Shikha Sharma puts up a brave front even as Axis Bank posts record loss

Axis Bank CEO and MD Shikha Sharma showed no signs of inner turmoil as she took the stage to field queries from the press on the company’s quarterly performance, on Thursday.
Axis Bank CEO and MD Shikha Sharma showed no signs of inner turmoil as she took the stage to field queries from the press on the company’s quarterly performance, on Thursday.

Axis Bank’s books were awash in red after massive losses in the March quarter — the first ever quarterly loss in the private sector lender’s history.

The conference was delayed due to the extended board meeting, and Sharma started by apologising. Sharma has not chaired earnings press conferences in a while now. She is rarely present for earnings calls, and the queries from industry watchers would be mostly handled by her deputy and the chief financial officer.

For the past 18 months now, Sharma and Axis Bank have been making headlines regularly, but for all the wrong reasons. It began with demonetisation when some branch officials were found colluding with cash hoarders to help them legitimise their money. Then followed persistent rumours that she was on her way out, and that Axis Bank was being taken over by Kotak Mahindra Bank. The divergence in the quality of assets as pointed out by the RBI also drew bad press