Cognizant boosts bench strength of leaders after spur of high-level exits

A spurt of exits at the senior level has prompted Cognizant to boost its bench strength, so that senior executives can take over key verticals such as health care, banking financial service and insurance, and digital services.

Experts believe this is a step in the right direction for the Nasdaq-listed company to regain its competitive edge.

The latest entrants are Ganesh Ayyar, former chief executive officer (CEO) of Mphasis, and Jeff Heenan-Jalil, a former senior vice-president of Wipro’s health care business.

Ayyar joined Cognizant last month to head its digital operations. Heenan-Jalil, who was Europe CEO of IPSoft, will head the health care vertical at Cognizant.

CEO Brian Humphries, who took charge in April, has taken various measures to make the workforce more agile for a quick turnaround. Its employee pyramid is also being optimised to improve cost optimisation.

“The new CEO is bringing in experienced hands from the industry to provide stability and seasoned judgement. Though it’s early days to judge their performance, we have not seen clients abandoning Cognizant. In fact, there is substantial brand equity of the company among its client base,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of global research firm, Everest Group.

Among the high-level exits, three presidents of Cognizant — Debashis Chatterjee, Prasad Chintamaneni and Gajen Kandiah — have left the firm in the past few months.

Venkat Krishnaswamy, who was president of health care and life sciences, has retired from the firm during this period. More recently, Sumithra Gomatam, executive vice-president and president of digital operations, is also learnt to have resigned from the firm.

“A few high-profile exits is normal when a new CEO takes over. This was not alarming,” said Hansa Iyengar, senior analyst at London-based Ovum Research.

“It is normal for a few high-profile exits in the C-suite when a new CEO takes over and this is no way alarming. It is a wise decision to bring in external talent into the C-suite as it will infuse fresh ideas and a different way of looking at the business,” said Hansa Iyengar, senior analyst at London-based Ovum Research.

She added, “All these measures around reducing headcount, linking director level and above (executives’) compensation to performance are the first few steps to help it in its revival (of sorts).”