Yes Bank CEO passes sleepless nights for the toughest finance job in India


Yes Bank CEO passes sleepless nights for the toughest finance job in India

As offered the job of rescuing the country’s most troubled private-sector bank, Kumar had little hesitation in accepting the position of chief executive officer of Yes Bank Ltd. The only concern came from his wife, who Kumar says was “shocked” that he had resigned from his safe post at the government-controlled SBI, where he was chief financial officer.

“Confidence of people, customers and even employees was shaken,” Kumar said. “The bank had a large stressed book. It was a very different challenge than handling money at SBI.” Since starting as CEO, Kumar aged 59, has made restoring the faith of Yes Bank’s depositors a priority. The bank suffered an outflow of 1.04 trillion rupees ($13.9 billion) in the six months through March, about half its total.


Kumar set aside an hour a day during the first two months to call depositors to reassure them personally about the bank’s stability. He spoke to about 10-15 of them daily, stressing that Yes Bank now also had the backing of SBI. Kumar said, “The biggest challenge when I joined was to stop the outflow of deposits. For any bank, having a sustainable deposit base is the most critical ingredient.”

The rescue also helped contain deposit outflows at other Indian banks, though the tensions in the Indian financial sector remain elevated. The fiscally constrained government needs to inject capital into state banks to bolster their balance sheets, and private-sector lenders are queuing up to raise new capital from the equity market to face up to an expected surge in bad loans due to the pandemic.


Five months into his new job, Kumar said he’s worked every day, usually doing long hours. He said his sleep has also suffered: He gets about four hours a night.


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