NS Kannan: ICICI Prudential Life's new pair of legs for the insurance race

Executive Director Narayanan Srinivasa Kannan is a man of all seasons. The ICICI lifer has handled a variety of responsibilities in his 27-year career, including finance, treasury, corporate law, operations, infrastructure management, and the strategic solutions group.

And now Kannan takes on yet another role.

The 52-year-old will replace Sandeep Bakhshi as CEO and Managing Director of. Bakhshi is moving to ICICI Bank as its Chief Operating Officer andWholetimedirector as a part of attempts by the country's largest private lender to limit the damage stemming from the quid pro quo controversy surrounding its MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar.

Known for being conservative and media-shy, Kannan was appreciated in the bank for his ability to have a complete overview of issues, and to be able to comprehensively look at different angles.

Kochhar once called him a banker who had a well-rounded perspective on any issue.

"From the risk point of view, from the profitability point, compliance and business...It is the ability to have a very well-rounded perspective of an issue. Finance is not just finance, but more a strategic position," Kochhar had told a daily in 2013.

Kannan is going to need that well-rounded perspective in his new responsibility. He will be leading the life insurance unit at a time when competition is intensifying between the top three private life insurance companies -- ICICI Prudential Life, HDFC Life and SBI Life.

Kannan's efforts to maintain the insurer's top line and bottom line growth at par with the industry's growth will be a key aspect to watch out for.

ICICI lifer

A postgraduate in management from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, Kannan is also a Chartered Financial Analyst from the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India, and a Honours graduate in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology (formerly Regional Engineering College), Tiruchirappalli.

He started his career in 1991 as a project officer in ICICI group and has since taken on multiple roles in the group, including crucial roles in the bank that saw him steadily rise through the ranks.

In 2005, Kannan moved to the life insurance business and was its executive director till 2009.Company insiders said that he was among the key people there, having helped build the team and provided strategic inputs for driving theproduct portfolio.

In 2009, Kannan moved back to ICICI Bank as chief financial officer and executive director. He handled finance, infrastructureand treasury operations in his long stint, and had the responsibility of managing the day-to-day administration of risk management, compliance and internal audit functions. The President of ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth also reported to him.

Kannan held the position till October 2013 and has since been an executive director at the bank.

Being a corporate expert Kannan is known to be in the good books of the ICICI Bank's board, including Chanda Kochhar. This is probably why when the Bank neededsomeone dependable to take over the life insurance business, it was Kannan they turned to.