The year gone by saw the world faced with possibly its greatest challenge in living memory. The health crisis and economic challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have demanded exceptional efforts on every front. India navigated the complex and challenging environment during fiscal 2021, driven by a determined response by our medical professionals, frontline workers, communities and the policy measures of the government and regulatory authorities. Most parameters of economic activity returned to pre-Covid levels by the last quarter of the fiscal year. However, a second wave of the pandemic emerged in late fiscal 2021 that saw a significant increase in infections across the country, in urban and rural areas. The receding of this second wave in recent weeks and the acceleration of the vaccination programme raise hopes of a gradual return to a more normal environment as the year progresses.
In this uncertain environment, ICICI Bank has accorded the highest priority to the continuity of service to our customers and the safety of our employees, and ensuring that the Bank is resilient against potential risks and well-poised to benefit from the recovery. Our employees have demonstrated immense professionalism and dedication towards the successful navigation of these challenges by our institution. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank all employees for their dedication and response during this difficult period, and for upholding the ethos of brand ICICI.
During fiscal 2021, significant provisions were made to cushion the balance sheet from the potential risks arising out of uncertainties around the trajectory of the pandemic and level of economic activity. Throughout the year, the Bank carried substantial excess liquidity, as it saw very healthy deposit inflows. Despite the challenging environment, the Bank saw a healthy growth in core operating profit and profit after tax in fiscal 2021. The Bank raised additional equity capital with the objective of further strengthening its capital adequacy and improving its competitive positioning. While regulatory guidelines did not permit banks to declare dividend last year, the Board of Directors has recommended payment of dividend to the shareholders in the current year.
The performance of the Bank in terms of growth, portfolio quality and profitability is a result of the focussed execution of its strategy over the past few years. The Bank’s consistent focus on growing its deposit franchise and its ability to raise deposits at low cost have enabled it to compete effectively in lending opportunities. The Bank has adopted an ecosystem-based approach, seeking to effectively and holistically serve the needs of customers and their networks, backed by a strong emphasis on internal collaboration and synergy. The risk frameworks within which the Bank has conducted its business have proved resilient in the face of the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Our continuing efforts to promote a cashless ecosystem and enable digital access to financial services proved invaluable in an environment of social distancing and restrictions on movement. Our strategy, based on a customer-centric approach, enabled us to respond to the needs of our customers and launch digital alternatives for them to stay connected and meet their financial needs. We launched initiatives like the ICICI Stack to enable banking on digital platforms for all customer segments. ICICI Bank continues to create innovative, convenient and comprehensive digital experiences for our customers.
The Board is committed to ensuring that ICICI Bank is a future-ready and resilient organisation with a focus on long term value-creation. Our business is underpinned by strong governance and risk management practices, and an ethos of being a trustworthy financial institution. During the year, the Board and its Committees conducted regular reviews to assess the Bank’s response to the challenges posed by the pandemic and evaluating its impact on our business and loan portfolio. From a longer term perspective, a wide range of issues and risks were reviewed to ensure organisational resilience and the responsiveness of the Bank to the evolving environment, particularly with relation to technology. The Board is focussed on critical aspects like cyber security and data privacy, and the scalability and resilience of the Bank’s technology architecture.
We are sensitive to our role within our ecosystem that includes customers, employees, suppliers, communities and the environment. Maintaining integrity, fairness and transparency are important values for us in our engagement with our stakeholders. Ensuring right-selling of products to our customers and the philosophy of 'Fair to Customer, Fair to Bank' are core to our strategy. We continue to instil a sense of accountability and ethics among employees through robust policies and strong governance. Our governance culture supported by sound risk management is aimed at ensuring we remain resilient during challenging periods and forge a sustainable future for the organisation.
We thank all our stakeholders and look forward to your continued support.
With best wishes,