Opportunities and Challenges for Retail Banking in India

the fluctuating industry 

Sat Dec 25, 2021

Retail banking has immense opportunities in a growing economy like India. As the growth story gets unfolded in India, retail banking is going to emerge a major driver. How does the world view us? I have already referred to the BRIC Report talking India as an economic superpower. A. T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm, recently identified India as the "second most attractive retail destination" of 30 emergent markets.

The rise of the Indian middle class is an important contributory factor in this regard. The percentage of middle to high income Indian households is expected to continue rising. The younger population not only wields increasing purchasing power, but as far as acquiring personal debt is concerned, they are perhaps more comfortable than previous generations. Improving consumer purchasing power, coupled with more liberal attitudes toward personal debt, is contributing to India's retail banking segment.

The combination of the above factors promises substantial growth in the retail sector, which at present is in the nascent stage. Due to bundling of services and delivery channels, the areas of potential conflicts of interest tend to increase in universal banks and financial conglomerates. Some of the key policy issues relevant to the retail banking sector are: financial inclusion, responsible lending, access to finance, long-term savings, financial capability, consumer protection, regulation and financial crime prevention. What are the challenges for the industry and its stakeholders?

First, retention of customers is going to be a major challenge. According to a research by Reichheld and Sasser in the Harvard Business Review, 5 per cent increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 35 per cent in banking business, 50 per cent in insurance and brokerage, and 125 per cent in the consumer credit card market. Thus, banks need to emphasise retaining customers and increasing market share.

Second, rising indebtedness could turn out to be a cause for concern in the future. India's position, of course, is not comparable to that of the developed world where household debt as a proportion of disposable income is much higher. Such a scenario creates high uncertainty. Expressing concerns about the high growth witnessed in the consumer credit segments the Reserve Bank has, as a temporary measure, put in place risk containment measures and increased the risk weight from 100 per cent to 125 per cent in the case of consumer credit including personal loans and credit cards (Mid-term Review of Annual Policy, 2004-05).

Third, information technology poses both opportunities and challenges. Even with ATM machines and Internet Banking, many consumers still prefer the personal touch of their neighbourhood branch bank. Technology has made it possible to deliver services throughout the branch bank network, providing instant updates to checking accounts and rapid movement of money for stock transfers. However, this dependency on the network has brought IT departments additional responsibilities and challenges in managing, maintaining and optimizing the performance of retail banking networks. Illustratively, ensuring that all bank products and services are available, at all times, and across the entire organization is essential for today’s retails banks to generate revenues and remain competitive. Besides, there are network management challenges, whereby keeping these complex, distributed networks and applications operating properly in support of business objectives becomes essential. Specific challenges include ensuring that account transaction applications run efficiently between the branch offices and data centres.

Fourth, KYC Issues and money laundering risks in retail banking is yet another important issue. Retail lending is often regarded as a low risk area for money laundering because of the perception of the sums involved. However, competition for clients may also lead to KYC procedures being waived in the bid for new business. Banks must also consider seriously the type of identification documents they will accept and other processes to be completed


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