Axis Bank: Offering a diversified portfolio

Axis Bank: Offering a diversified portfolio
Raj Kishore Prasad, Head - GCC Region and Chief Executive Officer, DIFC Branch

Axis Bank provides a range of corporate banking services at DIFC in line with its India linked strategy

By Nithin Belle

Published: Wed 17 Jan 2018, 9:50 AM

Last updated: Wed 17 Jan 2018, 12:02 PM

Axis Bank, the third largest private sector bank in India, offers the entire spectrum of financial services to customer segments covering large and mid-corporates, MSME, agriculture and retail businesses. The bank has a large footprint of 3,304 domestic branches (including extension counters) and 14,163 ATMs across the country, as of March 31, 2017.
The overseas operations of the bank are spread over nine international offices with branches in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai (at DIFC), Colombo and Shanghai, and representative offices in Dhaka, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and an overseas subsidiary in London, U.K. The international offices focus on corporate lending, trade finance, syndication, investment banking and the liability businesses.
With a balance sheet size of $92.75 billion as of March 31, 2017, Axis Bank has achieved consistent growth and a five-year CAGR (2011-12 to 2016-17) of 16 per cent in total assets, 13 per cent in total deposits, and 17 per cent in total advances.
Excerpts of an interview with Raj Kishore Prasad, Head - GCC Region and Chief Executive Officer, DIFC Branch:
When did the bank officially launch operations at DIFC?
The UAE and India have historically shared excellent trade and cultural ties. The UAE is a dynamic hub for global commerce with unmatched infrastructure providing seamless connectivity for businesses worldwide.
The DIFC offered us a perfect platform to fulfil our global ambitions. With more corporate houses from India looking at this region for expansion, the trade flows were bound to see a significant jump. For a bank like Axis, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
We commenced operations in April 2007, and it has been an exciting journey since. Axis Bank has Category 1 licence in DIFC, which has helped it emerge as a significant operative unit, both in terms of size and profitability.
With shared values of ethics, transparency and integrity, we strike a cordial rapport with DFSA. The regulator is quite pragmatic and consultative in its approach while formulating the regulations.
We are able to air our views and concerns freely and the same have been well received by them during the consultation process, which makes the rules more palatable.
The experience during the supervisory review has also been quite fruitful and as a result we have been able to make a lot of systemic improvements based on the observations/suggestions provided by the regulator.
Tell us about your operations at DIFC in terms of finance extended to clients?
We provide a range of corporate banking services in line with our India-linked strategy, including extending of External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs), arranging and participating in Foreign Currency Loans (bilateral as well as syndicated transactions), offering Working Capital Financing and Trade Finance products against corporate as well as financial institution exposure.
The key target segment is Indian corporate clients' fund requirements in the GCC region; besides focus on lending to select UAE-based corporates with significant exposure to India. Apart from corporates, the branch is focused on business with financial institutions in the region including lending and syndication.
The branch also provides credit facilities to eligible HNI Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) for their individual/business needs. Backed by the successful penetration of NRI funding, the branch is also exploring the opportunity to market collective investment funds to eligible HNI NRI customers subject to necessary regulatory approvals. 
How many markets/countries do you serve from DIFC? 
Trade knows no boundaries and neither do we. At DIFC, we are presently supporting our customers for their varied financial needs across the globe. However, the primary focus for coverage and origination for the bank from DIFC is the GCC region and Africa.
DIFC's legal and regulatory framework allows banks to offer a range of services. Could you elaborate on the ones that your bank focuses on?
With DIFC offering favourable tax laws, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a flexible regulatory regime, we have come a long way in offering a wide range of products from DIFC.
Our businesses include Corporate Credit, Debt Syndication, Investment Banking, Debt Capital Market and International Trade Finance. Additionally, at DIFC, we undertake business with various banks and financial institutions in this region.
Taking the opportunity of the growing needs of HNI NRI clients, going forward, the bank's focus would be on extending credit and investment solutions for eligible clients through the DIFC branch. 
Has your DIFC business portfolio expanded significantly ever since you set up your operations here?
Living up to our tagline 'Progress On', our business portfolio has expanded across the geographies wherever we have a presence and DIFC has been at the forefront of that growth story.
Not only did we grow in the size of the balance sheet, but we have also diversified our portfolio of a corporate credit centric business to having an increased focus on financial institutions and individual professional clients.
In line with our new focus, we are also planning to explore the opportunity of marketing foreign funds to individual professional clients to tap the growing HNI NRI segment subject to necessary regulatory approvals.
Are you planning to strengthen your DIFC presence by deploying more bankers and specialists to cater to the growing needs of the markets?
We already have adequate focus across key business segments through our presence at DIFC. Further strengthening, if required, would be in line with the overall international business strategy of the bank.
Has it been an enriching experience to operate out of DIFC? 
With DIFC being the international financial hub and UAE the international trade hub, the opportunities are always up for the taking for the corporates as well as for the banks, enabling players in DIFC to tap new business avenues.
The regulatory framework that governs the firms doing business in DIFC matches to the best in the world. The responsive nature of the establishment has helped a lot in our initial years. DIFC has managed to attract many global players to the centre and as a result the world outside looks at DIFC with a lot of admiration. We too have prospered in this environment in the last 10 years of our existence.
How do you view competition among Indian banks for the business pie from DIFC?
We believe that all banks have their own focused areas and strategies of business, but since India-linked banking is the cornerstone of products offered by majority of Indian banks, competition crops up. We also believe that there is scope for all the banks with the new partnership approach based banking to manage the risks.
More Indian banks have shown keen interest to enter DIFC. Will this change the landscape of the business?
With DIFC being an attractive destination for financial services sectors, entrance of more Indian banks is inevitable. With increased focus on partnership based banking including syndication deals and cross-border lending, we feel that the scope of business itself can increase and all the participants can enjoy an increased share of the pie.

More news from