Big bank theory: Axis Bank eyes big branch expansion to catch up with HDFC Bank, ICICI
Axis Bank wants to take the number of its branches in the country to 5,000-5,500 which will bring it on par with the country’s top two private lenders in branch strength. While the top two private banks — ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank — have slowed down the pace of bank expansion, Axis Bank will continue its branch expansion strategy, Amitabh Chaudhry, MD & CEO, Axis Bank, said. In the next three to four years, we will add 400 to 500 branches, Chaudhry said. Once it reaches 5,000-5,500 branches, the expansion will come down, he added.
The bank has added 297 branches in the current fiscal across India and will add a few more before the end of this fiscal. Axis Bank marked the 25th year of its operations with the opening of its 4,000th branch in the country at Kharadi in Pune. In the banking and financial services industry, if you are not in the top four or five you will always be sub-optimal with only the top players making money, Chaudhry pointed out.
While digitisation will continue as it allows the bank to reach customers differently but our customers also want see a physical branch of the bank and a branch increases the trust factor, he said.
Also, the bank provides a whole gamut of solutions, not just payments, Chaudhry added. He pointed out that Axis Bank made two acquisitions in the fintech space with FreeCharge, a payments company which now has nine million unique visitors. We have kept FreeCharge alive and it has become a formidable player in the payment industry, he added.
In the trade finance segment, Axis Bank had acquired A Treds, which is into supplier finance sales under the brand name Invoice Mart. Around Rs 1,000 crore worth of financing has been done on this platform.
Axis Bank is experimenting with different formats for branches to make it more interactive and enable better communication and engagement, Ravi Narayanan, president & head, branch banking, Axis Bank, said. A new format has been experimented in Pune that makes available all digital banking solutions at the branch and also encourages communication with the team at the branch for further engagement.
Around 50% of the bank’s retail loans is sourced through branches, which makes them a tool for growing business, both deposits and loan book. Overall, the bank will continue to have a conservative outlook and will not be playing ‘cowboy’ but rather work on establishing credibility in the next few years to come, Chaudhry said.