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How Chaudhry will use Citi deal to boost Axis ambition

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Amitabh Chaudhry seeks to elevate Axis from its strong position in India to a premium one. The purchase of Citi’s consumer finance business will help – but only if it can keep Citi’s customers.

When Amitabh Chaudhry took on the top job at Axis Bank in January 2019, he brought with him an ambition to take the country’s third-largest private sector bank to a higher level.

“I want Axis to be recognized as a premium financial services enterprise in the country,” he tells Euromoney. “We are one of the larger enterprises, but not the premium one. I would like the respect levels for Axis to grow substantially.”

The decision by Chaudhry and Axis to buy the Indian consumer finance business of Citi, announced in March and now working its way through regulatory and logistical processes, should be seen in that context.

The $1.6 billion deal, which will bring across Citibank India’s credit cards, retail banking, wealth management and consumer loan businesses with 3,600 staff alongside them, is designed to elevate Axis in terms of product, client and brand.

It is a big deal, not without risk: it will stand and fall upon Axis’s success in keeping all the customers it has paid for and avoiding their being poached by competitors.

“The problem for Axis,” as one banker in Mumbai puts it, “is every Citi customer has a target on their back.”

But Chaudhry calls the deal a milestone, part of a broader ambition.

“I

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Asia editor Euromoney
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Chris Wright is Asia editor. He covers the Asia Pacific region and is based in Singapore. He has previously been Middle East editor of Euromoney, editor of Asiamoney, investment editor of the Australian Financial Review and a correspondent on emerging markets and sovereign wealth for numerous publications worldwide. He has also written two books.