No immediate plans to exit Universal Sompo: Padmaja Chunduru of Indian Bank

Padmaja Chunduru, MD & CEO, Indian Bank
With the amalgamation of Kolkata-based Allahabad Bank with Chennai-based Indian Bank today, the amalgamated Indian Bank now faces the task of sailing through tough times amid shortage of staff due to Covid-19. Padmaja Chunduru, MD and CEO of India Bank, in an interview with Namrata Acharya discusses the roadmap post merger. Edited Excerpts:

1. Post amalgamation, what will the first day at Indian Bank look like amid the Covid-19 crisis?

It is new year for bank tomorrow and the day of amalgamation is also tomorrow. Government’s DBT transactions will also happen tomorrow. We are all geared up for day one transactions. All the products have been harmonized.

2. How will staff shortage impact these operations?

The day the lockdown was announced, there was an option for employees to work from home on alternative days, so 50 per cent of the employees were working at a time in offices. With all the disbursement which are due, we have requested whoever can attend the branch to do so, as the workload will be high. We are looking at some kind of scheduling for customers. In rural and semi urban areas local authorities are also helping us streamline the process, as social distancing has to be maintained.

3. When will IT integration be complete?

IT integration has started. As of now, both banks will be functioning through a common layer. We expect in the integration to be completed in six to nine months.

4. How does the amalgamated entity looks like in terms of numbers?

With this merger, Indian Bank has doubled its size. It had 2,800 branches, and Allahabad Bank had 3,300, so now, we have 6,000-plus branches. Total business also is now Rs 8.5 trillion. The staff has doubled from 19,000 to 43,000. We have no geographic overlap and there is no need of any closure.

5. Allahabad Bank was planning to monetise some of its land assets. What will Indian Bank’s strategy on that be?

Allahabad Bank has some big real estate, especially in the north and east. This will be now used as either as offices or training centres. Wherever we have offices which are leased, we will shift to these properties. We aren't in a hurry to sell the property. However, whatever Allahabad Bank has put on sale, we will pursue.

 6. What is the bank’s plan with the stake in Universal Sompo, which Allahabad Bank was looking to monetise?

We are going to take it as a subsidiary. We have to have a detailed understanding of their business model. Allahabad Bank was looking to monetise, but Indian Bank doesn’t have an insurance business, so we will take a call if we can continue. At present we will continue with the shareholding that Allahabad Bank had.

7. Do you see the need for more relaxations on the NPA front, especially agriculture as Allahabad Bank had high farm NPAs?

It all depends on how fast things get resolved. If things pan out as planned, we won’t need any further relaxation, but if this continues, additional relaxation in agriculture would be needed.  

8. Are you planning some relaxation on one-time settlement (OTS) schemes?

Yes, we are.

9. Can you tell us how the rate cut will be transmitted in the amalgamated entity?

Allahabad didn’t need to do any rate cut, only Indian Bank did. And now the rate is applicable to the amalgamated entity.  We did a 75 bps rate cut on repo-linked loans. We have reduced rates on term deposits and to some extent small amount savings accounts also

10. How will the business targets be impacted due to Covid 19?

It all depends on situation after April 14. We will review it, and then depending on the situation take a call. We were planning 12-15 per cent business growth, but now under the revised environment we have to recalibrate that. 


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