By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, Jan 16 Amid the economic gloom, the State Bank of India posted 18 percent growth in Canada last year, according to bank president and CEO Arun Nagarajan.
“Despite the economic crisis, SBI-Canada registered very good growth in business and posted an overall growth of 18 percent last year. We will surpass this rate in the New Year,” Nagarajan told reporters.
“Our asset portfolio grew from $520 million to $596 million by 15 percent in 2008. We hope to post even higher portfolio growth this year,” he said.
Nagarajan said the bank’s deposits also rose from $473 million to $579 million last year, posting growth of 22 percent.
“Overall, SBI-Canada’s business increased from $993 million to $1,175 million - a robust growth of 18 percent,” the bank CEO said.
The bank netted a profit of $3.3 million in 2008.
“Though it is slightly less than $3.4 million in 2007, it is still a very good figure considering the turmoil in markets. We not only grew but also reaped a good profit when many faced problems,” he said.
Nagarajan said SBI-Canada currently has 25,000 retail account holders. “In 2009, we will double this number by offering new services and products. For an example, we are offering the newly introduced tax-free saving accounts. Even if 40 per cent of our customers opt for this account, we will mop up another $ 50 million from them alone.”
He said the bank would also introduce online facilities for paying bills and opening accounts without visiting its branches.
“We issued a new debit card last year, and ATMs will also become operational in all our branches this year, offering cash dispensing services.”
The CEO said his bank will also reduce remittance charges from $8 to $5 per transaction to make sending money to India cheaper.
He said the mortgage sub-prime crisis had no impact on his bank as it pursues a well-diversified business model in North America.
“Our business model is spread over different portfolios like trade finance (where we handle more than 70 percent of India-Canadian business), syndicated loans, commercial loans, commercial mortgages and residential mortgages account not even five percent of our business. The sub-prime mortgage crisis has not impacted us at all.”
He said SBI-Canada “continues to cherry-pick and be careful while extending credit.”
Started in 1982, SBI-Canada has currently seven branches in the country - four in the Toronto area and three in the Vancouver area.
“In the New Year, we pay open a new branch in Calgary, maybe another one in Montreal which has a sizeable Indian population,” he said.