Talking Business Industry

Axis Bank continues to focus on increasing physical distribution footprint

Rajiv Anand. Sketch by L.Balamurugan  

Axis Bank, with one of the largest branch network among private sector banks, continues to focus on traditional channels increasing its physical distribution footprint.

Rajiv Anand, Group Executive and Head-Retail Banking, Axis Bank, in an email interview with The Hindu, explained how the bank plans to expand its network thorough digital as well as traditional channels. Excerpts:

Axis Bank seems to be moving fast on its digital strategy with a multi-fold increase in the use of electronic banking channels. How are you bringing digital transformation in the retail banking side of your business? If so, have you been able to achieve these digital initiatives and what has been the outcome?

Axis Bank has been on the forefront of leveraging technology to bring about a large scale transformation. We have not only focused on providing a seamless customer experience through mobile and Internet, we have also redesigned most of our core processes at the back-end leading to reduction in errors, turnaround-time and cost. We have empowered our sales staff to open savings accounts and cards on a real time basis using tablets while also creating digital tools for sales force to prioritise sales efforts and for supervisors to monitor performance.

Lastly, the ability to marry customer requirements with the latest technological advancements has enabled us to pioneer two major products in the last six months — the first multi-social payment app in PingPay and the first integrated mobile money platform through LIME, which is the country’s first mobile app that offers wallet, shopping, payments and banking.

I want to highlight that LIME is an independent app, and empowers opening individual, shared mobile wallets and make seamless peer to peer as well as online, offline merchant payments. Users are already experiencing the convenience of in-app shopping that allows them to compare and buy products and services.

Our success can be attributed to a couple of very significant priorities — understand the moments of truth and create solutions rather than merely digitising processes and secondly ensuring that our solutions are designed to provide an experience to match the best solutions in the market beyond competing merely with other financial apps.

Is bank’s focus on traditional channels getting weakened? Which of the channels — traditional or digital — will give Axis Bank low cost deposits?

Axis Bank continues to focus on traditional channels and we will continue to focus on increasing our physical distribution footprint. Our aim is to provide customers with options and the power to bank as they like by taking the bank where the customer is.

Customers have the option to do financial transactions and service requests both through digital medium and at our branches. Hence, we are seeing the two channels complementing each other in creating a enhanced level of engagement and consequently deepening of relationship values.

Our experience has shown that customers prefer branches for opening new accounts and for complex and intensive product purchases while preferring digital channels for high frequency but straightforward activities. We have WiFi facilities in a large number of branches to help our customers familiarise themselves with our digital offerings. Suffice to say, LIME is enabling individuals to open a full-fledged savings account digitally, by completing the KYC process, using their mobile.

What are the challenges you face when it comes to providing customers with a quick and seamless digital experience, and especially when they are looking to have that experience instantly?

The biggest challenge in creating a digital experience is to think beyond just automating the existing physical processes. We have looked at the various processes, understood the moments of truth and created solutions based on the medium. Hence, if you were to look at our mobile app, the interactions have been designed based on how we typically navigate on other mobile apps and not just an online replication of the branch process. As a result, customers are now able to do a wide range of tasks almost instantaneously — opening accounts, creating fixed deposits and recurring deposits, altering card features, booking lockers on mobile to getting personal loan disbursements.

As customers increasingly use social media to share opinions, also on financial products and services, how have you reciprocated to incorporate their social activities into your overall corporate strategies or offerings?

Social media has been a kind of revelation in the digital space. Today youngsters spend a substantial amount of time accessing social media. Our research says that they look for instant gratification and fun in their interactions. They share views with respect to finances as well and hence it is highly imperative for us to be present there and interact with our customers. Given the boom in smartphone ownership across India, people are already interacting with their banks digitally. The launch of PingPay has been a significant innovation as it is the first multi-social payment app enabling users to transfer money on WhatsApp, Facebook, e-mail or SMS. The interface is gesture based and therefore completely innovative. The app has been a rage amongst the 18-24 year olds as they can also send text, images and videos along with 24x7 money transfer.

So we are using the social media to better understand our customers and also make banking fun by integrating with social.

Many banks have launched mobile apps offering various features. How are you differentiating from the rest? How do you choose various technologies to meet business goals?

The question can be answered in two parts — with respect to technology and platforms, we will continue to focus on enhancing product solutions to meet customer needs and not taking a call on the success of any particular technology. For example, our mobile app has been rolled out across iOS, Android and Windows platforms and we are leveraging newer enhancements such as Touch ID and Apple watch for accessing the bank accounts. Leveraging the strength of the expertise available in-house at Axis Bank, LIME is a fresh take on the way people interact with their money.

Increasingly, retail customers are using branches on far fewer occasions and even ATM transactions are slowly shrinking. Axis has one of the largest branch net work and ATM channels. How do you plan to utilise these channels more efficiently?

Axis Bank is focusing on both the traditional and digital channels. The presence of branches is critical in the acquisition of new customers, for customers not yet comfortable transacting on digital platforms and for complex product sales. It is true that the transaction at branches is showing a falling trend and therefore our branch sizes have reduced as well. However, branches play a very important role in relationship building and the increased focus therein is yielding results.

How is Axis Bank’s personal banking service, Burgundy, which has been designed especially for the affluent HNI customer faring?

Burgundy has been designed to bring together the best of what Axis Bank has to offer onto a common platform and is aimed at affluent customers. While these are still in initial days, since the launch of the proposition, we have seen good traction with the signup of marquee names. The product offering and the service standards put in place put it on par with the best-in-industry offerings for affluent customers.

With more number of banks now coming up — new universal banks, small finance banks as also payment banks — how do you see competition evolving in the retail banking segment? How prepared is Axis Bank?

Axis Bank is one of the safest banks in the country. One of the successes of the organically built network has enabled us to emerge as the most trusted financial services brand in the country. There is still a large chunk of India’s population, which have limited or no access to banking services which provides an opportunity for every bank to continue growing. We have one of the largest existing networks, and I must reinforce that Axis Bank has more number of branches and extension counters in semi-urban and rural areas than in metropolitan and urban areas.

We are also a very strong player in the digital space, which puts us in a sweet spot to not only compete with newer players but also gain market share from existing players.



oommen.a@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 5:45:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/axis-bank-continues-to-focus-on-increasing-physical-distribution-footprint/article7750138.ece

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