The new country executive of ABN Amro NV India Ltd, Meera H. Sanyal, is the second woman chief executive of a foreign bank operating in India after Naina Lal Kidwai, the head of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd (HSBC) India.
The task ahead for Sanyal is products and processes integration as the Dutch bank is being taken over by the Royal Bank Of Scotland (RBS)-led consortium. Fortis Group of the UK and Banco Santander SA of Spain are the other members of the consortium that acquired ABN Amro in October for €71 billion (Rs411 trillion).
Sanyal joined the bank in 1992 as head of structured finance and was responsible for setting up its corporate and project finance businesses in India.
At the helm: Country executive of ABN Amro NV India Meera H. Sanyal.
In 1997, while based in Singapore, she took over as head of corporate finance advisory for Asia and handled several restructuring mandates post the 1997 Asian currency crisis.
Returning to India as the chief operations officer of ABN Amro in 1999, Sanyal was responsible for the integration of Bank of America Corp.’s retail operations with those of the Dutch bank and also led the implementation of Internet platforms. ABN Amro came to India in 1920.
From being a diamond financier in Surat in its early years, the lender has come a long way, to the journey where it now innovates on home loans. It has 28 branches and a deposit base of Rs15,998 crore as of March. The bank also manages a corpus of Rs8,628 crore under its asset management arm and provides wealth management services to high end clients.
After the integration, the asset management and private business will be taken over by Fortis.
A day after taking over the new assignment, Sanyal spoke to Mint on the integration process, the similarities and diversities of the “Queen’s bank” with her own and how they are learning from each other. Edited extracts:
What will be the focus of the new entity in India?
With the combination of these two banks, globally we have become among the top three banks in every product area, be it transaction banking, treasury, derivatives or global markets. In India, over the years, the Dutch bank has become a very strong franchise. RBS sees Asia and, especially India, as a “jewel in the crown” and is committed to making investments and grow the business. They are keen on introducing a new range of products on the debt capital markets. We are a formidable combination, and India is a very exciting place to be in.
Tell us more about the integrated entity and its lines of businesses.
This integration is the largest ever in the financial world, and is being closely regulated. Our plans are being firmed up with the Dutch central bank (De Nederlandsche Bank) as we speak. We have a very detailed separation and integration plans. Parts of our business, our private clients and asset management across Asia, will be moving into Fortis Group and the other business will be with RBS.
Then comes the integration process with ABN Amro and RBS, which does not have a significant presence in Asia, apart from three countries such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. In India, the ABN Amro business will continue and we will have the RBS product suite.
What will be the reporting structure?
We have not come to any decision on that yet. I am on the services management team and we are discussing what is best from the perspective of both RBS and ABN Amro. It might be (a) structure that is something totally unique for the new entity.
Asia has been a very strong business line for ABN Amro. How does RBS benefit from it?
Asia is a new business for RBS, while ABN Amro had in place a “5-3-5” strategy—we wanted to treble our revenues and be among the top five players in Asia over the next five years. RBS will get a very strong footprint in Asia and we will become more ambitious in our targets.
Tell us about the new range of products that RBS is likely to introduce in India.
India is a very strong growth market for RBS. They are also very big in credit cards and wealth management businesses. On the corporate side, they are very strong in global capital markets, syndication and project finance, and we will greatly benefit from them. They are also bankers to the Queen and offer a very niche personalized experience to their clients in the private banking space.
How do you integrate two different strategies in this space?
Our private banking experience is vastly different from that which is offered world over. Our brand of private banking is called the Van Gogh preferred banking suite, and it caters to the affluent customers.
We create a special experience for our customers. Our colours are the Van Gogh oranges and sunflowers, and we represent the young happy and affluent customer. Coutts, on the other hand, has personalized banking that is an experience in itself.
What about technology platforms?
RBS is very pragamatic in its approach. Their focus is not on paperwork but on maintaining clients and profit. As of now, we do not change our consumer banking platform.
Once the integration is complete, we have chalked out an immediate plan, a medium-term plan and a long-term plan. We will try and test the methods and see what works best from a broad client service perspective.
Microfinance is a very important business for ABN Amro. Would you continue with your focus?
Microfinance is very dear to our hearts. We want to do things that will make a difference. We are doing business viably, and RBS is keen on giving us continual support there.
Are you open for acquisitions if Indian banking regulator opens up the sector in 2009?
We are optimistic about 2009 and will explore acquisition targets seriously as and when there is an opportunity in the market.