She is the first woman president of FICCI, a Padma Shri recipient, a Harvard Business School alumnus, and the woman at the helm of one of the world's most renowned banks. Naina Lal Kidwai needs no introduction. As the group GM and country head of HSBC India, Kidwai has been instrumental in charting the growth path of HSBC in India for the past 10 years.
In this interview, Kidwai talks about the changes shaping the banking sector, how IT is aiding private banks do a one up on public sector entities, and how it is redefining banking.
CIO: What are some of the most significant shifts that you've witnessed in the banking sector?
Naina Lal Kidwai: There are two significant shifts that I have witnessed in the banking sector: One is rapid technological development, and the other is the volatile nature of the retail business. This is true not only at HSBC, but also for the industry because every change brings a new model for growth.
On the technology front, what we have today is a banking sector, which--including public sector banks--is driven off a strong technology platform. But ten years ago, the public sector was wary of adopting technology as unions opposed it. Today, public sector banks easily work off these platforms, and as a result, the sector is very well connected. Technology solutions are being provided by the best in the IT industry, hence there is no compromise on quality.
I think this sets the standard because the private sector has to be technologically better when competing against well-funded public sector banks. The private sector scores for the fact that it is more agile. It is able to easily adapt and bring in new technologies into play faster.
Banks like HSBC brought the first ATM to the country. I must say that foreign banks do help in bringing in cutting-edge technology. And this ensures that we have a global offering in India.
CIO: Could you elaborate what technology changes are shaping the banking sector?
Naina Lal Kidwai: I think the big change, going forward, will be around Internet and mobile banking. The Internet banking platforms of banks in India are truly secure and--to that extent--we do have strong security technologies available in India. Also, our customers today are adopting technology at a much faster rate than ever before, given the youthful nature of our population.
On the other hand, an element that we have not leveraged effectively--which if you'd asked me five years ago I would have said was "the" technology--is mobile telephony banking that isn't just SMS-led. We are yet to reach a stage where your mobile phone is your wallet.