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Federal Bank takes tips from Swiggy and Uber, may adopt Blockchain technology

M Sarita Varma

If Swiggy can remember from which restaurant you order your favourite cusine every Friday, why can t your bank remember which NGO you donate to on your birthday? Can t a bank transaction be as smooth as hailing a Uber cab? These and many such questions from the smartphone generation is making banks such as Federal Bank adopt technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain.

Customer expectations have changed so dramatically that it s no jaw-dropper to find Blockchain, robotics or cloud experts rubbing shoulders with bankers, says Shalini Warrier, COO, Federal Bank. Next generation clients expect their payment platform to be as intuitive and flexible as their day-to-day Swiggy, Zomato or Uber. They demand speed with banking security. To live up to this tall order, we promptly tie up with firms such as Oracle or IBM or even with an innovative startup, she says. The 70-year-old bank was adjudged the best technology bank among mid-sized peers, at the recent Indian Banks Association Awards 2019.

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In fact, Federal Bank has set its eyes on Blockchain technology to ease 15% of the country s foreign inward remittances. This will be operational in a week. We had done a pilot study on the payment of Federal Bank inward remittances with Blockchain to confirm our capability, said Warrier.

The bank has tied up with 90 exchange houses worldwide to ease transfer of remittances. For instance, if someone in Dubai is transferring 1000 Dirhams to Gujarat or Kerala, it is instantly credited if it is within Federal Bank. And if it is not, it can be converted into instant credit through IMPS (Immediate Payment Service).

The Federal Bank-Oracle partnership, meanwhile, has matured to a second phase. Harnessing the Oracle Autonomous Database, the bank has just completed an exercise on ATM transaction behaviour analytics.

In the next phase, using Oracle Cloud, we are readying to analyse debit card spends. This will give insights into the spending pattern of our 8 million customers and to decide which e-commerce segments need to be incentivised, says Warrier. Federal Bank was also one of the first banks in India to move to mobile app for opening bank accounts.

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It s not merely customer expectations that have changed. The payment landscape in India is far more evolved, dynamic and interactive than our neighbouring economies in Africa, Middle East and even South East Asia ( except Singapore), says Warrier, who has been exposed to banking norms in Brunei, Pakistan, Africa and Far East, during her long stint with Standard Chartered Bank. In the last nine years, National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) has brought India to the forefront in digital banking, as no other country could have, she says. Federal Bank was among the first 10 banks to hop on to NPCI s UPI 2.0 bandwagon.

The bank s internal operations are also swinging to automation mode, boosted by a tie-up with a Bengaluru-based startup. Robotic Test Automation (RTA) solutions have taken over 15 to 18 processes. Another 15 processes will shift to automation mode by next month.