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Central Bank of India to expand overseas

Shilpy Sinha & Niladri Bhattacharya in Mumbai | November 20, 2008 12:21 IST

At a time when the global banking industry is feeling the pinch of the global credit crunch, Central Bank of India [Get Quote] is planning to expand its foreign presence.

The public-sector lender has approached the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for permission to open representative offices in five locations - Singapore, Dubai, Doha, London and Hong Kong.

This is the first time the bank is venturing an independent overseas foray after the Sethia scam in the 1970s forced the bank to close down its London office. RBI had then asked the other two banks, who had operations in London, to close down.

At present, Central Bank of India has one overseas office, which is a joint venture with Bank of India, Bank of Baroda [Get Quote] and government of Zambia.  While the Zambian government holds 40 per cent stake the banks' have 20 per cent each.

"We are awaiting RBI's approval to expand our business overseas. We would like to open there by the end of this financial year," said Central Bank Chairperson and Managing Director H A Daruwalla.

This in line with the bank's plan to attract export-import businesses and NRE and FCNR deposits from abroad. With the rupee depreciating to unprecedented levels, banks are vying to tap trade-related business and remittance income from NRI deposits.

Meanwhile, the bank has undertaken a level-jumping exercise by promoting 2,000 clerical-level officials to the probationary officers' cadre. The bank has also promoted some scale-II and III employees directly to scale-IV and V respectively.

Central Bank will also recruit 1,000 clerks by the end of March 2009. On the technology front, the bank has earmarked Rs 125-150 crore (Rs 1.25 billion- 1.5 billion) to implement core banking services (CBS) platform to 1,070 branches by the end of March 2009.

"Our aim is to become 100 per cent CBS compliant by March 2010," Daruwalla added.Now, the bank has over 700 branches under the CBS platform.

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