Mumbai: Westpac Banking Corporation, the oldest lender in Australia, on Thursday opened a branch in India—the fourth Australian bank to do so in Asia’s third largest economy.
In India, the lender will primarily focus on funding cross-border transactions of Indian companies besides offering structured finance and debt market products, according to Bala Swaminathan, Westpac general manager, Asia.
“There are multiple objectives (for opening operations in India). Fundamentally, we would like to operate on funding cross-border trades, not only between Australia and India but with other countries as well,” said Swaminathan.
Recently, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had said India-Australia bilateral trade is expected to touch $40 billion in 2015 from about $21 billion now. Apart from the rising trade, increasing student and tourist traffic between Australia and India too provides opportunities for banks, Swaminathan said.
Westpac had begun operations in India in 2007 through a representative office. Three other Australian banks operating in India are Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
Westpac will have about 22 employees in India in the first phase, which will be increased to 45 in course of time, Swaminathan said.
“This will definitely increase competition for Indian banks as these lenders come with well-established brands. Australian banks are moving to India because of increasing trade relations between both countries and increasing India-related presence in Australia.” a senior executive with a state-run bank said. He did not want to be named as he is not authorized to talk to media.
Currently, India has 41 foreign banks, which collectively had Rs.2.77 trillion deposits and of Rs.2.3 trillion advances in March 2012. They have 324 branches.