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Lakshmi Vilas Bank to strengthen its retail business

Peeush Jain, SVP, head – Retail Banking, Lakshmi Vilas Bank, speaks about the bank’s plans to expand operations and realize targets:

N. Mohan: Lakshmi Vilas Bank is one of the old generation private banks that has been able to offer an appreciable level of service to the customers in spite of several constraints, competition being a major one. How do you handle this competitive environment? Is the strategy focused on better customer engagement or on devising products and services that target niche customer needs? Some examples?

Peeush Jain: At Lakshmi Vilas Bank, we adopt a multi-pronged strategy to keep pace with competition. The traditional relationship model is extremely valuable for the bank and has yielded good results over time. Nevertheless, to keep up with the times, we have been constantly devising new offerings and upgrading existing products and services too. In recent years, we have brought out our own ‘CROWN’ products for HNI and NRI clientele. Our mobile app as well as our payments app, Upaay have gained popularity. Moreover, are offering very competitive interest rates on both deposits and advances.

Can you outline details of some of the unique products and services that you have on offer?
We have a suite of products to cater to various customer segments. Some of our most popular products are our “CROWN” products for HNI and NRI customers, wherein we offer multiple benefits to account holders, Current Flexi account with a lot of flexible features, VYAPAAR current account, which is a zero balance account for small traders, Lakshmi Business Credit, a simplified structured product for businessmen, Lakshmi Loan against property, a mortgage based product for retail and MSME customers and Lakshmi Commodity Power, which is a loan against pledge of agricultural commodities.

Where do you think you have been able to make a difference?
Basically, we make a difference in the way we treat our customers. This is done by:
a) In providing personalized service
b) In providing products to suit specific needs of various customer groups
c) In being flexible enough to take care of customers’ varied requirements in their dealings with us. No wonder our customers are very loyal to us and we are reckoned as a bank ‘Trusted Across Generations’

What are the bank’s plans to grow outside the southern states?
We have a significant presence outside the southern states. We are operating in 17 states, including Tamil Nadu, and 2 Union territories. Out of a total of 548 branches, 74 branches are located in states outside of the south, as of 31 March 2018. It is our resolve that we will continue to grow in non-southern states.

The bank has a whole lot of focus on financial inclusion. Can you identify some unique initiatives?
We have 228 business correspondents operating in 133 villages and 230 wards (urban areas).We have achieved the targets allocated to us under the government’s financial inclusion plan. We have also opened 184,018 Jandhan accounts.

There are MFIs active in areas where banks do not have a strong presence. Do you intend to leverage such MFIs to strengthen your microfinance portfolio?
Yes. We have adopted a cautious approach here but have already begun engaging with MFIs. Over time, we expect this to gather further momentum.

Do you intend to expand your branch network? Or do you plan to focus on leveraging technology to gain better reach? Can you give details of the technology initiatives in this regard?
We have grown its branch network significantly over the last 3 years. As on 31 March 2018, we had 548 branches and 1020 ATMs and eLounges. It is our resolve to continue to look at growing the branch network but this effort would increasingly lean on technology to further business. The branches themselves would undergo a change in look and feel as more self-service options would be provided to customers. Some of these are already showcased at our eLounges.

How prepared is the bank technologically? What milestones in technology have been accomplished recently and what are the plans for the next two to three years?
We offer all the basic technology-based products that customers prefer like debit cards, internet banking, mobile banking, UPI payment app – Upaay -, Bharat QR, ATMs, POS machines, CDMs, eLounges etc. We will shortly introduce prepaid cards, gift cards and forex cards. We are also upgrading our CBS software, which is expected to bring in further improvement in the digital offerings.

Where do you see yourself in the digitization initiatives in the banking sector?
Currently, we are more or less at par with almost all other similar banks in digitization initiatives. Our intention is to reach the next level in the next 2 to 3 years.

Have you undertaken any BPR projects that are aligned with technology?
We have been rejigging our business from time to time. At the present moment, the focus is on a crucial core banking system upgrade, which should add a very sharp edge to our products and services profile, on completion.

What are the turnover targets for the coming 3 years? What customer segments will fuel most of the growth?
We hope to double our business over the next 3 years. The corporate banking has, thus far, been the main engine for growth. However, incrementally, the growth, going forward, would be more in retail and MSME segments.

Would retail continue to be a focus area? Are you intending to cut down your corporate loan portfolio? If so, what will be the strategy for funding MSMEs?
Our basic foundations lie in retail and MSME banking. Over the last few years, the focus might have shifted, but we are now looking at strengthening our moorings in the retail segment, as we aim to lower our proportion of corporate exposure. We have a strong affiliation with the MSME sector and this is being now renewed with vigour. The focus is on strengthening relationships with timely interventions.

The bank is also one of the few private banks that offer full-fledged wealth management services. Can you give an insight into the services offered?
In keeping with our commitment to provide the entire range of products and services to our customers, we offer wealth management services through our partners and alliances. These include online offerings.

With debit card issuance on the rise, what is the bank’s plan for the next 24 months to increase its POS rollout?
We had increased our POS strength from 5422 POS outlets to 6342 during the last year. During the next 24 months we intend to take this figure to 15,000.

What are the plans for ATM expansion? What new services are likely to be offered on the ATM channel in the near future?
As of now, we have 1020 ATMs. ATMs along with cash deposit machines will see increasing usage and we expect to significantly grow our network over the next few years. These will form a part of the bank’s overall payments strategy, including UPI, IMT and various Aadhaar enabled options.

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