When Amitabh Chaudhry took over the top job at Axis Bank in January 2019, he brought with him the desire to take the third largest private sector bank to the next level.

“I want Axis to be recognized as a premium financial services organization in the country,” he tells Euromoney. “We are one of the biggest businesses, but not the first. I would like the respect levels for Axis to grow significantly.

Chaudhry and Axis’ decision to buy Citi’s Indian consumer finance business, announced in March and now working through regulatory processes and logistics, should be seen in that context.

The $1.6 billion deal, which will bring together Citibank India’s credit cards, retail banking, wealth management and consumer credit businesses with 3,600 employees, is designed to elevate Axis in terms of product, customer and brand.

It’s a big deal, not without risk: it will stand and fall on Axis’ success in keeping all the customers it has paid for and avoiding being poached by their competitors.

“The problem with Axis,” as one banker in Mumbai puts it, “is that every Citi customer has a target on their back.”

But Chaudhry calls the plan an important step, part of a broader ambition.


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