Reserve Bank of India has allowed HDFC Bank to issue new credit cards, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, months after it curbed some of the lender’s operations due to outages in its digital payment services.
However, RBI’s ban on the bank introducing new digital initiatives will continue, the source said.
HDFC Bank has complied with 85 per cent of RBI’s asks on technology, and the ball is now in the regulator’s court on when to lift the ban on issuing new credit cards, its managing director and chief executive Sashidhar Jagdishan said last month, PTI reported.
Addressing shareholders at his first annual general meeting as the executive head of the largest private sector lender, Jagdishan said a technology audit is also over and the RBI will now be independently taking a view on when to lift the penal actions taken against the bank.
Frustrated at repeated tech outages at HDFC Bank, the RBI took an unprecedented action against the lender in December 2020, putting a freeze on it issuing any new credit card, a segment in which it was a market leader, and also barring it from introducing any new digital offerings.
“We have given a milestone to the regulator in terms of what are the things we are doing on technology, complying with their advisories and directives. We have covered a very significant portion as we speak. Almost 85 per cent of what we had to do has been covered,” Jagdsihan, who has been with the lender for over two decades and worked as the ‘change agent’ in the years leading to his elevation, said.
“The ball is in the regulator’s court. As they deem fit, as they see that we are on the right track, I am sure at some point of time, they will lift the embargo,” he added.
Acknowledging that the bank has lost market share in the credit card segment because of the ban, Jagdishan said tech outages are a global phenomenon but it is the time taken to recover from a setback where the bank erred, leading to the rap on the knuckles from the regulator.
He added that over the last few months, the technology team has worked on this aspect of being able to invoke disaster recovery on time and the confidence of responding to any situations is very high now.
The bank is working on a project to take all of its back-end work to the cloud but has to contend with legacy systems in the interim, he said, adding that there is a board committee looking into the IT aspect.
Jagdishan exuded confidence that even though they have lost ground, there is a lot of energy to bounce back as soon as the RBI penalties get lifted. Till it gets the go-ahead from RBI, the bank’s plates are full with the work it has to do by getting focus on technology and improving customer service, he added.
He defended the bank’s record when it comes to technology investments, stating that it is only because of the flow of resources that it has been able to narrow its cost-to-income ratio down to 38 per cent from 49 per cent over the last six years.
A keenness to ensure compliance to regulatory guidelines has led the RBI to initiate strong actions against entities like HDFC Bank, Mastercard and American Express, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said earlier this month.
The RBI has banned HDFC Bank from selling new credit cards after instances of service outages, and asked Mastercard and American Express to not sell any new cards for data localisation non-compliance.
“Whenever there are deviations or violations of the regulatory guidelines, as the regulator, it is our job, it is our responsibility to ensure compliance.
“All our actions are an outcome of our keenness and our responsibility to ensure that regulatory guidelines are complied,” Das told reporters in the customary post-policy review press conference.