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Vikram Pandit, a Nagpur-born NRI was named CEO of the world’s largest bank. Many say that Pandit’s appointment is a rescue mission to improve the results of the bank which reported its first loss in 17 years amid a massive financial crisis. Pandit replaced the charismatic Charles O.”Chuck” Prince III.

Vikram Shankar Pandit, the son of a pharma representative and businessman, came to the United States when he was only 16 for undergraduate studies at Columbia University. After his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in electrical engineering, he switched to finance and earned a Ph.D.  Mentors cited in a recent profile described him as a relentlessly hardworking student, the kind who relished challenges.

The 50 year old Pandit is the first person of Indian origin to scale such stratospheric heights in the financial world, which has many well-regarded Indian executives. Citigroup has operations in more than 100 countries, with 300,000 employees and $ 2 trillion in assets. Before joining Citigroup, Pandit served as president and chief operating officer at Morgan Stanley from 2000 to 2005. In 2006, he formed Old Lane Capital, a hedge-fund firm, that Citigroup acquired in April this year for $ 600 million.

Pandit faces monumental challenges at Citigroup. The situation was considered so dire that a $ 7.5 billion capital infusion by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority last month was seen as a part bailout from the nearly $ 17 billion write-off relating to soured mortgages.

Pandit is seen as a cautious, conservative banker. Many experts say the new CEO will need not just punditry but also some wizardry to extricate the bank from the mess.

In a statement following his elevation, Pandit said he would “undertake an objective and dispassionate review of all the businesses, individually and in aggregate, to make sure we are properly positioned for the future.” He also promised to simplify the company’s organizational structure, align businesses and resources with appropriate goals, with economic realities being among the initial priorities. A sure sign that there will be some soul-searching and cleansing.

We in India wish him every success in this challenging assignment.

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