Mumbai: The Monetary Authority of Singapore, or MAS, has granted qualified full bank, or QFB, status to India’s largest private sector lender, ICICI Bank Ltd. Armed with this, ICICI Bank will be able to raise retail deposits and open 25 centres in Singapore, including automated teller machines (ATMs) and point-of-sales operations.
MAS had granted ICICI Bank a licence to transact its banking business in Singapore on 1 August 2003; this was the bank’s first overseas branch.
With the latest development, ICICI Bank will be the ninth QFB in Singapore and the second Indian bank with this status.
India’s largest lender, State Bank of India, which has been offering trade finance, corporate loans, deposits and remittance services since 1977, received QFB status from MAS in March 2008.
Others to have been granted this status are Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, BNP Paribas SA, Citibank NA, Malayan Banking Bhd, Royal Bank of Scotland NV, Standard Chartered Bank and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd.
Chanda Kochhar, managing director and chief executive officer, ICICI Bank, said she sees a “significant increase in our client base in the region having strong India connections”.
In an emailed response, an MAS spokesperson said: “The Monetary Authority of Singapore has awarded qualifying full bank privileges to ICICI Bank on 19 March. Singapore is committed to the CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) and we welcome the presence of Indian banks in Singapore. This will help enhance economic connectivity between India and Singapore.”
Under CECA, three Singapore banks are to be allowed to open 15 branches in India, while three Indian banks will be given QFB status.
CECA came into effect in August 2005 but it took almost three years for Singapore and India to open up their financial sectors. In 2008, DBS Bank Ltd, the largest bank in Singapore in terms of assets, got the Reserve Bank India’s, or RBI’s, nod to open eight new branches across India, up from two. RBI also issued a licence to United Overseas Bank Ltd (UOB) of Singapore to set up shop in India. In turn, MAS offered the QFB status to State Bank. DBS, which has the largest retail network in Singapore, entered India in 1994 by setting up a representative office in Mumbai. UOB is Singapore’s second largest lender.
Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Indian Bank, UCO Bank Ltd, Bank of Baroda and Axis Bank Ltd also have a presence in Singapore. Their status ranges from full banks to wholesale banks and offshore banks.
ICICI Bank has subsidiaries in the UK, Russia and Canada, branches in the US, Singapore, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Qatar and the Dubai International Finance Centre and representative offices in the UAE, China, South Africa, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Its UK subsidiary has branches in Belgium and Germany.
As on 31 December, international operations accounted for about 25% of its assets of Rs3.56 trillion. The bank was aggressively expanding its international operations but in the wake of the global liquidity crisis, it has focussed on consolidating its global book. Now the main focus of its global operations is the global expansion of Indian corporations.