One of the powerful faces in India’s financial sector, Shikha Sharma is an Indian economist and banker with around four decades of corporate experience. She is the former Managing Director and CEO of Axis Bank Ltd., the third-largest private sector bank in India. Shikha served at the position for nine years and became the longest-serving woman CEO in the Indian financial sector. Previously, Ms Sharma has also worked in various divisions of the ICICI Bank in her 29-year-long stint. 
Shikha Sharma was born on Wednesday, 19 November 1958 (age 63 years; as of 2021) and her zodiac sign is Scorpio. Being from an army background, Shikha changed seven schools in many cities, before she finally completed her schooling at Loreto Convent in Delhi. She holds a B.A. (Honours) degree in Economics from the Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR), Delhi and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Software Technology from the National Centre for Software Technology in Mumbai. Shikha further pursued MBA at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Her father was a brigadier in the Army Ordnance Corps and an ammunition expert who fought in two India-Pakistan wars. Shikha is the eldest sibling; her two younger brothers are cardiologists by profession.
Husband & Children
Shikha got married to Sanjaya Sharma in 1982, who was her batchmate in the Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. She revealed in an article that it was love at first sight for her.  She added,
I found in him someone who was well-read and had novel ideas.”
Sanjaya is a Senior Advisor at KPMG India and he is the former CEO of Tata Interactive Systems.
The couple has a son Tilak Sharma, who is an undergrad from Carnegie Mellon University in the US, and a daughter Tvisha Sharma. 
Shikha practices Hindusim and she is a devotee of Lord Shiva. The banker revealed in an interview that she keeps a fast for Lord Shiva every Monday since the beginning of her career. 
Ms Sharma joined the ICICI Bank in 1980 when she had freshly passed out of IIM-Ahmedabad. The bank at the time was still a developing financial institution in India. Shikha was mentored by K.V. Kamath, the then CEO and MD of ICICI Bank, and Mark Tucker, the former CEO of Prudential Plc. and current Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings plc., when she initially joined the company. In 1992, the banker facilitated ICICI Securities’ joint venture with JP Morgan.  In December 2000, Narayana Vaghul, the then chairman of ICICI bank chose Shikha as the suitable person to head the new insurance business of ICICI. Sharma then served as the MD and CEO of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Co. till April 2009, and she called her stint “an endearing experience.”  She also served as the Managing Director of ICICI Personal Financial Services, which was responsible for all retail-asset products. The banker’s 29-year-long stint at the ICICI Group was full of different milestones that helped her build a solid reputation in the industry. At the bank, Shikha worked in various divisions of ICICI including corporate planning, project finance, and resource raising, and she oversaw diverse functions like investment banking, retail finance businesses, and setting up ICICI Securities. Reportedly, towards the end of 2008, Ms Sharma’s name was among the ones being considered for the post of CEO at ICICI Bank; however, she lost the position to Chanda Kochhar because earlier Shikha was quite adamant about staying with the insurance company rather than moving to the bank. Shikha then left the bank in the same year following Kochhar’s appointment. 
Shikha Sharma was 55 years old when she took the reins of India’s third-largest private sector bank in her hands. Ms Sharma stepped into the shoes of P.J. Nayak as the Managing Director and CEO of Axis Bank Ltd. in June 2009 when the latter resigned from the post before the end of his tenure. Soon, she also took over as the Chairperson of Axis Bank UK Ltd., Axis Asset Management Co. Ltd., Axis Capital Ltd., and Axis Private Equity Limited. Apparently, Sharma had a turbulent entry at the Axis Bank, as many members of the senior management exited after an ‘outsider’ was appointed to head the bank. Also, she almost completely changed the senior staff and appointed her own deputies.  Shikha’s 9-year-long stint at Axis bank had its fair share of ups and downs. She was primarily instrumental in transforming the bank’s corporate lending and retail liability portfolio into a full-service, the end-to-end financial institution focused on sustained profitable growth. After only a year into her new position, Shikha successfully acquired the Vallabh Bhansali-led Enam’s investment banking arm, which became the highlight of her stint at the bank.   Also, under her leadership, the gross NPAs of Axis Bank increased to 5.28 per cent in December 2017 from 0.96 per cent in March 2009. 
Ms Sharma retired from Axis Bank Ltd. as its CEO and MD on 31 December 2018, after seven months into her fourth term. She resigned two-and-a-half years before her term was supposed to end in May 2021 because her re-appointment as the chief of the bank was objected by the RBI. Shikha was succeeded by Amitabh Chaudhry. 
The former MD and CEO of Axis Bank Ltd. accepted the role of the adviser for the global private equity giant KKR’s corporate, real estate-focused NBFCs in India on 1 February 2019, a month after leaving the Axis Bank.  A year later in April 2020, Google Pay India – the digital payment platform from Google named Shikha its adviser, who had 38 years of work experience in the industry at the time. 
Board And Other Memberships
Since 2015, Mrs Sharma is a member of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Technical Advisory Committee and the chairperson of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Committee on Banking. From 2013 to 2015, the banker served as the Co-Chairperson of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. She was also a part of RBI’s panel on Financial Inclusion, the Committee on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Businesses and Low-Income Households, and a member of Visa’s Senior Client Council, APCEMEA (Asia –Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa).  Ms Sharma also sits as an independent director on the boards of several companies including Tech Mahindra, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Tata Consumer Products Ltd., Ambuja Cements Ltd., and Tata Global Beverages since 2019. In addition to these, Shikha has also been a board member of Axis Private Equity Ltd., Firstsource Solutions Ltd., and Bpl Ltd. 
Allegations Against AXIS Bank Under Shikha
After demonetisation in November 2016, around 19 Axis Bank employees were suspended for alleged money laundering and flouting norms. As word reached the income-tax department, the officers carried out several raids at different branches of the bank. The situation turned grim and rumours spread that the bank was in danger of losing its banking licence under Shikha’s stewardship. This prompted the RBI to control the situation. Axis Bank was also twice held by the central bank for under-reporting bad loans for financial years 2016 and 2017. The non-performing asset (NPA) divergence was reportedly around Rs 9,480 crore and Rs 5,633 crore for the two years respectively. In December 2017, there were reports that the Axis Bank’s earnings were being shared on WhatsApp before it was sent to the stock exchanges. Following this alleged information leak, the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) ordered the bank to probe the allegations against its bank officials. 
Associated With PNB Fraud Case
In the Punjab National Bank Fraud Case of 2018, Shikha Sharma and her rival Chanda Kochhar were summoned regarding the loans given to Gitanjali Gems. Sharma headed the Axis Bank at the time, while Kochhar was the CEO of the ICICI Bank. They both were questioned by the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) as they both had allegedly given a working capital loan of Rs. 5,280 crore to Gitanjali Gems through a consortium of banks. 
RBI Objected To Shikha’s Reappointment
Reportedly, in April 2018, RBI asked the Axis Bank’s board to reconsider Sharma’s extension for the fourth term as MD and CEO after the board of directors decided to reappoint her as the chief till 2021. The regulator cited the bank’s deteriorating performance and its asset quality under Sharma’s leadership as the reason behind its statement. 
Awards, Honours, Achievements
Shikha’s Personal Achievements
- In 2007, Shikha was named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the E&Y Entrepreneur Awards.
- Next year, she was honoured with the ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ title at the Economic Times Awards.
- In 2011, Shikha achieved the feat of being named among the ‘Top 20 Women in Finance’ by Finance Asia. She was also among the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in the Fortune Global and India list, and in the ‘Hall of Fame’ by Business Today.
- The year 2012 was full of achievements for Shikha. She found herself in the India Today Power List of 25 Most Influential Women, in the Forbes list of Asia’s 50 Power Business Women, and among the ‘Most Powerful Indians’ by Indian Express. The banker was also named the ‘Transformational Business Leader of the Year’ at AIMA’s Managing India Awards and ‘Woman Leader of the Year’ at Bloomberg – UTV Financial Leadership Awards. She further received the Business World’s Banker of the Year Award in the same year.
- In 2013, Shikha won the ‘India’s Best Woman CEO’ award by Business Today.
- She won the award for ‘Best CEO – Private Sector’ in the fourth edition of the Forbes India Leadership Awards (FILA) and the AIMA – JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award for the Year in 2014.
- In 2015, Ms Sharma was named the ‘Banker of the Year’ for 2014-15 by Business Standard.
Axis Bank’s Achievements Under Shikha
During her stewardship at Axis Bank Ltd., Shikha was credited with bringing many achievements to the bank. In 2013, a case study acknowledging Shikha’s efforts was published by the Harvard Business School titled ‘Managing Change at Axis Bank.’ In the same year, the bank was ranked number one to work for in the BFSI sector in ‘The Best Companies to Work for’ survey conducted by Business Today. In 2014, the bank received the ‘Bank of the Year in India’ award from The Banker Magazine, Financial Times. Axis Bank Ltd. also conferred the Certificate of Recognition for excellence in Corporate Governance by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) in 2015.  It was named the ‘Most Trusted Private Sector Bank’ second year in a row in ‘Most Trusted Brand Survey,’ by Brand Equity, The Economic Times.
- Food: Seafood
- Businessperson: Steve Jobs
- Film(s): Casablanca, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Reportedly, the approximate annual salary of Shikha Sharma for the financial year 2017-2018 was Rs. 4.88 crores. 
- After her marriage to Sanjaya in 1982, Shikha changed her full name to Shikha Sanjaya Sharma. 
- Shikha enjoys watching Hindi movies, doing swimming, and going on short holidays with her family. The banker loves classical music as it helps relieve her migraine pains. She also maintained a regular fitness regimen in her youth, which included cardio and weight training at the gym for 3-4 days a week. 
- According to Shikha, she wasn’t the one who decided the course of her career. She revealed in an interview that it was her bureaucrat uncle that steered her towards Economics at Lady Shriram College, and she took up MBA at IIM-A under peer pressure.  Sharma added,
It was clear that I wanted to be in finance, as I was good at maths and quantitative (stuff). Actually, at school, I was best at physics and wanted to be a physics researcher. I hadn’t even heard of IIM before I went into my BA. Somewhere in the middle, I decided that I was either going to go to the IIMs or get married. I was not going to do anything else.”
- Ms Sharma further revealed in an interview that after completing her MBA, she didn’t do quite well in the first 10 days of the placement period at her institute. It was the ICICI Bank that gave her a break.  She said,
Foreign banks rejected me. I was losing confidence. I was good at academics, but an introvert. I was self-aware enough not to get dejected. But I still felt bad.”
- In 2020, Shikha married off her daughter Tvisha in a big fat wedding. The ceremony was a corporate affair that was attended by industry elites including Anand Mahindra, Zia Mody, Ajay Piramal, Amit Chandra, N. Chandrasekaran, Cyril Shroff, Deepak Parekh, and Sharma’s former ICICI colleagues K.V. Kamath and Kalpana Morparia. 
- 1 ↑ The Times of India
- 2 ↑ Mint
- 3 ↑ The Economic Times
- 4 ↑ Business Today
- 5 ↑ Forbes
- 6 ↑ Business Today
- 7 ↑ Business Standard
- 8 ↑ Forbes
- 9 ↑ Forbes
- 10 ↑ Business Standard
- 11 ↑ Deccan Chronicle
- 12 ↑ The Economic Times
- 13 ↑ Mint
- 14 ↑ Moneycontrol
- 15 ↑ World Economic Forum
- 16 ↑ Bloomberg
- 17 ↑ Scroll. in
- 18 ↑ Hindustan Times
- 19 ↑ Business Today
- 20 ↑ ICSI
- 21 ↑ The Times of India
- 22 ↑ Bloomberg
- 23 ↑ The Economic Times
- 24 ↑ Mint
- 25 ↑ Business Today
- 26 ↑ The Economic Times