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Deposit customers, alliances to lead HDFC Bank’s credit card comeback

HDFC Bank expects to increase its credit card issuance to half a million per month by February 2022 riding on its expanded liability base, new partnerships and wider product suite as it looks to make up for the lost nine months in which it was restricted in issuing new cards by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Parag Rao, group head, payments, consumer finance, digital banking and IT, HDFC Bank said the bank expects to get to the pre-ban run rate of 300,000 per month in the next two months and increase it to 500,000 by February in largely driven by new deposit customers added to the bank’s franchise in the last nine months.

“Over the years our business has grown largely on the back of our liability customers and we expect that to continue. Over the last nine months we have added 400,000 accounts every month, this in addition to the 60 million customer base we have will be the main drivers of our growth and we have enough headroom to grow. We already have a pipeline of pre-approved cards based on customer profiles that have been monitored since the ban,” Rao said.

80% of the bank’s new cards are issued to new customers currently and Rao does not expect this ratio to drop much dispute new commercial partnerships the bank plans to launch.

On December 3 last year, RBI barred HDFC Bank from issuing new credit cards and introducing new digital products after multiple glitches linked to digital banking, cards and payments on the bank’s platform were reported in the past two years.

The ban was lifted on August 17 but not before impacting the bank’s market share as number of outstanding credit cards dropped from 15.4 million in November 2020 to 14.8 million in June 2021, even as its closest competitors gained at its expense.

Even as the credit card ban was lifted the RBI still has some restrictions on the bank for new launches of digital business generating activities planned under Digital 2.0. It is unclear how those restrictions will impact the bank.

Despite the loss of market share in credit cards, HDFC Bank remains the largest issuer of credit cards in India ahead of SBI Card (12 million) and ICICI Bank (11 million) latest available RBI data as of June 2021 showed.

Rao said the bank used the last nine months in relooking at its value proporsition, engaging with existing customers more deeply and building new strategic alliances which will be announced starting from the festive season next month.

HDFC Bank has lined 20 initiatives including co-branded cards with tie-ups with travel, fintech, consumption, hospitality and mobility companies among others. These alliances will be unveiled over the next nine months.

Rao said depsite the ban the bank has been able to retain its market share in terms of card spends and spends on its cards are still 1.5 times higher than the nearest competitor.

The bank will use more digital data for underwriting and is also in the process to create a multichannel social media and phone-based hub to address customer greviances.

The bank also plans to increase its footprint in merchant acquiring and point of sale businesses to 200 million from 2.3 million currently, Rao said.

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