Westpac Banking Corporation, Australia’s oldest bank, opened its first branch in Mumbai on Thursday to cater to the needs of corporate and retail customers. Vikram Nimkar, its CEO, shares the plans with Neelasri Barman in an interview. Edited excerpts:
Westpac Banking Corporation received banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) earlier this year. Who are your target customers?
We have been here for five years as a representative office and we have a good understanding of the Indian market. Given the kind of trade linkages between India and Australia, our customers will be Indian, as well as Australian companies that operate in India. From the retail side, there are students and migrants who fly to Australia. So, we will be supporting them as well as their families in India.
RBI has proposed the presence of foreign banks through the subsidiary route in India. What are your views?
There is jurisdiction, moving towards the subsidiary route. At some point, it might become a norm in different markets particularly the emerging markets. RBI has proposed that it wants the subsidiary route and has prepared even guidelines. We had a look on those guidelines. Our India strategy does not change. If we are required to form a subsidiary, then we will do that.
What are your views on financial inclusion, as RBI believes foreign banks should play a larger role in that over here?
Financial inclusion is a regulatory requirement and that is the policy RBI wants to push forward. From a foreign bank’s perspective, financial inclusion would mean you actually welcome any walk-in customers. Our strategy includes that. Wherever, we are, if the customer wants to open an account with us, we will cater to that.
Could you tell us about the balance sheet size, you are eyeing, in India?
In the next five years we would certainly like to have a meaningful size of revenue from here that will add to our Asia revenue. Our Asia strategy is to contribute meaningfully to the group revenue. In terms of balance sheet size from India, we are aspiring to have at least $1 billion (Rs 5,498 crore) in the next five years.
How many branches do you want to open in the next few years?
At least two more branches in the next five years on an organic basis. Subject to RBI approval, of course. From the strategic perspective, we are here for the long-term.