India’s largest State Bank of India has undergone a huge technological transformation and quickly adapted a modern way of banking which it hopes will propel its growth at home and overseas.
One step into SBI’s global headquarters in Mumbai and you are exposed to a level of modernization that just a decade ago simply could not have been expected from a public sector bank that was held back by bureaucracy, politics and a conservative banking model.
“SBI realised that we had to take drastic steps in terms of technology adaptation, and revamp our entire human resources to ensure that everyone can work comfortably on the IT platforms. This was critical because otherwise, there is no survival for SBI,” said Kishore Kumar Poludasu, Country Head of SBI in Singapore, in an exclusive interview to Connected To India.
With a balance sheet size of SGD 5 billion, SBI has plans to establish a strong banking presence in Singapore. Launching a mobile application YONO, which is the abbreviation for ‘You Only Need One’.
Poludasu explained that it is a super-app that takes care of all the banking and investment requirements of customers. “We tied up with various commercial players to allow customers to do their online shopping and order food over the app. The aim is to make their lives more convenient through the integration of banking and commercial functions.”
In India, YONO is already very popular - downloads were almost at 9.4 million with more than 250,000 logins per day. On this platform, more than 1 million savings bank accounts were opened reaching a peak of more than 27 thousand accounts per day.
“It helps that Singapore has such a well-regulated market environment,” said Poludasu. “In our operations, we have cautiously adhered to all the regulatory guidelines and compliance standards. And definitely, we have grown. SBI’s profitability and efficiency parameters have also improved.”
One of the significant portfolios at SBI Singapore is the trading operations. “It makes sense for us to focus on it since 30 percent of the Asian trade routes pass through Singapore. We have global relations with most of the foreign banks, which we can leverage through cross-business relations to grow our trade volume.”
Moving ahead, SBI Singapore is looking into entering the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) financing segment through the provision of loans. “We feel that this is one way we can contribute to the development of the Singapore economy, as well as we make our presence felt among Indian origin people and other locals in Singapore.”
Poludasu has seen the bank’s transformation from many angles and has a global work experience that makes him well suited to lead the charge in Singapore.
This transformation, according to Poludasu, began eight years ago, as the bank realized it was losing out amidst a global surge in technological advancements in banking.
A slow down in the global economy in the earlier part of the last decade ironically helped, because it injected some urgency into SBI’s modernization plans. In the end the plan to invest in technology has reaped rich dividends for the bank which remains at the top position in India and continues to have a strong banking influence in India and overseas.
The modern building in Nariman Point in Mumbai is a must visit for everyone looking for evidence of a changed mindset at SBI, which is to deliver technological efficiency with the warmth of Indian hospitality.
India’s banking sector may seem crowded and highly competitive but SBI is still ahead of its private banking rivals. It is the largest commercial bank in terms of assets, deposits, branches, customers and employees and is also the largest mortgage lender in the country. The bank’s network is unmatched. It has nearly 22,500 branches in India and ATM network of nearly 59,000 ATMs. It also has 190 offices in 36 countries with a focus on India business.
Poludasu joined SBI in 1991 as a provisional officer and has been with the bank for some 28 years. He has an all-round global work experience having worked in various geographies, including various states and cities in India, as well as London and Panama. “I was posted to Panama for the liquidation of the SBI office there. After it was completed, I went back to India and worked in corporate accounts in Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi.”
Over the years, his job scope allowed him to expand his field of expertise, from retail banking to even human resources. “I was in charge of the human resource activities for Tamil Nadu state, as the development officer. My job was to take care of human resources, as well as all kinds of developments and activities in the IT infrastructure.”
Back in 2016, when the merging of the six associate banks with SBI was happening, Poludasu was in one of the teams handling merger-related issues. They had to review the complications that could arise from the merger, taking into account the diverse profile of cultures across the various banks.
“The main aim was to bring the different cultures and operations to the level of SBI, which is more superior in terms of the systems, procedures, and the compliance standards,” he explained. “It was a very challenging, yet enriching experience.”