“At UBI, we believe in riding on the IT wave”

by Sohini bagchi    Jul 18, 2012

Rathin De UBIOf the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in India, United bank of India (UBI) has redefined banking services with key initiatives in areas of hi-tech products, technologies and services. Rathin De, General Manager – IT, ADC and CMS at United bank of India tells CXOtoday how IT has been the key differentiator for the bank in all areas from strengthening customer relations, diversifying delivery channels, and enhancing revenue streams from diversified sources. An excerpt.

Today, what kind of IT opportunities exist in the banking sector?

The banking sector in India is poised for growth. If you compare the technology scenario that existed in public sector banks even five years ago, you would see how the industry has made significant progress from a manual process to an automated process. Today, almost all banks have deployed core banking solutions (CBS). Those banks that are going beyond CBS and are increasing their technology investments to become more customer-centric are emerging more successful. The opportunity lies in two levels. On the first level, banks should effectively run its back-office operations by leveraging technology to remain productive and agile. The second level of technology usage deals with the changes in the way it serves customers. This includes ramping up its dependence on ATM, e-banking, mobile banking and so on. Even though PSBs are not lagging behind in terms of technology adoption, they still have a way to go.

What are the key technologies driving the banking sector in recent times and why?

With most banks already deploying CBS, the next obvious step is to focus on technology initiatives like Enterprise Data Warehousing (EDW) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which I believe many PSBs have considered. I think cloud adoption will also pick up in a big way, as many banks have started with private cloud and some do have a hybrid model. But its adoption will take some time because of the security concerns. Mobile banking and e-transactions are also happening in the banking sector but PSBs need to explore the untapped potentials of these technologies. Another trend in the banking sector is technology outsourcing not only to big vendors but also with mid-sized entities for cost optimisation and better productivity.

What are some of the areas where Indian banks need to leverage IT better?

One area that public sector banks in India should get proactive is branch transformation. CRM is another area alongside customer analytics where they are still lagging behind. Multi channel integration is again an area these banks need to tap. Mobility is another key area – a channel that has huge opportunities that will change the face of Indian banking. CIOs and IT managers need to proactively manage information in the age of multiple channel banking. Going forward, PSBs should leverage self-service kiosks, audio, visual and other cutting age technologies to improve the banking experience and communicate more effectively with customers.

Private banks are aggressively adopting technology to enable anytime anywhere banking thereby keeping costs low. Have PSBs seriously joined the bandwagon?

With the entry of foreign banks and also private banks stepping up their efforts in the past couple of years, competition in the PSB sector has certainly increased significantly mainly because of high consumer expectations. Currently, there is the awareness among PSBs in becoming more customer centric which includes leveraging IT at its best and they are bringing about revolutionary changes at the branch level delivery channel not only with ATM, but is focusing on newer application, storage, wireless technologies and so on. However, PSBs have a number of challenges in terms of migration from the manual to digitized data unlike the private banks that had a centralised system from day one. And coping with the legacy issues will take some time. Moreover, we cater to the rural and remotest areas amid a lot of infrastructural challenges. So, considering all these I would say, PSBs are driving innovation.

How is UBI innovating with IT?

In order to thrive in this highly-competitive industry, at UBI, we believe in riding on the IT wave. By leveraging technology to the fullest, we have been offering innovative and hi-tech products and services to our customers. We started with the Automated Ledger Posting Machine (ALPM), which was a standalone system. Then we migrated to a Total Branch Automation (TBA) system, which runs in a client-server environment. Even though we were a little late to join the CBS bandwagon, in a very short span of time, we became the first nationalised bank in eastern India to have completed implementation of 100 percent CBS in all its branches.

We have a robust network in place network and boast of being the first bank in Asia Pacific to have implemented WAN optimisation. As part of our technology initiative, we have deployed radio frequency, V-SAT for branch connectivity and a high definition video conferencing system in place that is integrated with the bank network and internet.

We aim at strengthening customer relations and have deployed a CRM solution that enhanced our revenue stream. We also have in place a robust HRMS and been launching key initiatives in areas of distribution, operations and risk management. The bank has deployed internet and email services in the remotest of branches and all its branches are VoIP enabled. Moreover, the bank has recently launched a security operations center to secure and monitor its electronic transactions to minimise the challenges with Internet and mobile delivery channels. We are also the first bank in India to introduce collection of deposits hand held machines.

What is UBI’s technology roadmap?

To take our banking services to the next level, we are innovatively leveraging newer technologies such as RFID technology and document management. The bank has its Data Centre inKolkata and DR site at Mumbai. It is now planning to implement near DR at Kolkata. To support financial inclusion, we wish to set up more ultra small branches that are technologically equipped. Going forward, we are bullish on areas of Server virtualisation and virtual desktop interface and thin client technologies for a robust operation. We will continue to explore more in the areas of banking 2.0 and payment innovation and other customer-centric business process reengineering. We are constantly redefining banking services and become successful in the eastern part of the country. You will have a lot of m-commerce from us that will happen on your mobile phone. In the next 2 years, UBI to become the pioneer in areas of providing hi-tech products, technologies and services to customers among other PSBs.