With many of its peers reducing their footprint in country, American bank Citi today said in the digital age, branch banking is a “challenge” and that it will re-format them to be relevant. “Not that we don’t like branches, they are important. It is just that the role of branches have changed and will continue to change across the world,” Citi’s head of consumer banking for Asia Pacific, Anand Selvakesari, told reporters.
“The challenge today is what should we do with the branches. Over 95 per cent of our transactions are happening in self-service channels and not through the branches,” Selvakesari said over video-conference from Singapore.
The largest foreign lender by assets, Citi has over 40 branches in the country. British lender HSBC has announced to nearly halve the number of branches to 26, while others like RBS have shuttered them.
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“What is the branch required for? Our focus right now is to re-format the branches, to do things that it should be doing,” Selvakesari said.
He hinted that the role of branches will shift to acquiring new customers and offering them advisory services. He pointed out to the bank’s strategy of having a bank inside a luxe shopping mall in central Mumbai as one of the examples of how things are changing.
It is important to reformat the branches as the smart phones are itself turning into branches and doing a majority of functions, he said.
He, however, was quick to add that this should not be construed as the end of the branch model, and cited the analogy of retail and e-commerce where the need to have physical stores has not gone off.
Citi, which is the largest consumer lender in the world, today launched a new feature in its mobile phone application that will enable select few wealth management customers to directly get in touch with their designated relationship managers to discuss investment options.
Customers can send text or audio messages, do video calls or even group chats within the app. It’s country business manager for consumer banking Kartik Kaushik said the offering is for customers having an investible surplus of over Rs 50 lakh per annum and is developed by a domestic company.
Without disclosing the customers in this category or overall wealth management customers, he said all the 500 relationship managers will be available.
He said the entire trail of messaging will be available and it will also curb instances of mis-selling of products. The move will also push the productivity of the relationship managers multiple times and help the clients.
Selvakesari said this is a global first and will be rolled out in other markets gradually and will gradually be used to cover all the wealth management clients.