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Nachiket Mor: The return of the prodigy

Nachiket Mor will wear the hat of a jury in two key panels constituted by Raghuram Rajan.

Oct 09, 2013, 12.11 PM IST
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Nachiket Mor, the man who ran the treasury, corporate funding, and learnt how a retail customer behaves from his perch at ICICI Bank, will wear the hat of a jury in two key panels constituted by Raghuram Rajan, the man who told a partying Wall Street that the music had stopped long ago.
Nachiket Mor, the man who ran the treasury, corporate funding, and learnt how a retail customer behaves from his perch at ICICI Bank, will wear the hat of a jury in two key panels constituted by Raghuram Rajan, the man who told a partying Wall Street that the music had stopped long ago.
MUMBAI: A farmer’s son from Maharashtra’s backward region of Yavatmal may well hog the limelight as India’s financial sector sets about transforming itself from a state-dominated, urbancentric system into one where social consciousness is as important as performance.

The 49-year-old is not being propelled into pushing the government’s financial inclusion agenda because of his insights into the village economy. His nomination as a member of the financial inclusion committee is due to his knowledge of how Wall Street ruined global finance and what a society like India needs to learn from the mistakes, while at the same time having the good sense to absorb the good side.

Unlike consultants from McKinseys and BCGs who are eager to churn out research on any topic under the sun for a few million dollars, here is a man who could have been the chief executive officer of the nation’s biggest private sector bank, but chose to dirty his hands in the farmland.

Nachiket Mor, the man who ran the treasury, corporate funding, and learnt how a retail customer behaves from his perch at ICICI Bank, will wear the hat of a jury in two key panels constituted by Raghuram Rajan, the man who told a partying Wall Street that the music had stopped long ago.

“He straddles many worlds,” says Rajan. “We could not pick up a better and more capable person who has seen all aspects — the theoretical as well as the practical — to give us a sense of the future of what we should be doing.”

Mor, born into a farming family in Maharashtra, who studied his way to secure a doctorate in finance from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania in the United States, will be part of a four-member team which will decide on how many of the 26 applicants qualify to run a bank. Also, the former executive director at ICICI Bank, who at the peak of his career moved on to the bank’s charitable and social work unit in Chennai, sits in a committee along with former colleague Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank and Vikram Pandit, former chief executive at Citigroup, on financial inclusion.

 
Few could dispute Rajan on Mor’s capabilities. But Mor, a classmate of Rajan at the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad, was a person who renounced the world of modern finance in 2007 to seek fulfilment in helping the causes of the underprivileged. For Mor, it was not a sudden enlightenment one fine sunny morning when he decided he should give back to society. It was in him from his college days. Those who had walked into his office during the pre-internet, e-mail era at ICICI’s Back Bay Reclamation office in Mumbai, would have realised where his heart was — research and academia.

Even as dozens of traders made millions in the dealing rooms, he spent as much time with stacked-up research years after leaving campus. Is Mor the man who was torn between society and ‘eat what you kill’ world of modern finance? “There are no exaggerated emotions with him,” says K. Ramkumar, executive director at ICICI Bank and a friend of Mor’s . “It is natural for those conscious of society to move towards the left, but Nachiket maintains quite a centrist stance.”

His mastery of finance and at the same time his ability to be socially conscious is probably what made Rajan choose Mor even though many of his other classmates dot the world of finance in Mumbai, New York and London.

Other than driving ICICI Foundation’s initiative in micro-finance and funding self-help groups, Mor began to focus his attention on medical needs of rural India. He now runs a not-for profit organisation Sughavaazhvu (healthy life), that runs primary health centres in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. “The words that come to my mind whenever I think of Nachiket is intellectual brilliance,” says Kalpana Morparia, chief executive at JPMorgan Chase in India. “He was always looking for such a developmental role. He has finally found his space to do some thing in sustainable philanthropy.”

For Rajan, it may make sense to have someone trustworthy like Mor to sell his view of economic administration that will purge the rottenness of the state-dominated financial system and straddle a free and sophisticated financial market.

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