The Bank’s strategic objective of risk-calibrated growth in core operating profits continued during fiscal 2021. Our core operating profit grew by 16.9% during fiscal 2021 to ₹ 313.51 billion, through the focussed pursuit of target market segments. Our strategy is underpinned by a strong franchise, growing our portfolio in strategically attractive ecosystems and protecting our balance sheet from downside risks. We have adopted a 360° customer-centric approach to tap opportunities across customer segments and create intuitive customer journeys through personalisation and future-ready solutions. We are building capabilities to tap opportunities across ecosystems by leveraging internal synergies across teams, building partnerships and simplifying processes. The twin principles of 'One Bank, One ROE', emphasising the need to maximise the Bank’s share of the target opportunity across all products and services, and 'Fair to Customer, Fair to Bank' emphasising the need to deliver fair value to customers while creating value for shareholders, guide our operations.
Leveraging digital technology is core to every aspect of our business. We leverage digital to decongest and streamline processes; analyse and understand customer needs; and improve customer onboarding and the continuing customer experience. The ICICI STACK, API Banking portal, iMobile, InstaBIZ and internet banking platforms as well as bespoke solutions for corporate and institutional customers provide seamless banking services digitally and enhance customers' transacting experiences. Partnerships with technology companies and platforms with large customer bases and transaction volumes offer unique opportunities for growth, and enhancing service delivery and customer experience. The Bank also has a start-up investment and partnerships team to collaborate with and invest in fintech startups and co-develop products aligned with our digital roadmap.
The Bank launched a first-in-the-industry service through a comprehensive digital banking platform called ICICI STACK, which offers nearly 500 services to ensure uninterrupted banking experiences. This is available on the Bank’s digital platforms where digital account opening, instant loans, investments and health and term insurance are facilitated.
The retail business continued to be a key driver of growth in fiscal 2021, as we pursued a strategy of building a diversified and granular loan portfolio. The focus in the retail business was on understanding and fulfilling customer needs underpinned by personalised banking, simple banking, fair banking and strong risk management. The Bank’s retail loan portfolio (including the rural and business banking portfolios) grew by 19.9% year-on-year to ₹4,892.20 billion at March 31, 2021, compared to a growth of 17.7% in the overall domestic loan book to ₹6,961.39 billion. Retail loans accounted for 66.7% of total loans, and including non fund-based outstanding, the share was 55% in the total portfolio.
The Bank’s funding profile remained robust with strong growth in the deposit base. Total savings account deposits increased by 20.3% year-on-year to ₹2,954.53 billion at March 31, 2021. Total term deposits grew by 18.4% year-on-year to ₹5,008.99 billion at March 31, 2021. The growth in the deposit franchise was supported by ongoing efforts to strengthen the Bank’s digital platforms and process simplification to provide a seamless banking experience to our customers.
During fiscal 2021, with challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we responded quickly to enable customers to meet their financial requirements safely. About 97% of the Bank’s branches were functional with reduced working hours during the months of lockdown in April-May 2020. We deployed mobile ATM vans for the benefit of the public residing in and around containment zones. A video-based Know-Your-Customer process (Video KYC) was launched, which empowered retail customers to complete their onboarding process for savings accounts, personal loans and Amazon Pay credit cards through a contactless video interaction. We also launched WhatsApp banking to enable retail customers to undertake a range of banking requirements from their homes during the pandemic. Further, a cardless cash withdrawal facility was enabled at our ATMs.
The Bank has always been at the forefront of digital transformation across the financial services industry in India. The all-new ICICI Bank website launched during the year is equipped with new capabilities including semantic and personalised search, and voice and hyper-personalised communication. We are focussing on key partnerships across ecosystems of liabilities, co-branded credit cards and e-commerce, to provide differentiated offerings to our customers and create opportunities for growth.
ICICI Bank’s mobile ATM deployed at Chennai.
A first-of-its-kind facility, iMobile Pay extended the ambit of the Bank’s mobile banking app to customers of any bank, providing instant access to the entire range of payment options and the Bank’s services. An innovative feature is the facility to pay to contacts, which enables users to automatically see the Unique Payment Interface (UPI) IDs of their phone book contacts. The mobile app is interoperable with all other UPI-based payment apps. In a span of five months since its launch, there were more than 2.5 million activations from non-ICICI Bank customers.
iMobile Pay: ICICI Bank's mobile banking app, provides instant access to the entire range of payment options and the Bank’s services to customers of any other bank.
Enhancing the digital journey of customers with the Bank involved creating innovative solutions, both for customers and for relationship managers. We revamped our home loan website offering an interactive customer experience and providing relevant content like a calculator for checking loan eligibility, an e-book explaining the journey to apply for a home loan and a blog on the mortgage industry to enable customers to make informed decisions. With instant processes like Express Home Loans, the entire loan sanction process is facilitated in just five simple steps and in a few minutes for eligible customers.
For superior and seamless connect, a Virtual Relationship Management channel was introduced which caters to customers' transaction and product needs through a human interface on the phone. We have focussed on decongested and seamless delivery and enhanced customer convenience.
The Bank offers a host of APIs and SDKs (software developer kits) which facilitate third-party apps offering payment solutions for their retail customers. The Bank has launched an API Banking portal which consists of 250 APIs and enables partner companies to co-create innovative solutions in a frictionless manner and in a fraction of the time usually taken for such integration. Various digital solutions have been developed by the Bank for lending and payments, including democratising of APIs for a seamless experience.
Digital initiatives have played a key role in driving growth and efficiency in the retail business. These initiatives have improved the efficiency of branches. The Bank is now able to serve more customers at its existing branches and has enabled employees to perform more value-added activities. The Bank periodically reviews branches based on customer footfalls and economic activities to ensure optimal distribution of the branch network. We added 922 cash acceptance machines and 148 insta-banking kiosks during fiscal 2021.
Our rural banking operations aim to meet the financial requirements of customers in rural and semi-urban locations. Our products in this segment include working capital loans for growing crops, financing post-harvest activities, loans against gold jewellery along with personal loans, financing against warehouse receipts, farm equipment loans, affordable housing finance and auto and two-wheeler loans. We also provide consumption loans for low-income customers. We offer financial solutions to micro-finance institutions, self-help groups, co-operatives constituted by farmers, corporations and medium enterprises engaged in agriculture-linked businesses.
Our operational structure and offerings put us in a unique position to leverage opportunities in different ecosystems within the rural markets. At the heart of this approach are six main ecosystems identified in the rural market which include Agriculture, Dealers, Self-Employed, Corporates, Institutions and Micro-Entrepreneurs.
The farmer ecosystem includes participants like farmers, seed producers, agri-input dealers, warehouses, agri-equipment dealers, commodity traders and agri processors. The Bank has designed different products for each player to meet their specific financial requirements so that the entire agri-value chain is well-financed. Products offered include working capital loans through the Kisan Credit Card and gold loans, and term loans for farm equipment, dairy livestock purchase and farm development. The rural ecosystem of corporates includes manufacturing and processing units, employees, dealers and suppliers. The dealer ecosystem comprises dealers/distributors of farm equipment, white goods, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Similarly, the self-employed ecosystem comprises of rural entrepreneurs who are engaged in trading and manufacturing activities based out of commercial and industrial areas in the rural market dealing with both agri and non-agri related products. The institutional segment comprises various institutes like schools, colleges, hospitals and government offices. We closely engage with them to develop products and processes, including technology solutions. The micro-lending space includes women from the lower-income strata of the population, non-government organisations and other institutions working at the grass-root level in the rural economy. The Bank has products and services specifically to cater to this segment.
We have scaled-up funding of electronic Negotiable Warehousing Receipts (eNWR), which provides an opportunity for borrowers to access credit quickly and with ease. Farmers can use eNWR to get loans against underlying commodities. This protects the farmers from volatility and gives opportunities to avail better prices for their produce. Further, the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) has a well-defined mechanism to empanel warehouses for issuing eNWR, which mitigates potential risks in the business.
Offering complete financial solutions to customers and their ecosystem has been a strategic focus in the Bank’s businesses. In the rural space, an example of this approach is the financial solution provided to farmers and other participants of the dairy ecosystem. This includes providing a suite of financial solutions including term loans and working capital loans to dairy unions, payment solutions and promoting investments in animal husbandry. These solutions are supplemented by providing skill training through ICICI Foundation. We have reached over 29,500 farmers to invest into animal husbandry valued over ₹5.10 billion and have tied-up with about 2,200 Village Level Cooperative Societies (VLCS) with about 0.2 million members.
Apart from meeting the financial requirements for business purposes, we also offer products to meet the personal requirements of participants in the rural ecosystem.
A community banking approach has been adopted with emphasis on personal relationships with customers. The operational structure ensures that we can meet holistic financial needs of customers in the villages at their doorstep. The Bank’s reach in rural areas comprises a network of branches, ATMs and field staff, and business correspondents providing last-mile access in remote areas. Of the Bank’s network of 5,266 branches, 51% are in rural and semi-urban areas with 649 branches in villages that were previously unbanked. There were over 4,000 customer service points enabled through the business correspondent network at March 31, 2021.
The Bank has a mobile application that enables its employees to capture and submit loan applications from the applicant’s doorstep and also gives indicative eligibility and deviations on product lending norms. This effectively shortens the turnaround time and the cost to service new loan applications. A light version mobile app, 'Mera iMobile' has been developed for rural customers in 11 regional languages, with 135 services, in which multiple functionalities work without internet access. ‘Mera iMobile’ app is used by more than half a million customers.
We have tied up with fintech start-ups that support Aadhaar-enabled transactions. During the year, 180 million transactions aggregating about ₹389 billion were facilitated. These solutions are making financial services more accessible and affordable.
The rural banking portfolio grew by 26.9% year-on-year during fiscal 2021 to ₹721.58 billion, driven mainly by growth in loans against jewellery and loans to rural self-employed customers.
The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) portfolio comprises exposures to companies with a turnover of up to ₹2.50 billion. Our business banking portfolio comprises small business customers with an average loan ticket size of ₹10-15 million. The SME portfolio grew by 32.5% year-on-year to ₹302.84 billion and the business banking portfolio grew by 40.5% year-on-year to ₹373.27 billion at March 31, 2021.
Our focus in these businesses is on parameterised and programme-based lending, which is granular and well-collateralised. We offer our SME and business banking customers a wide spectrum of solutions addressing their evolving business needs such as customised offerings, faster turnaround time, transaction convenience, timely access to capital and cross-border trade and foreign exchange products. Providing digital solutions is at the core of the engagement, with the range of solutions spanning customer onboarding, payments and collections, lending and cross-border transactions.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, we have provided financial assistance to clients based on various government schemes, which includes providing moratoria on loan repayment and Emergency Credit lines to eligible SME customers. We have disbursed an aggregate amount of about ₹140 billion to SME and other customers under the government's Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme till March 31, 2021. We were able to leverage on our growing digital capabilities during this period by providing contactless solutions like digital current account opening, online electronic franking and digital signature-based document execution (Eazysign).
A new digital platform, InstaBIZ, was launched specifically for the small and medium enterprises (SME) and the self-employed segment, which offers over 200 products and services on mobile and internet banking platforms.
Customers can seamlessly execute their trade finance and foreign exchange transactions through the Trade Online and FX Online platforms and carry out trade transactions online in a paperless environment. Customers can avail bank guarantees on the go, which provides a superior transaction and service experience.
The Bank continued to enhance the data analytics-driven onboarding, credit assessment and monitoring of our retail and SME customers and creation of propositions for their supply-chain financing needs. Supply chain financing is an integral part of the SME business and a focus area towards deepening our coverage of the corporate ecosystem. Our CorpConnect platform enables corporates to integrate their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system using Application Programme Interfaces or host-to-host protocols. Our plug-n-play based digital supply chain financing platform, DigitalLite, enables the onboarding of customers seamlessly and quickly.
These two platforms enable corporates to seamlessly manage the supply chain financing, payments, collection and reconciliation requirements of their dealers and vendors in a convenient and paperless process.
InstaBIZ: India's most comprehensive digital banking app for businesses offers over 200 banking products and services.
These platforms also automatically assess the eligibility of the corporate’s dealers and vendors for credit through business rule engine and intelligent algorithm with automated bureau checks. With these capabilities, digital approval letter generation automation and e-sign features, we are able to set up credit limits and offer credit sanction to the corporate’s dealers and vendors within a few hours, even if they are not customers of the Bank. Over half of our supply chain linked business corporate clients have been onboarded on our digital platforms.
We follow strong risk management practices in managing our SME and business banking portfolio, with a view to enhancing the portfolio quality by reducing concentration risks and a focus towards granular and collateralised lending-based growth. Our robust portfolio monitoring framework is able to proactively analyse and detect stressed cases which enables us to take early action and ensure healthy portfolio quality. The Bank has further strengthened its underwriting process by integrating various digital tools like bank statement analyser, automatic fetching of bureau reports and enhanced business rule engine to generate probability of default scores for score-based analysis into one single ecosystem called Infinity. A combination of qualitative and quantitative assessment tools are utilised to arrive at the final decision.
The Wholesale Banking Group has a wide and deep client franchise, which includes top business houses, large private sector companies, financial institutions and banks, public sector undertakings and central and state government entities. In the last few years, we have developed a strong franchise across multi-national companies (MNCs) and new age services companies, and also established a strong franchise in the financial sponsors space with special focus on private equity funds and their investee companies.
We have a comprehensive coverage model. Our Bank’s established presence as a financial service provider and extensive branch network across the country providing last mile coverage has helped us to strengthen our client franchise. By leveraging the Bank’s overseas branches, we have been able to focus on MNCs, financial sponsors and India linked companies. Our approach has been to deepen our partnership and support our clients through their life cycle. Our leading-edge product portfolio is comprehensive and technologically advanced and includes lending products for working capital and capital expenditure requirements and other products that the client may need across trade, treasury, bonds, commercial papers, channel financing, supply chain solutions, and various other activities.
With a focus on the Bank’s overall strategy of maximising the risk-calibrated core operating profit, the Wholesale Banking Group has reimagined its strategy of engaging with corporate clients. While Portfolio Quality and Earning Quality remain the key principles driving our strategy value creation for our clients is the main focus. Instead of being only capital providers, we aim to become business partners to our clients. To achieve this, we realigned our structure in the past from product-centric to a client-centric model. With the client at the centre, all the groups across the Bank are well-aligned to offer the entire Bank’s offerings to our clients and their ecosystems. We continued our strategy of 360° banking across the corporate ecosystem by offering a comprehensive suite of banking products to the corporate and its entire network of employees, dealers, vendors and all other stakeholders. This has not only made client servicing more effective, but also helped us to penetrate deeper in high-value retail accounts of promoters, directors and employees through a suite of retail products like salary, private and wealth banking, home loans, personal loans, vehicle loans, etc. This approach also reduced client acquisition cost. The Group focussed on capturing the money in motion for the entire Corporate Ecosystem to strengthen the Bank’s liability franchise further.
Driven by data analytics to derive insights, combined with an approach to build future-ready banking solutions and integrating client journeys through digitisation, we have evolved our digital offerings for corporate clients. One such innovative offering is the ICICI STACK for corporate clients that provides digital banking solutions for corporates on a single platform and also provides sector-specific solutions.
In a volatile business environment, with return of capital being the overarching objective, we leveraged analytics extensively to monitor transactions and portfolio quality. While new credit is extended in a granular manner to well-established and higher-rated business groups, analytics is used for portfolio monitoring and identification of early warning signals in the existing book. This has led to enhancement of the overall quality of the existing corporate portfolio. We also focussed on reducing concentration risks to make the portfolio more granular.
Technology continues to be the cornerstone of our strategy as well as execution. The online application for credit assessment of mid-corporate clients was scaled up during the year. Apart from quick onboarding, this enabled objective and comprehensive risk assessment of clients, based on multiple parameters like bureau information, and qualitative and quantitative factors. Another innovative solution offered was CP Online, a first-of-its-kind cloud based platform, which seamlessly integrates various stakeholders for the issuance of commercial paper (CP). By automating the document preparation and digitising the process flow, CP Online reduces the client’s workload by more than 80% and turnaround time from four days to less than a day. The strong product proposition helped the Bank to double its market share of CP flows within a year.
We have evolved our digital offerings for corporate clients by building future-ready banking solutions and integrating client journeys through digitisation.
In fiscal 2021, the disruptions due to measures to control the spread of Covid-19 impacted the day-to-day functioning of our corporate and SME clients, whether it was paying their suppliers and employees, collecting money from their customers or handling their daily import and export transactions. Our proactive response coupled with technology investments made in our digital capabilities over the years, both in customer facing solutions and in internal workflow management, became compelling for our customers and enabled our employees to provide uninterrupted services to customers. In this context, one key positive outcome has been a multi-year acceleration in the digital adoption by our corporate customers leading to enhanced customer satisfaction, amongst other business outcomes. The number of customers on our Trade Online platform more than doubled during fiscal 2021.
In continuing with our thought leadership in the digital space and customer-centric approach, we have also brought to market certain ecosystem based solutions. We curated a number of industry and segment specific solutions. An example of industry specific solutions that we launched in fiscal 2021 was an end-to-end digital capability for the capital market industry, which in turn helped us capture a greater share of the liability opportunity from this ecosystem. An example of a segment specific solution that we launched during the year was a platform to enhance the ease of doing business for MNCs in India through our Infinite India portal. The portal offers value-added services in collaboration with partners to ease the MNCs’ journey of setting up or scaling up their business in India. Similar initiatives have been taken to capture the entire ecosystem opportunity across multiple industries and segments.
We have also launched 15 industry STACKs as a part of ICICI STACK for Corporates to provide the depth and breadth of digital solutions required by the diverse customer segments we serve.
With a focus on capturing the entire 360° banking opportunity, the Bank continues to create best-in-class digital solutions to meet the varied requirements of our customers. These solutions range from industry shaping initiatives such as the first 'e-bank guarantee with e-stamping' issuance in collaboration with the state of Uttar Pradesh, thus creating a pathway for complete paperless bank guarantee issuance and advising, and amendments to operational efficiency-enhancing solutions for our customers such as a simplified digital payment solution for 'Multi-state GST'. Customisation at a scale is a key factor in our approach.
These solutions are being delivered to our customers through physical and digital channels. In addition to leveraging the existing physical branch network, we have expanded our capabilities to provide transaction banking services to our customers from about 114 locations as of March 31, 2020 to 183 locations as of March 31, 2021. This has also involved co-location of skilled transaction banking teams to branches. Many of these expanded branch capabilities are in the factory/township premises of certain large conglomerates in the country.
In addition to our scalable corporate internet banking platform which has over 100 features that are being continuously upgraded, we also embarked on providing embedded solutions at scale to our customers. These embedded banking solutions, which are offered through APIs or host-to-host connectivity, provide access to day-to-day banking services to corporates within their own ERP environments. In fiscal 2021, the Bank delivered over 21% higher number of integrations compared to a year ago. In addition to enhancing customer satisfaction, these embedded solutions ensure stable business for the Bank.
A critical aspect of capturing the ecosystem opportunity is vendor and dealer financing. A key priority for our corporate customers is to ensure continued and competitive financing for their supply chain to ensure uninterrupted business. In this regard, the Bank offers a complete product suite including all forms of vendor and dealer financing solutions. Necessary investments have been made in technology capabilities to ensure scalability of business is achieved within the credit guardrails. The digital capabilities are also supplemented by distributed teams located out of our branches capturing this important business for our customer and the Bank.
In these digital capabilities developed by the Bank, data analytics plays a very critical role. Investments in capability and capacity building in data analytics have resulted in delivering a number of use cases in wholesale banking, which is aimed at three main objectives of improved customer service, enhanced revenue opportunities and superior risk management. A number of tangible use cases have been delivered with measurable outcomes across the stated objectives.
ICICI Bank’s international presence consists of branches in the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Dubai International Finance Centre, South Africa, China, Offshore Banking Unit (OBU) and IFSC Banking Unit (IBU), and representative offices in Bangladesh, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Indonesia and Malaysia. We also have wholly-owned subsidiaries in the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada. ICICI Bank UK also has a branch in Germany. The Bank opened a new representative office in Nepal and closed its branch in Sri Lanka during the year.
Our international franchise continues to focus on four strategic pillars, namely the NRI ecosystem comprising deposits, remittances, investments and asset products; the MNC ecosystem comprising both foreign MNCs investing in India and Indian MNCs branching out for their foreign currency and other India related requirements and also Global In-house Centres (GIC), which are back-offices of MNCs created to serve the world; Trade ecosystem, comprising primarily India-linked trade transactions which are self-liquidating in nature; and funds ecosystem, to capture fund flows into India through the Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) route. Apart from this, the Bank continued to progress in its objective of reducing the non-India linked exposures in a planned manner. The non-India linked corporate portfolio reduced by 56% year-on-year or by USD 1.60 billion during fiscal 2021.
The Bank plays a pioneering role in promoting digital initiatives across businesses in the international banking arena. We have been continuously introducing and innovating products to enhance customer experiences. In the NRI segment, re-imagining the NRI ecosystem with ICICI STACK, for a deeper understanding of customer profiles and needs with 360° STACK solutions designed to meet the evolving banking needs of NRIs and their families in India, has been a core focus. The on-boarding of NRI customers has been made seamless by leveraging emerging technologies like OCR based account opening with facility to track applications. We also launched the opening of three-in-one accounts digitally, an industry-first initiative, for seamless opening of savings account with linked demat account and broking account. Remote servicing accessibility was enhanced with the launch of WhatsApp banking and i-Pal chatbot. The new and value-added digitised services for NRI customers resulted in 85% of NRI customers being digitally active.
Facilitating frictionless cross-border remittance solutions has been the core strategy in re-designing the solutions for both inward and outward remittance needs of NRIs and resident Indians. We implemented SWIFT gpi for inward and outward remittances, enabling end-to-end digital tracking of remittances. Our proprietary inward remittance platform, Money2India, was enhanced with a completely revamped user interface (UI) across both web and mobile app solutions to deliver a superior user experience. Single sign-on facility to access Money2India and Internet banking was launched for NRI customers, facilitating seamless unified login access to service remittance and banking needs.
Segment-specific solutions were redesigned, including the student ecosystem, for enabling seamless fee payments to overseas universities through online integrated solutions in tie-ups with institutional/fintech aggregators, both in India and overseas.
The Money2India platform was enhanced with a completely revamped user interface across both web and mobile app solutions.
We are extensively engaged with government departments/ bodies and support them with technology-driven banking solutions. Government banking has been a core focus area for the Bank and we provide a range of banking services to Government of India ministries, state government departments and district and local bodies across the country. ICICI Bank offers its government customers a wide spectrum of solutions addressing the fast-evolving needs such as customisable and integrated solutions, large transaction processing capabilities and superior turnaround time. The customised products and services offered are aligned to act as enablers for enhancing e-governance and financial management.
The Bank assists the Government in collection of central taxes, state taxes and GST payments through authorised branches and digital channels. Our technology-driven banking platforms provide simple online tax payment options to customers. Statutory payments like EPFO and ESIC dues can also be done online through the Bank’s platform.
We have partnered with a number of Central and State government departments to ensure quick disbursement of funds/benefits to beneficiaries and implementing agencies through the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) and non-PFMS platforms. These customisable and integrated solutions have supported the government’s endeavour for efficiency in expenditure management.
ICICI STACK, the comprehensive digital banking suite is offered to government bodies, institutions, district administrations, local bodies and associated stakeholders, including their staff and employees to bring transparency and desired efficiencies in the implementation of the Government's objectives.
The Bank is on a journey where differentiated customer experience along with operational excellence are at the core of everything we do. As we walk this path, we continuously seek to create value across the customer lifecycle through decongested delivery, zero or low-touch operations and enhanced customer engagement.
The Bank’s approach is to make customer experiences instant and speedy and processes and systems integrated, seamless, intelligently automated and scalable. The Bank places the customer at the centre of every design and reimagines customer journeys with hyper-personalised and omni-channel experiences.
Prioritising the customer in every business and service goal, the concept of customer satisfaction has been replaced by ‘delight’ in banking experiences. The Bank has embraced and built upon this transition while being committed to the core principle of 'Fair to Customer, Fair to Bank'.
ICICI Bank believes in re-imagining customer journeys with hyper-personalised and omni-channel experiences.
During fiscal 2021, various customer service initiatives were implemented, some of which were:
During the year, there was a sustained improvement in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) across products and services, a key metric to measure customer advocacy for onboarding and channels.
We also ensure continuous engagement with our customers through multiple channels including through branch employees, surveys, social media and channels to raise queries and grievances.
Our focus on customer service is driven to improve process efficiency, enhance customer experience and response time to queries and grievances.
We continue to invest in building digital and technology competencies to deliver better customer service and increase productivity, while optimising costs. We actively monitor and improve our technology infrastructure to minimise disruptions in services to our customers. During fiscal 2021, we took significant steps to adapt our IT systems to the new environment due to Covid-19.
The accelerated shift to digital banking, and the need to make banking simpler and safer, prompted us to launch several new digital products and platforms. At the same time, we are focussed on looking beyond at the long term technology landscape.
As a part of our #2025 technology strategy, the Bank is creating an enterprise architecture framework across digital platforms, data and analytics, micro services-based architecture, cloud computing, cognitive intelligence and other emerging technologies. This is based on the pillars of scalability, modularity, flexibility and agility, resilience and reliability, and creating delightful and digitally-native customer experiences to enable sustainable profitable growth.
The fast emerging technology advancements like cloud computing and data sciences coupled with economics of ecosystems and customer preferences are constantly redefining risks and opportunities in a dynamic manner. Re-imagined customer touchpoints and journeys have dramatically impacted and transformed customer experiences across segments. Business process optimisation, decongestion in decision-making and new modes of revenue through different economic models and partnerships are getting crystallised.
Banking services are increasingly omnipresent and completely embedded into the customer journeys which makes scalability, extensibility, security and agility the cornerstones of development.
At the same time, new forms of risks such as social frauds and cyber threats are also a reality. In this context, the Bank has adopted an approach that enables us to respond to the changing dynamics in an agile and responsive manner.
The Bank has a dedicated Data Science and Analytics team that works across business areas on projects relating to business analytics, decision strategies, forecasting models, machine learning, rule engines and performance monitoring. We maintain a comprehensive enterprise-wide data warehouse and employ statistical and modelling tools for leading-edge analytics.
In driving an innovation and start-up mindset, we have set up an Innovation Centre to collaborate with and invest in fintech startups and co-develop products aligned with the Bank’s digital roadmap. The engagements with the startups are focussed on digital lending, revenue growth, digital platforms and process efficiencies.
While the Bank is focussed on growing its own digital channels, we are also creating an ecosystem through partnerships which cover all broad segments of customer and merchant payments. The Bank is offering a host of APIs and SDKs (software developer kits) which facilitate third party apps to offer payment solutions for their retail customers.
The Bank has launched an API Banking portal which consists of 250 APIs and enables partner companies to co-create innovative solutions in a frictionless manner and in a fraction of the time usually taken for such integration.
At the Bank, we believe that in the modern digital age, cyber security is not an IT/information security issue, but a business issue. It is vital to protect the Bank’s and customers’ assets and ensure continued trust of our stakeholders. We have adopted a multi-dimensional approach to cyber security. The CIA triad of Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability is at the heart of the information security framework implemented at the Bank. Keeping customer priorities in mind, we follow a ‘defence in depth’ approach in implementing cyber security solutions. This approach enables us to protect our data using a multi-layered defense mechanism and a combination of tools and techniques which complement and augment each other.
The Bank also lays emphasis on customer protection aspects such as phishing, adaptive authentication and awareness initiatives. We have been a pioneer in enabling customers to easily configure control parameters related to their cards such as limits, international access and other parameters on a self-service and real-time basis from the internet and mobile channels of the Bank. This enables customers to protect their cards from misuse.
The Bank has an information/cyber security governance framework consisting of leadership, organisational structures and processes that help us mitigate growing cyber security threats. Our cyber security governance encompasses management oversight at various levels with the ultimate responsibility assumed by the Board of Directors.
The governance structure for management of information/cyber security risk is helmed by the IT Strategy Committee, the Risk Committee and Audit Committee, all being Board-level Committees and chaired by Independent Directors. At the executive management level, there are specialised Committees to review key areas of IT and cyber risk. These include the Information and Cyber Security Committee, IT Steering Committee and the Business Continuity Management (BCM) Steering Committee which have diverse cross-functional members and well-defined terms of reference. Proceedings of these Committees are reported to the IT Strategy Committee. Further, the BCM Steering
Committee approves and monitors the implementation of the BCM plan, which includes the business continuity plan for processes, disaster recovery plan for IT systems and emergency response plan to mitigate the risk of injuries to customers and employees and damage to the Bank's assets.
Additionally, we have devised multiple key risk indicators/ dashboard to review system stability, continuity and availability and network uptime. The Bank’s Information Security Policy, Cyber Security Policy and Information Security Standards and Procedures are based on various industry standards such as NIST, regulatory requirements of various jurisdictions in which the Bank operates and other inputs like internal audits and benchmarking exercises.
As part of our Secure by Design philosophy, we ensure that every new piece of infrastructure or application is put through rigorous security testing. We also perform continuous scanning of our IT infrastructure and application landscape to identify any potential issues. The Bank has a 24x7 Security Operation Centre (SoC) for monitoring and surveillance of IT systems.
Considering the criticality and vitality of data protection, we have deployed a Data Leakage/Loss Prevention (DLP) system with data protection rules for sensitive data exposure from the Bank’s endpoints, emails and web gateways. Also, the Bank undertakes multiple assessments of the efficacy of its security controls by internal as well as external auditors and through specific thematic assignments. We also conduct and participate in cyber security drills and table top exercises to continuously fine tune our response mechanisms.
In the wake of the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the Bank's first priority was to make sure customer services were least disrupted. To address this and to ensure employees’ safety was also not compromised, we made arrangements for all key activities to be performed on a work-from-home model through secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) and Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI). The Bank rolled out a large work-from-home infrastructure within a few weeks from the onset of the pandemic.
During this period, the Information Security Group also issued detailed advisories on Do’s and Don’ts for staff to follow when they work from home. This was followed up with regular snippets on information security best practices. We continuously audit the work-from-home setup for our security controls from aspects such as identity and access management, data protection, and other parameters. Our 24x7 Security Operation Centre also configured specific rules to continually monitor logs from VPN services and generate alerts in case of any unusual events. Further, DLP rules have been enhanced to avoid sensitive data exposure by employees.
There were no material incidents of security breaches or data loss during fiscal 2021.