Banking Big on IT

Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairperson at SBI, elaborates on how cutting-edge technologies added teeth to the bank’s extensive network of 20,200 branches across India.

Yogesh Gupta Jan 23rd 2015 A-A+
A few more laurels were added to her three-decade-old career when she assumed office as the chairman of SBI in October 2013. With this, she became the first woman chairman and MD of the country’s largest bank. In her role currently, she leveraged IT across over 20,000 branches of SBI across India to ensure better customer service, execute more business, and steer ahead of competition.

Being at the helm of India’s largest bank, what is your top agenda for 2015?

The top priority is to adopt and implement cutting-edge technologies with the help of our IT team. In terms of risk management, I really want it to be understood, met, and mitigated at every level in the organization. As we have frequently received both positive and negative feedback, I want to better enhance customer experience. We would like to have a more uniform customer delivery for everyone to have a good experience.

By January 12, 2015, we already had one lakh transactional hits for quick banking. The sheer force of numbers compels us to consider IT in anything we do.

Was the migration of 20,200 SBI branch networks to MPLS done to deliver better customer service or to become IT savvy like other competing banks?

We were not looking at this project only from a competition perspective. With the kind of applications that are on the system and the way we have increased our business, the project became a compulsory business requirement. Branch networks needed to run applications which earlier were not as detailed. Today, we need to capture more things for a better risk management strategy as we continue to execute business in a much greater volume.

We chose this route to help our IT deliver better customer service and uniform customer experience. We wanted to do more on the network like bringing in more speed, more security, and reducing the cost and the downtime. All of these get accomplished by taking on this kind of a migration project. 

What is the IT blueprint of SBI and how closely it links to the business units of the bank?

I believe we have a pretty extensive IT unit. Currently, most projects at our end have IT as their backbone. At this point in time, where schemes like the financial inclusion program are being announced by the government, leaning on technology and its effective use is the only way forward.

Given the extensive client base, nothing is feasible in today’s modern banking organizations without IT. If we look at other differentiated products that deliver better risk management capabilities and good customer experience, everything meshes into the IT platform for proper delivery. 

What about tapping the big potential area of customer engagement through mobile devices?

We are delivering more and more IT-led initiatives every day. At the start of 2015, we launched the prepaid RFID card with Amul and prior to that we started the quick banking (or SMS banking) initiative. By January 12, 2015, we already had one lakh transactional hits for quick banking. The sheer force of numbers compels us to consider IT in anything we do, else we will simply not get anywhere close to delivering a good customer experience.

As 3G and 4G are gaining ground, mobile experience is becoming better even in rural India. Many of our offerings, that are yet to be launched, will be available on this new digital platform.

Any visible business benefits from the colossal migration project?

We now have the luxury of a better bandwidth across all the branches. Earlier, the mesh system meant connectivity took two hops—from the branch to the city aggregation point to the datacenter. With a single step now, there will be less downtime and lower maintenance costs. Hopefully, security of the network will also get better. Business benefits include enabling the branches with more applications, which was not possible earlier due to limited bandwidth.

Yogesh Gupta is executive editor at CIO India. Contact him at yogesh_gupta@idgindia.com and / or follow him on Twitter @yogsyogi1