Kotak Mahindra Bank’s board has engaged consulting firm Egon Zehnder to lead a global search for a chief executive officer to replace its billionaire founder Uday Kotak, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Group presidents and whole-time directors Shanti Ekambaram and KVS Manian are the internal candidates for the top job, according to the people. The board is expanding the search to ensure it finds suitable external candidates, they said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.

A representative for Kotak Mahindra Bank declined to comment, while a representative for Egon Zehnder didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Uday Kotak has been leading the bank since its inception as a non-banking financial institution in 1985. It became a commercial lender in 2003. Kotak Mahindra Bank had 1,752 branches across India as of the end of 2022. Uday Kotak has a net worth of about $13.4 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The billionaire banker will transition from his CEO position by the end of next year, after central bank guidelines capped tenures for Indian business heads. His son Jay Kotak is not a contender for CEO, Manian had said in an interview in November.

Internal candidates

Ekambaram joined Kotak Mahindra Bank in 1991 and is now its highest-ranking woman. She oversees several functions including online saving accounts business, treasury, public affairs and human resources, the bank’s website shows. She continues to lead its consumer banking.

Manian, who joined in 1995, is part of the group management council, heading wholesale banking and wealth management business. He also has oversight responsibility of investment bank and institutional equities businesses.

Growth plans

Like its peers, Kotak Bank has ambitious growth plans to harness the opportunities from the expansion of the Indian economy, even as it grapples with the changes brought on by technology to conventional banking models.

The bank’s net income jumped by 31 per cent to ₹2,790 crore in the quarter ended December, backed by strong demand for credit in India. It is also exploring a minority sale in its general insurance business, Bloomberg News has reported. It acquired micro-finance company Sonata Finance this month.