20 Jun 2016
Ravi Anand

When vast opportunity and a meritocratic culture are complemented by a robust process for managing talent,  leadership development becomes a success


If you have leadership potential, someone else besides your manager should know you or should have worked with you At ICICI, leadership is defined in terms of conviction to set the agenda and persistence to live through the change whatever the challenges


Chanda Kochhar joined ICICI Ltd as project trainee in 1984. When, within 10 years of joining, she was sent to ICICI Bank as part of the core team to setup the bank, it was clear that she had been chosen for a more ambitious role than her peers. An internal process had been set in motion, whereby she would be provided with more opportunities to build and lead change as a platform for growth and development. Other similar roles would follow -- from infrastructure finance to building the retail business – mostly assignments to grow a business from its inception phase, until she became CEO in May 2009.

With more than 2,500 employees in the Talent Pool, ICICI aims to create a pipeline of eligible talent to cater to all critical jobs in the bank. This does not happen by default but by strategic design. The company puts serious resources, time and effort behind this important activity of identifying and grooming talent. In 2002, the bank started to grow at an accelerated rate and the previous process, which was heavily dependant on the contribution of board members, had begun to look obsolete. “In 2002, on Mr. Kamath’s initiative, we began to set up a leadership development process to cater to a different scale of business. We got ideas and inspiration from practices followed by GE and Unilever - companies that we felt had mastered the art of leadership development”, says Board Executive Director & HR Head, K. Ramkumar. They took the best practices in the industry and tailored a process for Leadership Identification and Development that essentially moved the ‘ownership’ of this key activity from the MD level to a larger group of people. The prime objective of this process was to scale leadership development to a new level and ensure that the organization had enough talent and leaders available from within to execute their ambitious growth strategy.

And the amazing growth of ICICI in this decade and the seeming ease with which they have created new businesses   is evidence enough that the process for creating leaders from within  is working very well indeed. At ICICI, leadership is defined in terms of Conviction - to set the change agenda and Persistence -- to live through the period of change whatever the challenges.


 Conversely, the stopper is defined by actions like promising more than can be delivered. With such precise definitions, the process is able to standardize the seemingly ambiguous task of identifying leadership talent. These definitions are attributes that the core group believes are required of a leader in the organization. Finally, all this information is compiled into a one-page profile which highlights the areas that the panel should be focusing on and gives a cue for potential areas for development.


With around 35,000 employees in ICICI Bank and more than 80,000 across the group, the process of identifying leaders starts with the Performance Management Process. ‘A pre-requisite to be considered part of the talent pool is to consistently be a good performer’, says Ramkumar; only those consistently on the 25% percentile are considered for the talent pool.

The final step is a panel assessment that identifies the aptitude and maturity of the employee’s leadership capabilities. ‘The assessment is a combination of process, technology and intuition. We believe you cannot replace personal judgement in the process of identifying leadership talent,’ says Ramkumar.