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    Citibank once in a lifetime deal; Axis Bank now number 3 player on credit card side, says Amitabh Chaudhry

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    Citibank once in a lifetime deal; Axis Bank now number 3 player on credit card side, says Amitabh Chaudhry

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    Axis Bank has recently purchased Citibank India's retail business for USD 1.6 billion. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Amitabh Chaudhry, MD & CEO, Axis Bank, explained that the Axis-Citi deal will be accretive in every which way. He explained that with this acquisition, Axis Bank is now the third player on the credit card and wealth management side. Choudhry touted the deal to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    Axis Bank recently purchased Citibank India's retail business for USD 1.6 billion. The transaction comprises the sale of consumer banking businesses of Citibank India, which include credit cards, retail banking, wealth management, and consumer loans.
    Amitabh Chaudhry, MD & CEO, Axis Bank, explained that the Axis-Citi deal will be accretive in every which way. He believes that based on the bank’s analysis and how the portfolio can grow over a period of time, the price paid for the deal is fair. He added that a deal of this magnitude comes once in a lifetime as it has catapulted Axis as the number three player on the credit card and the wealth management side.
    "Citibank has built this business over 120 years. It's one of the most enviable customer franchises in the country. I have been saying that a deal like this comes once in your lifetime because they have an affluent and a super affluent set of customers, which would have taken a long time for Axis to get hold of," he said.
    "With this acquisition, we become the number three player on the credit card and the wealth management side. We get a good set of customers in terms of personal loans and mortgages. 1,600 Suvidha accounts, 3,600 employees, and a great and a well-recognised Citi phone services. So, we get a lot in exchange for what we are paying," Chaudhry added.
    He highlighted that the first nine months will be spent on getting regulatory approvals. In the interim, the bank is allowed to use Citi’s name for a certain period of time. Chaudhry believes that the bank will be able to offer more products and services now. He clarified that there will be no changes for any customer of Citi and the aim right now is to ensure a smooth transition for Axis Bank.
    On Burgundy card, he said, "If you look at the Burgundy private card, it is the only card of its kind in India. It is the first metallic card in India. It is a combination of a debit card and a foreign exchange card. It's a unique offering."
    "We launched it at a time and then COVID happened, but hopefully with foreign travel starting, people will see the value of that card. We will be taking that card to a lot of the Citibank customers and offering them the same," he said.
    He pointed out that the savings account rates at Axis are higher than that of Citi. He said, "Citibank’s rates on savings accounts are lower than what we give. When the transition happens, we will start earning more on the savings accounts. So, there will be benefits we will get, we very strongly believe that."
    One of the single most important efforts is to improve net interest margins (NIMs), he shared. He explained that the bank will touch NIMs closer to that of its peers in a few years’ time.
    "One of the single most important factors we are working on as a management team is to obviously get this needle to move on the NIM side, it is not an easy journey. There are six, seven broad things that you have to do. The size of what we are acquiring from Citi in terms of assets and on the deposit side, it is 6 to 7 percent of our overall business. So it is not going to move the needle on NIM that much, it will improve NIM but not move the needle," he said.
    On the bank’s capital raising plans, he said that there are no immediate plans as of now. However, Chaudhry said that they might need to advance their capital raising plans, sometime in the next 9 months to 3 years.
    On fintechs becoming an indispensable part, he said that they are becoming an important component of the future. Some of them will become competitors for the banks. He explained that Axis may invest in some fintechs for deeper partnerships. He highlighted that the bank has had a big focus on digital and partnerships have aided them.
    On RBI raising interest rates, he said, "Hopefully, as things pick up and the economy, investments start, RBI will also start raising rates in a calculated manner sometime in the future and that should reflect in loan growth in our wholesale side of the business."
     
    Watch the video for the full interview.
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