India's best digital bank 2018: Axis Bank
The Asiamoney award for the best digital bank in India was a hotly contested one. Since prime minister Narendra Modi’s unexpected demonetization announcement in November 2016, banks have been pushing out their digital agendas opportunistically, as a large part of the population, along with thousands of businesses, was forced to go cashless.
Through it all, Axis Bank excelled. The winner of this award for the second year running, the firm has made mobile banking and payment its focus — a smart move, given that the number of mobile phone users in India is estimated to have gone up from around 525 million in 2013 to as many as 730 million last year.
But while mobile phone usage has increased, many still don’t have access to an internet connection. Axis has targeted them by launching Axis OK, a mobile app based on SMS or missed calls, which effectively allows users to perform almost all internet banking functions without an internet connection.
It was also one of the first firms to launch a Unified Payment Interface app called Axis Pay, which allows clients of any bank to transfer money to any other bank easily, simply by creating a unique virtual payment address.
Axis Bank’s mobile banking channel witnessed over 100% growth in both value and volume during the financial year, while electronic channels continued to form 87% of overall customer initiated transactions.
Its emphasis on digital payments has paid off; the bank had a 66% share of digital transactions in the fourth quarter of the 2017 financial year, compared with 51% the year before. Card spending rose 47% year on year.
The bank has also made everyday life easier for people. It had tied up with Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport to launch a prepaid smart card for public transport passengers in 2016. It took that a step further in June last year, signing a similar agreement with the metro rail operator in the city of Kochi in Kerala.
Others, both domestic and international banks, are stepping up too and are giving Axis Bank a run for its money. HDFC Bank, for instance, has seen revenues from digital innovation products increase a lot between March 2016 and January 2018. Its digital customer base has also risen rapidly.
But for remaining consistent and successfully holding its peers at arm’s length, Axis Bank deserves to be the winner.