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We will focus on developing new technologies that will ease operations: Balaji Parthasarathi, CTO, Ujjivan SFB

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With over 185 branches spread across India, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank is on a technology adoption spree. Balaji Parthasarathi, CTO of Ujjivan SFB, in an interaction with EC’s Nivedan Prakash, talks about the bank’s recent digital initiatives and future investments in technology

What are the new technology innovations Ujjivan has introduced for SFB operations to be more competitive? What are the technologies adopted for door-step delivery?
We have invested heavily in digital technology to make banking convenient, faster and secure for our customers nationally (urban, semi-urban and rural). Using technology, one can open a savings account with Ujjivan SFB in less than 10 minutes, using biometric authentication on a hand-held device. The device can also initiate transactions, deposits and money transfers at customer’s doorstep. We are also providing a whole host of benefits such as internet banking, mobile banking, phone banking, SMS and missed call banking. Ujjivan ATMs are biometric enabled where fingerprints are the new pin.

The technology is designed to handle both high volume and low value business. Advanced technology enables us to effectively manage our overall cost of operations. In the coming years, we will focus on developing new technologies that will ease operations both at front-end and the back-end.

What are the technologies adopted by Ujjivan SFB to ease customers transition to becoming a SFB customer?
We are empowering every customer with state-of-the-art IT and infrastructure at Ujjivan Small Finance Bank. Our technology offering has enabled simple, secure and seamless banking experience for customers. Our banking service is based on Aadhaar enrolment; a customer needs only the Aadhaar number to open a savings account with Ujjivan SFB. The RuPay debit card is Aadhaar enabled and has the customer’s Aadhaar number printed on it. Since we cater to the unserved and underserved customers, most of them have no/limited understanding of mobile usage and digital technology. Hence, we have also launched ‘Digi buddy’ programme where tech savvy graduates are hired across our branches to assist customers and educate them about operating mobile phones, using ATMs and accessing our banking services such as phone banking, SMS and missed call banking. Our branches have been specifically designed to be customer friendly with the philosophy of ‘always assisted’. Our branches invite customers on a facilitated guided tour where critical aspects of banking services are explained and demonstrated.

Our objective is to make banking easy for the consumer segment (unserved and underserved) we cater to. To achieve this, we on-boarded an impressive ensemble of world class IT majors. The best of the breed technology solutions providers for the bank IT infrastructure include Finacle Core Banking Solution from Infosys, Oracle Financials, Craft Silicon, Evolute, Tikona Digital Networks and SAS. We have also partnered with CRMNext for its CRM solution and with i-exceed for its mobile unified platform to ensure that every customer enjoys best-in-class service. Through advanced technology, we are able to service customers in unbanked rural areas as well.

How is technology being used for better risk management for SFB?
Although we are a small finance bank and the perceived risk given our client profile is less, we still come under the purview of regulatory supervision and we take risk as a function seriously and at par with other banks. We leverage technology and best of breed solution for fulfilling operation, market and credit risk. We have implemented SAS solution to take care of our AML and compliance and also provide enterprise wide view of risk across all streams.

What was the total investment in technology? Over how many years will this investment be spread?
When we embarked on the transition from being an NBFC to Small Finance bank, we put together a five-year business plan. The technology plan was aligned to this which included spend of business solutions, branch infrastructure as well as associated connectivity. The total outlay for this period is around 350-400 crores.

Anything else that you would like to add on the digital transformation journey at Ujjivan SFB?
We have completed one year of banking operations with over 185 branches spread across 20 states and union territories in India. Technology has played a key role in providing access, taking banking to customer’s doorstep, reducing transaction turnaround times, eliminating paperwork and more. Technology has enabled us to open multiple channels to serve customers and reduce our operating costs – such services are usually offered to only premium customers of universal banks.

Ujjivan SFB’s goal is to build a leading state of the art mass market bank in five years to serve the vast unserved and under-served customer base who currently are outside the formal banking system. We will continue to innovate and develop new technologies that may ease operations both at the front-end and the back-end.

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