of India is not exactly a walk in the park. It’s not just its size – $38 billion of revenues, total assets of $500 billion and more than 250,000 employees. It’s the particular SBI quirks: the fact that it attempted a seven-sided merger simultaneously during Kant’s watch, that it has thousands of customers who cannot read or write well enough even to determine the number on a banknote, or the fact that it has had to write off over R1 trillion of loans in two years just to purge its accounts of legacy bad debts.

There are few places requiring greater tact and balance than SBI, which is at once a state-owned entity with a strong social inclusion mission, and a listed enterprise that is expected to be profitable for shareholders. And there are few better proving grounds for the World Bank than having navigated SBI.

As its former chair Arundhati Bhattacharya told us: “Challenges and advantages are two sides of the same coin.”