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INDIA’S second-largest lender, ICICI Bank, has shot off a legal notice to a senior official of HDFC Bank, for airing views on ICICI in a business magazine. Mandeep Maitra, the officer in question, who is the head of human resources at HDFC Bank, told the magazine that she was careful in hiring people from ICICI Bank simply because she did not want the “ICICI culture” to seep into the bank she works for.

The contents of the story say that in each one of the past three years HDFC Bank had attracted around 900 officials from ICICI Bank. In some places, almost the entire top brass of an ICICI Bank branch would walk in for interviews. Ms Maitra is alleged to have said, “Of course, the first thing I ask is ‘How many of you are from ICICI Bank?’ I do not want that culture out here.”

ICICI Bank has taken offence to this comment. The notice seeks an apology from Ms Maitra and was sent to her in her individual capacity and not to the bank, something an ICICI Bank official clarified. ICICI Bank believes she was acting ‘out of context’ and it was unbecoming and unprofessional of her to have made such a comment.

Ms Maitra is said to be on a twomonth sabbatical. An HDFC Bank official said, “It’s a quote out of context. We have already written to the publication. It is unfortunate that the story ended up hurting someone. It was never our intention and has never been.”

Given ICICI Bank’s aggressive style and its emergence as a price warrior in the retail loan market, a statement like this possibly lends itself to misinterpretation.

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