J Swaminathan: How a silent banker made it to the RBI

“We need people like him at RBI.” These were the first reactions of CEO of a private bank when the news came out that G Swaminathan or Swaminathan Janakaraman, currently Managing Director of State Bank of India will take over as Deputy Governor of RBI from today. You will know the wallet soon. For the folks at the SBI, this was a sensational announcement that came late Tuesday night, because after a gap of nearly two decades, someone with a long career in SBI has reached the top job at the central bank.

Swaminathan is an employee of SBI. By 1998, he had held management positions at the affiliate levels and by January 2021, he had secured a seat in the big league as an executive director. His strength is what is internally called foreign banking, with rich experience in trade finance in his earlier years. From retail to corporate credit to stressful asset management, he’s pretty much seen it all. In 2019, he assumed the position of Digital Director of the Bank, gaining experience in the digital aspects of banking services. He has also held important roles in SBI affiliates, including YES Bank; The famous rescue happened in March 2020.

“He is a man who is very knowledgeable about the subject matter and likes to be precise with laws and regulations before making any decisions. His strength is his eye for detail,” said one person who worked under Swaminathan until recently.

humble beginning

Fondly referred to as Swami by people closely associated with him, his rise to the top, like most PSU bankers, began as a humble journey. He completed his high school studies from Town Secondary School, Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu) in 1981. Famous mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujam. former Foreign Minister TT Krishnamachari; Shiv Nadar of HCL Technologies; Anand Radhakrishnan of Franklin Templeton are all alumni of this school. Later, in 1984, he graduated in Commerce from Government College, Kumbakonam, University of Madras. Friends and acquaintances say he has kept his humility over the years. At work, whether it is his subordinates or superiors, they encourage him as a team player.

“Even when it comes to getting credit for a job, the Swami always lets his work speak for him, not his words. Even when it comes to getting credit for a job, he puts his team first,” says a former SBI board member. Undoubtedly, his greatest strength is his ability to take his people along with him. The Way Known to be a silent banker, leaders in the banking fraternity feel there could be no better choice for the position of deputy governor.

Next task

Swaminathan will step in at the central bank when the banking sector, fortunately, is not under too much stress. However, an interesting task is set for him – to fine-tune the system and make sure that there is not much room for new problems to arise.

t On several occasions, RBI Deputy Governors and even the Governor himself expressed their discomfort with a certain part of the loans, especially the unsecured ones. The digital lending arena is also undergoing a massive revamp with questions being raised about the sustainable quality of these loans. Can Swaminathan find answers to these questions? It will be interesting to watch how the lending space, particularly in banking, can improve in the coming years.