Mumbai: Meera Sanyal took over the reins of ABN Amro Bank NV in India as executive vice-president and country executive in December soon after Royal Bank of Scotland, or RBS, along with Fortis Group of the UK and Banco Santander SA of Spain, had acquired the Dutch bank.
Though RBS has no presence in India, Sanyal’s biggest challenge is to align the practices of the “Queen’s bank” with that of her own, and retain human capital. Most business heads of ABN Amro in India have quit following the RBS acquisition. Sanyal herself was named to the top position after Romesh Sobti, then head of India operations, left the bank to join IndusInd Bank Ltd.
Tough job: ABN Amro executive vice-president in India, Meera Sanyal. (Photograph by Abhijit Bhatlekar / MINT)
Sanyal has been with ABN Amro for about 17 years, leading the corporate finance business of the bank in countries across Asia. For her, integration is not entirely a novel exercise as, in 1999, she was sent to India from Singapore to oversee the integration of Bank of America Corp.’s retail operations with those of the Dutch bank.
In an interview, Sanyal spoke on the rebranding of ABN Amro Bank, its business plans and the recent resignations of its business heads. Edited excerpts:
What is the status of the ABN–RBS integration?
Globally, three parties—RBS, Fortis Group and Banco Santander—are in the process of acquiring the assets of ABN Amro Bank. RBS is acquiring the wholesale, retail and private banking businesses in India.
Fortis does not have the banking licence to service the private banking clients in India and hence it has gone to RBS. Fortis, however, has acquired the asset management business.
The transfer of the bank’s business in the Netherlands to RBS is the most complex part and that is in progress under the aegis of the Dutch central bank. In India, the whole of ABN Amro Bank has moved to RBS. The process is complete as there is not much of integration to do, considering RBS had no presence in India.
Here, the main task is the rebranding of ABN Amro. It will be known as RBS. However, this can happen only when the name of the parent changes. That is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2009.
Rebranding will be gradual process, beginning with employees and customers. Employees are going through this process and our customers have been advised that the bank has been taken over by RBS. We are also telling our clients what this means for them.
Won’t there be a conflict of interest considering Fortis is also planning to enter the banking space in India?
In many markets, both the banks are competing with each other. There is no non-compete clause in the agreement.
Are there any structural or organizational changes that have been initiated following the acquisition?
There are no changes as the business units are almost identical. What we had to do was change their names. So, the wholesale banking unit is now called the global banking and markets unit. This is headed by Madan Menon.
The consumer banking unit has been renamed retail banking, headed by Puneet Bahl.
Similarly, the private banking business in India will operate under the RBS Coutts brand which will be headed by Paul Davies. The global transaction services business is headed by Rohit Sawhney.
There is continuity of business. Within the small and medium enterprises business, we are creating a new vertical to focus on small companies. We would bring in clients from both the retail and corporate banking businesses. We are yet to announce the name of the head of this business.
Since the announcement of the RBS takeover, many senior executives have quit the bank. How do you plan to stop the exodus? What is your exact role in the new structure?
I have been in this bank for the past 17 years. I was part of the same management team that quit sometime back.
It’s true that we have lost some senior people. After they left, new opportunities have been created for others down the chain. All the replacements are from within the bank. In fact, everyone who left the bank has created a good succession. India has the third largest concentration of RBS staff with 9,000 employees.
In keeping with its global practice of motivating employees, RBS has recently introduced the practice of gifting a car to an employee who has served for more than three years.
I am heading the bank in India and ACES (ABN Amro Central Enterprise Services—the business process outsourcing arm of the bank). It has been set up to provide operations and IT processing services to business units of ABN Amro globally. All the business unit heads report to me.
How will you approach the consumer banking business under RBS?
RBS has a significant branch proposition like ABN Amro Bank. We would continue to focus on the wealth management business, unsecured lending and credit cards. The bank has 28 branch licences and has received RBI’s approval to open three more.
Do you have any plans of selling off ACES and the retail broking business?
Nothing is for sale. As far as the retail broking business goes, considering the existing market condition, we may not be investing more resources in it. But, I am not aware of any plans to sell it.