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AU Bank: Footprints of Expansion

Zankhana Bedi, Vice President of branch Banking Operations at AU Small Finance Bank, shares the qualitative & quantitative aspects of growth:

AU Bank Footprints of Expansion

Manoj: What is the branch count of AU Small Finance Bank and what are the top 5 states having most branches?

Zankhana: Our banking operations span 21 states and 3 union territories, with a total of 1049 physical touchpoints as of Q3 FY ‘23-’24, including 476 branches and 230 asset centres. Our top 5 states of operation are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

In which states has the bank opened new branches in the last 12 months?

As of Q3 FY ‘23-’24, AU Small Finance Bank (AU SFB) has 1049 touchpoints across India, spanning 720+ unique locations in 21 states and 3 Union Territories. Over the past few years, AU SFB has strategically expanded its presence in emerging markets, including 19 branches in Uttar Pradesh, 6 in Telangana, 11 in Karnataka, 5 in Tamil Nadu and 7 in West Bengal. In the current financial year, 25% of branches have been opened in the southern states to strengthen our presence there. Besides, our merger with Fincare will further expedite our presence in the region to build a truly pan India Small Finance Bank.

What percentage of new customer acquisition is happening at branches? Is it higher in urban or semi-urban areas?

The bank acquires customers both digitally and through branches. In the current financial year, approximately 33% of our savings accounts have been sourced digitally. The remaining accounts were sourced through branches, with about 65% of these sourced through urban centers. This trend is driven by our expanding geographical presence in urban locations for our liability business and the increasing adoption of digital channels. Our video banking channel sourced 53% of savings account customers last quarter (Q3 FY’23-’24).

Which are the top 3 loan products for which customers visit your branches? What is the business growth in those 3 products in the last 12 months?

As of Q3 FY ‘23-’24, our bank has a total of over 4.7 million customers, and our total loan portfolio, including securitized assets, has exceeded Rs760 billion. Our top 3 loan products are Wheels (Vehicle Financing), Micro Business Loans (MBL), and Home Loans to affordable housing segment. Over the past year, these products have experienced growth rates of 26% for Wheels, 14% for MBL, and 47% for Home Loans.

How many branches are focused on MSME customers? In which states are these branches prominent? What are the 2024 plans for these specialized branches?

Our bank is dedicated to offering small business loans through the Micro Business Loans Unit, working capital loans and solutions through the Business Banking & Agri Banking unit. Most of our branches cater to MSME customers. Predominantly, our major states of operation are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

What facilities do the branches have for differently enabled people? What newer facilities are planned for?

We do not discriminate while offering banking services to any physically challenged person. In view of the above, we have put in place appropriate mechanism with the following specific provisions for meeting the needs of these customers so that they are able to avail our services without difficulty.

  • To expedite the customer service a DEDICATED SERVICE DESK has been instituted ensuring prompt resolution of queries and minimizing any potential delays in customer interactions.
  • Taking the commitment of customer centric services, a step further, individuals requiring special care can avail our doorstep banking services which is extended to these customers at ease.
  • We ensure to provide ramp facility at all possible locations for them to provide ease of access to our branches.
  • The locations where the ramp facility could not be setup, we have assigned dedicated Relationship Manager. This facilitates direct communication channels allowing these customers to connect for any banking need or before physically visiting the branch.
  • Communication is being sent to these customers regularly, ensuring transparency and maintaining customer awareness of their designated point of contact. This tailored initiative offers personalized interaction and immediate assistance whenever necessary, through 24×7 video banking services.

In what areas/roles are women employees in the branches making the most progress? What is the explanation for that?

Over the past 28 years, AU has garnered trust from its stakeholders and is committed to becoming a forever institution. Currently, we have approximately 28,000 employees across various locations. Our workforce is diverse, encompassing a wide range of ages, genders, educational backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, geographical origins, experiences, and skill sets. Upholding this ideology, AU offers ample opportunities without any gender discrimination, ensuring there is no bias across any role or position.

Within a branch, there are generally two types of roles: sales and service. Women, with their empathy, strength, and perseverance, excel in both roles with equal efficiency and effectiveness. They bring a unique problem-solving approach and a people-centric focus that contributes to fruitful outcomes and aids in strategic decision-making.

What percentage of the bank’s retail customers are women? How has the percentage changed over the years?

The percentage of women customers has increased from about 14% in March ‘23 to 15% in December ‘23 (inclusive borrower, coborrower and guarantor).

What steps has the bank taken to attract more women employees?

As our organization is growing, we are benchmarking our HR practices to encourage a healthy gender ratio to bring true inclusion. Having a diverse team brings newer perspectives on the table and a cumulative approach to propel our ‘forever’ journey. Over the past few years, we have taken a number of steps to attract more women to join Team AU. Few of them are:

1) Menstrual Leave Policy: We were one of the first banks to start a one-day additional paid leave every month to women employees. This step was taken to support them through their health needs and show that we care.

2) Sabbatical policy: For new mothers, we offer additional 90 days sabbatical leaves beyond the mandated 182 days maternity leave.

3) Women recruitment drives: This is our campus recruitment drive that we conduct at premier colleges and only women’s colleges to bring the best of talent to AU Bank. Besides, if any of our existing employees refer a woman employee, they are rewarded with a monetary bonus after 6 months of her joining.

4) Career 2.0 – From Pause to Prosper: We have this specific program focussed on encouraging women looking to restart their careers after a break. Specific drives are conducted to hire them.

5) ‘She Matters’ guidelines: To avoid late sitting in the office we have a guideline that ensure women safety at night.

6) Women focussed hiring campaigns on social media: We have an initiative to invite applications from talented women to create a pool of relevant profiles for middle and leadership level.

On what parameters was Kiara Advani chosen as the bank’s brand ambassador? For which products and customer segments is she making the biggest impact for the bank?

Recognizing the paradigm shift in role of women in financial decision making, we continued our partnership with Kiara Advani, personifying our brand ethos. Kiara Advani’s versatile persona embodies the bank’s commitment to understanding and catering to the diverse needs of its customers. Her ongoing association with AU Small Finance Bank brings a touch of warmth and youthfulness to our latest brand campaign, portraying her as a female protagonist providing financial wisdom and solution for banking-related matters. This celebrates the increasing empowerment of women in India’s financial decision-making landscape.

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