Swarup Kumar Saha, who assumed charge as Managing Director & Chief Executive of Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) in June, is determined to transform this 114-year-old public sector bank into a digital savvy, future-ready institution by March 2024. BusinessLine caught up with Saha post the bank’s first-quarter results announcement, which in 2021-22 staged a turnaround and came into black with a net profit of ₹1,039 crore.
RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will meet in the next few days. What is your expectation on the policy rate?
Globally, inflation may be high, but the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been taking several measures, and the country’s inflation is getting moderated. If the commodity prices hold on, then RBI may have more room for interest rate adjustments. I expect the upcoming monetary policy committee meeting and the RBI to go in for a 40ish policy rate hike. By March 2023, I expect the repo rate to be 6 per cent .
What about the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar?
There is no reason to worry about the rupee front. RBI is conscious of striking a fine balance and is actively intervening, so that rupee to a US dollar does not get substantially breached beyond ₹80 levels. Even today (Tuesday) rupee has appreciated significantly to ₹78.60 versus the US dollar.
On Punjab & Sind Bank, what are the steps being taken for the next growth level?
PSB had a few years back gone through a rough patch. But we recorded a turnaround last fiscal and posted a historic profit of ₹1,039 crore. Now, the challenge is to make this consistent. My goal is to make PSB the most efficient despite being a small bank. With the technological ecosystem moving fast, being a small bank, I can implement things in a faster way.
So, how are you looking to transform PSB?
I am looking at taking the bank’s digital journey in a big way. We want the bank to become a digital- savvy, future-ready bank by March 2024. My first target is to make PSB an efficient bank. Digital will be an enabler. If I can go into digital in a big way, my operational and customer acquisition expenses will come down.
So why the shift in focus to be a digital-focused bank?
I am administering digital medicine to the bank. Without that, we will not be in the market in the days to come. Today, personal loans are happening through 3-4 clicks. If one bank does in 4 clicks, another does it in three. Where is this going to end? If I don’t enable digital offerings for personal loans, I will lose customers.
Given the tectonic technological shifts, I have to think where will my bank stand ten years later. I have to prepare my bank to be future-ready. I cannot predict the future, but I can visualise it and with some fundamentals in place, I can get the level-playing field. Focus on technology will help improve our customer stickiness.
What are your plans for becoming digital savvy?
By September, we are looking at enabling digital onboarding via video KYC, which will be a game changer for us.
Are you looking to increase investments in information technology?
Over the next three years, we plan to invest ₹200 crore in improving our core banking technology platform. We are also now upgrading the existing core banking platform to Finacle 10, which should be ready by April next year. Once the ₹200 crore investment is over, we will look to invest more to tap the full potential of our IT advisory panel.
How do you want the bank to be positioned in the market?
We want the bank to be retail-focused with doing corporate business as well. Now, we are 50:50 between retail and corporate lending. We will move to 55:45, with retail getting a larger share in the coming days. We were not lending to corporates in recent years. We will soon look to bring new corporate clients into our fold.
How are you planning to offset the ₹109 crore marked-to-market loss impact in Q1?
We plan to enhance our fee income by getting into newer areas like co-branded credit cards and wealth management offerings and offer deeper penetration in insurance products.
What about branch expansion this fiscal?
As on date, we have 1,526 branches. We plan to add another 25-30 on a pan-India basis this fiscal. We not only want to expand locations but also enhance the visibility of our existing branches.
What have you decided on increasing FCNR(B) rates?
Yes, we have raised our FCNR(B) rates effective August 1. The rates have increased to 3 per cent per annum for the US dollar deposits.