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Banks rush to tap the global Indian

BS Banking Bureau in Mumbai | February 06, 2004 13:45 IST

Within 24 hours of the Reserve Bank of India announcing freedom for Indian residents to remit up to $25,000 overseas, banks are rushing to launch products to tap the 'global' Indian.

Citibank was the first off the blocks to launch global financial products and services for resident Indians.

ICICI Bank will follow suit on Monday as it launches its product through the offshore Singapore branch.

Both Citibank and ICICI Bank are starting their launch with foreign currency accounts and deposits -- in US dollar, euro and pounds sterling. "Later we will offer a host of other global products including mutual funds and fixed income securities," said Citibank officials. The foreign bank sees this new market as a major opportunity as Indians are likely to be interested in "diversifying their risks in terms of geographies and asset classes."

In a move to entice the global Indian, Citibank offers a higher interest rate at one per cent over Libor on forex deposits as part of a special promotion exercise.

However, this will be only for a period of two months, after which the bank can revise the rate. Against the 0.9-1 per cent interest rate on dollar deposits, Citibank is offering two per cent on dollar deposits for a period two months. Similarly, it is offering three per cent return on euro deposits and 4.75 per cent interest on deposits in pound sterling.

This is 100 basis point higher than prevailing interest rates in the global market, said officials. The minimum deposit amount is at $5,000 or the equivalent.

The launch is being undertaken from Citibank's Singapore branch, which is the booking centre for NRI business and for worldwide treasury business.

Subsequent offerings to the 'global' Indian will also be part of the range of mutual fund and fixed income security products currently offered to NRIs. "We offer products launched by top-end mutual fund overseas," said bank officials.

On the occasion of the launch, Sarvesh Sarup, country business manager - global consumer group, Citigroup said: "Citigroup is the unparalleled and best partner to offer global investment alternatives to meet the financial and personal needs of our customers by leveraging our worldwide network."

ICICI Bank will make its offer known on Monday but sources stated that it will initially offer forex deposits for a period of six months to five years. "The interest rates on these deposits will be competitive," said officials, not wanting to disclose the rate of interest as yet. Like Citibank, ICICI Bank will also offer third party products like mutual funds at a later date.

Through these offerings, the global Indian will benefit from a wider range of investment options customised to suit his profile and needs, said Amit Sah, marketing director (retail banking) at Citibank.

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