HDFC Bank CEO’s letter to employees explaining tech issues and remedial measures taken
Sashidhar Jagdishan, MD & CEO, HDFC Bank writes to the employees highlighting the technology prowess of HDFC Bank and how the bank plans to improve it IT & Digital Infrastructure
My Dear Colleagues,
Warm greetings to all of you.
Let me start by simply saying Thank You. Thank You for your efforts during a year which was unprecedented in the history of mankind. I cannot but express my eternal gratitude to the HDFC Bank family for going beyond the call of duty. Each and every one of you and your brave families who stood by the Bank are an Inspiration for me.
It is this spirit of going the extra mile that has enabled us to close the financial year on a satisfactory note and enter the new financial year with hope and optimism. Our Q4 results were declared on Saturday and the financial performance has been shared with all colleagues and is also available on our website. Thank you for your contribution.
As we begin the new financial year, I would like to put forth some thoughts that I have in mind.
The last financial year was all about the collective strength of the Bank which ensured that we were able to serve our customers, take care of each other and achieve business objectives. I take immense pride in reiterating that WE ALL are the face of the Bank. Our brand is defined by each and every employee. This will continue to remain our guiding spirit in the time to come.
At this time, your safety and that of loved ones come first. I urge all eligible colleagues to get vaccinated. And also encourage others at home and office to do the same. We are working with the concerned authorities to devise ways to improve vaccination for frontline banking warriors. This includes conducting vaccination drives at our offices which have already started off in many places. Please do follow all the safety protocols as advised from time to time. And ensure that you, your family and our customers stay safe.
Our efforts to provide emotional, physical and social wellbeing support to all employees will continue this year too as we face the second wave. Rest assured the Bank will stand by every employee during these trying times and we will emerge stronger.
When we said last year, that your bonuses, promotions and increments are safe, it was a small token of our appreciation. And a commitment to stand by our employees. This year too, the Bank will follow its normal practice in so far as compensation cycle is concerned.
In the current financial year, there will be some pandemic related challenges for sure. The beauty of this organisation is the ability to rally around, tap the opportunities and grow. The story of the Bank will not be any different in this financial year and in the coming times. In my mind, the broad macro opportunities continue to present themselves across the retail, MSME and Corporate Banking for a Bank like us and across geographies’ like semi-urban and rural markets. We will continue to invest our resources to grow in the identified segments / sectors and geographies.
Business objectives should be driven keeping in mind the 3Cs that I wrote about in my last communication to you. It is Culture, Conscience and Customers. Continue to keep the humility quotient (HQ) high and make it part of your DNA. I have committed myself to be part of the on-going cultural transformation and I urge each one of you to inculcate and espouse the same mantra down the line.
I also want to take this opportunity to touch upon the recent technology problems with some customers facing intermittent access issues with respect to Net Banking/Mobile Banking. It would have certainly raised some questions in your mind. The queries from our customers, posts on social media and media stories on ‘technology issues’ facing the Bank may have got a few of you to think: “Is there something wrong with the Bank and its IT systems?, Why are we facing frequent technical issues?’. Don’t we have any detailed answer to give to our customers on what is wrong?”
I shall try and offer a perspective below which hopefully will answer all of the questions and allay any misgivings that some of you may harbour. Possibly, this will also enable you to confidently respond to queries from customers.
Please remember, your bank is one of the leading banks in India because of the strong technology backbone that we have built over time. Without this foundation, it would have been impossible for us to grow our market share year on year across business segments and service millions of customers in real time consistently year after year. This world class Indian bank has been built on technology. Yes, we have faced technical issues and we humbly accept that. We are working towards improving ourselves.
On the technical issues, it is important to understand the sequence, the reasons and the remedial measures we have taken.
November 2018: Crash of the New Mobile Banking App.
Reason: We faced an unprecedented demand to download the new mobile app. We have learnt and since refined our processes of managing the mobile banking app and has never faced any such challenges later. After the Nov 2018 initial launch, we have upgraded our mobile app seven times over the last two years and in all these instances it has been a smooth affair with no downtime or customer inconvenience whatsoever.
December 2019: Outage with Mobile Banking App
Reason: All banking systems are complicated and interconnected and each component has to work efficiently for us to deliver our promise to our customers. In this instance, one of the vendors system upgrade patch issue was faulty and the same has been addressed adequately. We have and will continue to reinforce vendor patch application.
November 2020: Outage at Data centre
Reason: A third party human error lead to the downtime. To remove this risk completely, we have taken several actions to mitigate such instances in future.
March 1, 2021: Net Banking/Mobile Banking downtime
Reason: The issue here occurred on account a faulty signature on our HIPS (Host Intrusion prevention software). This was an issue acknowledged by the manufacturer which impacted several global clients as well. The faulty signature resulted in slowing down response on Net banking and mobile banking. This has, since, been rectified.
March 31, 2021: Net Banking/Mobile Banking downtime
Reason: The issue occurred on account of a hardware component failure in one of our database servers resulting in a slow response to some of our customers. A large number of our customers were able to carry out their NB/MB activities in this period and we saw only a marginal dip in the number of transactions that day.
To put things in perspective, in the last 28 months, we have had 5 instances of downtime. Every instance has hardened our resolve to do better keeping our customers in mind.
The Country has embarked on a tremendous digitization drive across all sectors of the economy. And we shall rise to the occasion as we usually do by implementing cutting edge technology solutions across all lines of our businesses. We have grown over the years consistently and have ambitious growth plans for the future.
In this backdrop of continuous growth, we have embarked on a scale changing technology adoption and transformation agenda to help drive our ambitious future growth plans. Our aim is to “Keep Systems ALWAYS ON. ALWAYS SECURE. AND PERFORM at SCALE”. While we execute this Technology Transformation agenda, there will sometimes be pain and outages beyond our control. We must doubly resolve to reach out proactively to our customers / stakeholders and explain the path that we are traversing to make their experience with us smoother, faster and better.
Some of the specific initiatives that we have embarked on in our Technology Transformation Agenda include:
- Infrastructure scalability: We have invested heavily in the scale up of our infrastructure to handle any potential load that we will encounter for the next 3/5 years. We are also in the process of accelerating our cloud strategy to be on the cutting edge leveraging best in class cloud service providers.
- Disaster Recovery (DR) resiliency:
- We have strengthened our process of monitoring our Data Centre (DC) and have shifted key applications to new DC.
- DR switch over for Disaster recovery resiliency has been completed for key customer facing applications including automating DR switch over for key applications.
- Enhanced monitoring capabilities have been put in place to manage our Data centre operations and Resiliency processes.
- Security Enhancements: We have strengthened our firewalls further. We have to be scanning the horizon for potential security issues and be ever prepared to face them. We haven’t had any security issues in the past. But this is always an important area of focus and action plans are underway for further robustness.
- Monitoring mechanisms. An enhanced application monitoring mechanism has been put in place across the board to enable us to keep our IT systems Always On.
Please note that we have always raised the bar when it comes to delivering customer experience. It is in this context, one has to see the advisories and strictures by the regulators calling for accelerated adoption and process changes. We are working with them closely to overcome the current situation. We are considered the Gold standard in Banking and have proven capabilities to help drive the country’s growth and offer the best to the customers. There is complete alignment in the objective to keep HDFC Bank on the cutting edge to maintain our leadership through raising the bar and setting new standards. We are happy and ready to rise to the occasion, do whatever it takes to be one of the leading banks in the country that contributes towards nation building.
To conclude, we are not perfect. But, our challenges are not insurmountable. We see them as opportunities that are being presented, for us to strategize, invest, re-skill and prepare to achieve greater heights in every business segment we are in and serve our customers better.
We at HDFC Bank, have never failed when we set our collective minds to something, and we are sure we will succeed in meeting this challenge too. Together we will and we shall.
The best is yet to come.