Citi is heavily committed to India on the institutional business: Tasnim Ghiawadwala

Surabhi | | Updated on: May 02, 2022
Tasnim Ghiawadwala, Global Head of Commercial Bank, Citi

Tasnim Ghiawadwala, Global Head of Commercial Bank, Citi | Photo Credit: DEAN NORTHCOTT

Global Head of Commercial Bank at Citi says the bank is looking to expand presence in the country

India is one of the top developing markets that Citi Commercial Bank is prioritising for its growth and it plans to grow its client base by 50 percent by 2025, from 2021 in the country, said Tasnim Ghiawadwala, Global Head of Commercial Bank, Citi, and Tushar Vikram, Head of Commercial Banking, Citibank India. In an interview with BusinessLine, Ghiawadwala also stressed that despite Citi choosing to exit the consumer banking franchise in the country, it remains heavily committed to the institutional business in India. Excerpts:

How is India placed in the overall global strategy for Citi Commercial Bank?

Tasnim: Overall, our ambition for the commercial bank is to more than double our market share. We have a two per cent market share globally, within our CCB business.

We are prioritising two big growth plays. One of them is to focus our growth on large developed markets. The other is around large, developing markets. The three markets that we are prioritising — India, China and Brazil — are where the economies and populations are vast and there is a long runway for us to go. A small percentage shift in our market share can make an enormous difference to our performance as a bank and our performance as a business. 

What is the commitment Citi has to India, given that it decided to exit 13 markets, including India, for the consumer banking franchise? 

Tasnim: Whenever a bank decides to wind down a piece of business or sell something,there’ll always be a question around commitment to a country. Our institutional business is super large in India and we are heavily committed. The other piece of commitment is that Citi wants to grow, and identify markets where growth can be expected. India is clearly one of those markets. It is the third largest revenue contributor for us, excluding Mexico. If we can get it to double or triple, it just provides an enormous growth potential for us at the global-level.

Tushar: There’s a lot of positivity within our client base; they are looking to grow and we want to be their bank partner in their progress. That’s why we’re investing in India. Key focus industries include healthcare, chemicals, consumer, technology, industrials, digital such as new age companies, and tech start-ups and multinationals.

Post-pandemic, many SME and mid-size corporates in India are looking for credit. What kind of approach would you have here?

Tasnim: We have quite a broad-based approach and are also opportunistic. We like the fact that manufacturing in India is being promoted so much, and there are incentives around the ‘Make in India’ strategy such as the PLI and export promotion schemes. The other thing we’re very focused on is these fast-growing digital disruptor clients. We’re seeing the benefits of being the first mover in this space. Globally, the Indian team was pioneering in that space for us because this is where we first launched a digital vertical in the commercial bank. That decision was taken five to six years ago.

How are you working with the disruptors?

Tasnim: About 40 per cent of India’s unicorns bank with us. This was an early mover advantage. One of the things I’ve been pushing the team on is how to maintain this advantage. We are the only bank to have been on most of last year’s tech IPO’s in India, including Zomato, Nykaa, CarTrade, PolicyBazaar and Paytm.

How do you plan to expand your presence in the country further?

Tasnim: The growth is going to come in two ways. One is acquiring more clients. We expect to grow our Indian client base by 50 per cent between 2021 and 2025. The other part of the growth is going to come from deepening relationships and our increasing share of the wallet. All the solutions that were made by Citi for the largest Fortune 500 companies are available for mid-size companies.

Another part of this growth will come from supporting clients’ to grow outbound. All this growth will require investment on our part. Overall, globally, we are looking to hire around 900 people for Commercial Bank, which is also seeing around 30 per cent in growth. We are looking to hire 80 people in India over three years; we have already hired 30 bankers.

How do you see credit demand in India and will you be cautious in some sectors when you grow? 

Tasnim: As a conservative bank, we are always quite careful. But that doesn’t mean we don’t lend; we lend a lot. We have quite a large balance sheet that we offer to our clients. There is a lot of positive growth momentum in India and all our clients are looking to expand. We will be lending and growing credit with them. This continues to be our strategy.

We have a bit of a different approach to credit — we don’t like to lead with credit and only have a credit relationship. We look at the entire relationship, we look at all the value-added solutions that we’re able to offer and then, of course, there will be a credit component to any of those providers.

What kind of digital solutions do you provide?

Tushar: We focus a lot on digitisation and solutions. 100 per cent of our onboarding is digital, 95 per cent of our cash and trade transactions are digital, and 99 per cent of all payments are digital. These are the kind of value-added services and solutions we provide to our clients. Even before the pandemic, we had prepared ourselves and our customers with our focus on digitisation. We have been supporting our clients throughout the period from the lockdown till date.

Published on May 02, 2022
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