An old hand in Indian banking will head the new BRICS bank

It’s gonna be a big one.
It’s gonna be a big one.
Image: Reuters/Stringer
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Kundapur Vaman Kamath is no stranger to high-profile assignments.

The 67-year-old is the non-executive chairman of India’s second largest bank by asset size, ICICI Bank, and India’s third largest IT firm, Infosys.

Now, Kamath will have another position to tend to: The first head of the BRICS bank.

Announced in July 2014, the BRICS bank is a partnership between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS). The $100 billion development bank will be based in Shanghai, according to its founding agreement, and will be headed by an Indian for the first five years, followed by a Brazilian and then a Russian.

Cometh the hour, Kamath the man

Born into a family that was engaged in the roof tiling business, Kamath studied engineering at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Surathkal, before graduating from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, in 1971.

He started his career just after graduation, at age 24, with the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India Limited (ICICI), then a joint venture between the government of India and the World Bank, then moved to work at the Asian Development Bank in 1988. In 1996, he returned to ICICI Bank, a subsidiary of ICICI Limited that was set up in 1994, as its CEO and managing director.

Over a decade later, when he finally retired in 2009, ICICI Bank had become a darling among investors and India’s second-largest bank by asset size and market capitalisation.

In 2011, he was appointed the chairman of Infosys, after the company’s founder NR Narayana Murthy left office. Kamath is also known to have deep ties in corporate India and at one point was the official mediator in a fight between brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani of the Reliance group.

What is the BRICS bank?

In July 2014, the heads of the BRICS countries agreed to set up a new development bank. The bank’s $100 billion capital—with an initial subscribed capital of $50 billion that will be equally shared by all BRICS memberswill be used for infrastructure financing and sustainable development project funding within the BRICS nations. Other low- and middle-income countries will be able to access loans.

In February this year, India’s cabinet, headed by prime minister Narendra Modi, approved the establishment of the bank, after founding members sorted out several contentious issues. ”The New Development Bank will mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development,” the Indian government said in a statement.

The bank, according to the Russian finance ministry, is expected to be fully functional by the end of 2015.