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SBI UK chief reflects on supporting the Indian diaspora over 100 years

SBI UK chief reflects on supporting the Indian diaspora over 100 years

Sharad Chandak heads the State Bank of India (SBI) operations in the UK as the Regional Head. He began his career with SBI in 1988 and took on the role of CEO of its UK subsidiary in November 2018.

Over the years, he has rich experience working in the various specialist areas, including retail banking, mid-corporate and stress resolution groups.

In one of the highlight sessions of the recently Great Big Indian Money Show, iGlobal hosted an in-depth discussion with the banking chief as he took a trip down memory lane as India’s largest bank marks 100 years of operations in the UK.

Here are some highlights from the discussion:


What sets the SBI UK services apart?


I will break this in two parts. At the Wholesale Bank, London branch:

  • We help the Indian corporates to raise foreign currency loan

  • Sanction bilateral loans and syndicated loans to the multinational companies and UK based companies

  • Provide trade finance and merger & acquisition financing

  • We want to enter into the supply chain financing ecosystem

At our subsidiary bank:

  • In deposits, we have the instant access saving accounts, business saving accounts, cash ISA and flexi ISA

  • Our lockers are in huge demand with an occupancy rate of 95 per cent in our 11 branches

  • We also offer remittance facility with our competitive exchange rates

  • We offer loans to small businesses and commercial mortgages. Our by-to-let product is very attractive and well taken by local market

  • We will be shortly launching another product for the Indian diaspora. If an Indian national want to purchase property in the UK, we will be approving loans for them


How big is the bank, in terms of size and operation in UK?


The London operation is the flagship operation of SBI. Our London branch per se is the biggest offshore branch of SBI in asset terms. London helps SBI in mobilising the funds with London being the global financial hub. London is a healthy fundraising program for SBI.

We have the central treasury which helps the other offshore branches of SBI which are in the same time zone. The subsidiary, operating from the last three years, is gaining size and is going to be the biggest offshore subsidiary of SBI.


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Has Brexit affected SBI’s operations?


As London is a global financial hub, all reputed banks, insurance companies and financial institutes operating from here were aware of Brexit. So, they were preparing for it. I will say that the transition has happened very smoothly. There are commentaries saying that there is an impact on small businesses and there will be some impact on the property prices especially office properties and commercial properties.

We don’t have exposure to the European market and hardly half percent of deposit is from the European market. Another issue is the passporting right; Our subsidiary doesn’t have any branch in Europe so that passporting right doesn’t impact us. Brexit has a minimal impact on our UK operations.


How have you supported individual clients and small businesses during the pandemic?


Covid-19 pandemic has impacted millions and millions of lives and corporations. Our philosophy was to take care of our staff, our retail customers and the businesses.

For the staff, we allowed them to work from home whenever possible or come in rotations.

For retail customers, our staff was quite proactive. They started accepting the request on the phone or email and after some security checks, transactions were being put through. In this way retail customers can avoid non-essential travel.

We found that in this period, cybercrime or banking frauds have surged. We tried to educate our customers by communicating with them.

For businesses, wherever it was warranted, we gave them moratorium or deferments or equivalent testing waivers.


Any suggestions for NRIs [Non-Resident Indians] and OCIs [Overseas Citizens of India] on what to expect from SBI?


They should be having the internet banking account whether they have an account in India or in the UK. If you have internet banking, your life becomes simple.

  • You can pay your bills in India, remit money and bring money here as well.

  • Most NRIs remitting money should not only go for rates, but they should also see what fees the platforms are charging. We don’t charge any fees for our customers at SBI.

  • We have the NRI desk to clear any doubts. Additionally, the RBI also has a website where you can find the changes taking place in the NRI space.

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