JPMorgan ropes in senior ICICI banker as India head

Kalpana Morparia departs ICICI group after a career spanning more than three decades to take on the job of CEO at JPMorgan India.
JPMorgan has appointed veteran ICICI banker Kalpana Morparia as CEO of the firm's Indian operations.

Morparia will head all the firmÆs India businesses which currently comprises investment banking, asset wealth management and treasury and securities services. She will also become a member of JPMorgan's Asia-Pacific executive committee. All India business heads will report to Morparia, while she will report to Gaby Abdelnour, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan, Asia-Pacific.

JPMorgan has been widely expected to appoint someone with a deep knowledge of Indian markets and strong contacts with both corporate clients and regulators, since Dominic Price, the previous country head for India, was transferred to head the US bankÆs business in Vietnam earlier this year. Price headed JPMorgan in India for almost 10 years.

Morparia was most recently vice chairman of the ICICI Group's insurance, asset management and securities companies, as well as chief strategy and communications officer.

Morparia is a veteran ICICI banker who joined the firm in the legal department in 1975. In 1996 she took on responsibility for planning, treasury and corporate communications in addition to legal and in 2001 she became a director of the board of ICICI Bank. Morparia was promoted to deputy managing director in 2004, then joint managing director in 2006. She retired from the ICICI board in June 2007 and was appointed to the vice chairman role of the group companies for a period of five years.

During her 33-year career with ICICI, Morparia was an integral part of the transformation of the firm from a development financial institution into a leading commercial bank, with subsidiary or affiliate companies spanning the gamut of financial services.

ICICI Bank had proposed in March 2007 to set up a wholly owned subsidiary, ICICI Holdings, and transfer its 74% stakes in ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and ICICI Lombard General Insurance, as well as its 51% stakes in Prudential ICICI Asset Management and Prudential ICICI Trust to the holding company.

Morparia was supposed to take over as managing director and CEO of ICICI Holdings with effect from June 2007 and it was widely expected that ICICI Holdings would induct financial investors and then do an initial public offering at the appropriate time. But IndiaÆs banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, had its own views on bank holding companies and the plan has not yet received the necessary approvals. Some specialists feel the holding company not taking off may have contributed to Morparia's decision to pursue an opportunity outside the ICICI group.

As for JPMorgan, bankers in India are not surprised that the US bank has decided to bring in a heavy-hitter to head the business in the country, especially given how intense the competition is becoming for investment banking revenues. In businesses like cash equities, for example, JPMorgan has a large opportunity to grow the franchise and Morparia is expected to help. Large Indian corporates seeking advice for their outbound M&A is now commonplace but bankers also expect deals like the Ranbaxy controlling shareholders cashing out to Daiichi to become more common. Morparia's relationships with a number of Indian companies, forged when she was part of an organisation which was a large lender to their businesses, will be very useful for opening some doors, speculate bankers.

"Ms Morparia offers JPMorgan a tremendous opportunity to accelerate the progress we've made in building our Indian franchise,ö says Abdelnour in a written statement. ôHer appointment is also further evidence of the importance which JPMorgan places on India as a priority within the firm's global growth strategy."
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