“Hundred and one years ago, the Imperial Bank of India opened its first branch in London in 1921. After the amalgamation of the Banks of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras to create the Imperial Bank, they looked overseas to the United Kingdom in order to establish a financial corridor that would grow from strength to strength over the last century.
“We have the confidence of more than 470 million customers in India, and now share that trust and security with our retail and corporate clients here in the UK. As two progressive, established democracies, the UK and India are at a perfect time in their partnership to enable the deepening of cultural and economic interlinkages that will allow us to collaborate and solve global issues together.”
This was the message of Dinesh Kumar Khara, Chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), during a visit to the UK this month for India’s largest bank’s centenary celebrations in the UK – delayed from 2021 to 2022 due to the pandemic lockdown. The chairman declared that the future goal for the bank would be to expand beyond the strong Indian diaspora connect and reach out to the wider population in the UK.
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“Our model in the UK is doing very well. It is our best performing overseas subsidiary,” he noted.
With an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) now agreed the UK and India to double bilateral trade by 2030, SBI organised a special conclave entitled India-UK@2030 with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to identify opportunities for economic and strategic collaboration alongside the ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between the two governments. FICCI UK Council Chair Baroness Usha Prashar reflected on the critical juncture in the relationship between the two nations, highlighting the education sector as a key area of “enormous potential” to develop bilateral collaboration in multisectoral research and knowledge-sharing between industry and academia and to develop new capabilities within universities.
The British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, noted: “The UK having got itself out of the European Union (EU) has an opportunity to negotiate a free trade agreement with India in a way that it probably could not whilst it was a member of the EU. We must utilise that opportunity.
“We have already achieved some significant trade liberalisation in both countries, even in roughly a year that we have been doing the preparations.”
The centenary celebrations also included a special London Stock Exchange opening and a grand event at the historic Mansion House in the City of London, hosted by the Lord Mayor of London.
Lord Mayor, Vincent Keaveny said: “The UK and India share a long history and have close links, but this isn’t just about looking back but also forward, especially with the ongoing UK-India trade negotiations which we hope will include a financial services chapter.
“The City of London Corporation is committed to deepening financial sector engagement with India, including through its active membership in the India-UK Financial Partnership, so that this can be the beginning of another 100 years of positive relations.”
Sharad Chandak, Regional Head of SBI UK, added: “This celebration is a testament to how far our operations in the UK have evolved in the last 100 years. We started with London Branch to offer wholesale banking and enlarged the operations in the retail space.
“After formation of SBI UK Ltd in 2018, we have introduced our YONO SBI UK mobile banking app, launched new products, and grown the customer base in the UK. We look forward to expanding our offering to our corporate, small businesses and retail clients throughout the next century of operations.”