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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ICICI gets okay to offer retail services in Singapore

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has on Monday allowed ICICI Bank to offer retail banking services. The authority has granted ICICI Bank a qualified full banking (QFB) status.

ICICI Bank is the second Indian entity to get this authorisation in Singapore. The country’s largest lender, State Bank of India, was given a similar license two years ago. The license is a part of a bilateral agreement between India and Singapore to open up their financial sector. On its part, the Indian central bank had allowed DBS, Singapore’s largest bank, to open another eight branches in the country. Another Singapore bank, UOB was also given the nod for a branch operation here.

SBI has used the authorisation to open seven branches and 17 ATMs in the city state and has started retail banking operations. The state-owned bank offers retail asset products like home loans and other loans. Although ICICI Bank now has the permission to open 25 outlets (branches or ATMs), it is unlikely to follow SBI in expanding operations in Singapore. An ICICI Bank official said: “In the near term, the bank will focus on increasing its presence in the corporate, commercial, wealth management and Direct Banking businesses both in Singapore and in the Asean region by capitalising on the strong trade and investment flows with India.”

ICICI Bank currently has operations in 18 international locations which brings in around 25% of the revenues for the bank. The Singapore branch, which was the first overseas branch of ICICI Bank, currently has an employee strength of 50.

Singapore is be one of the most overbanked centres in Asia. The bank official pointed, “Trade and investment flows between Singapore and India have been growing significantly as a result of CECA. We expect to see the step-up because of the free trade agreement between India and the Asean. We see continued growth in business opportunities as a result of this move.” ICICI Bank’s Singapore branch currently offers corporate banking mainly to Indian corporates, international loan syndication, trade finance, deposit and wealth management products and treasury operations.

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