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Kotak Mahindra Bank Founder Uday Kotak Looks Ahead After Nearly Four Decades At Helm

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This story appears in the October 2023 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of India’s Richest 2023. See the full list here.

In early September, veteran banker Uday Kotak announced that he was stepping down as managing director and CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank with immediate effect, four months ahead of his scheduled retirement. In a handwritten letter addressed to the bank’s chairman, Kotak, 64, explained that with two other senior veterans also due to retire in December, he was moving on to ensure stability and a smooth transition.

“At the end of the day, the institution is more important than any individual,” says Kotak by phone. He remains the bank’s single largest shareholder and retains a board seat as a non-executive director. Meantime, the bank has named the joint managing director as the interim managing director and CEO for two months, and is awaiting regulatory approval for one of two individuals shortlisted as potential successors.

Kotak’s retirement was triggered by the Reserve Bank of India’s 2021 rule capping the tenure of a founder-CEO at 15 years. Kotak, who had by then spent 18 years running the bank, already had RBI’s permission to complete his term until December 2023.

The banker, No. 15 on this year’s list with a net worth of $13.4 billion, hails from a commodities-trading family. He started Kotak Mahindra as a small finance firm in 1985, roping in Anand Mahindra, from the storied automotive Mahindra clan, as a partner. (Mahindra, No. 90 with a $2.6 billion fortune, retains a tiny stake in the bank.) Inspired by investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, which he went on to partner with, Kotak secured a much-prized banking license in 2003.

Today, the bank has a market cap of $42 billion, assets of $78 billion and close to 1,800 branches across the country. Kotak now operates out of his private office not far from the bank’s headquarters in Mumbai’s suburban financial district. His older son, Jay, 34, a Harvard Business School grad, is vice president at the bank as co-head of digital banking. As for the future, Kotak says: “It’s a blank canvas. I’ll figure out how to paint it over time.”

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