An Interview with Dharmaraj Ramakrishnan


FST Media: What are your priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Ramakrishnan: Our key focus areas for the next year will be in the area of what we call Business-IT, which is technology backed business enablers that will help us win in the marketplace. Our key initiatives will be in building a digital IT strategy – which will include further innovations in mobility and analytics. We will also be transforming our trade finance platforms in our global transaction banking business.

FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the single biggest game changer for the financial services industry?

Ramakrishnan: SMAC (or the ‘nexus of forces’ as some analysts) – social, mobility, analytics and cloud – has moved from PPTware to execution. Each of them, taken individually, represent game changers. Taken together, it is a gale force wind.

FST Media: How is ING Vysya’s investment in online and mobile banking delivered value to the business and how will you measure success?

Ramakrishnan: We at ING have state of the art online banking and mobile banking channels – and we are committed to making these alternate channels secure, convenient and easy to use with an improved customer experience. The success factor of any alternate channel platforms is determined in terms of adaptability, and the usage. Online banking has grown to a matured channel over a period of time; while mobile banking is still growing. With this, the bank is now available 24/7. 

In India, the retail banking space, has been so far conservatively driven by branch banking and it is an expensive way of growing business. As an alternate, we believe in the potential for mobile banking as a leading channel for our clients.

FST Media: How is ING Vysya’s online shopping portal and partnership with retail providers being received by customers, and how does this benefit the bank?

Ramakrishnan: The online shopping is well received by our customers. The usage has improved as we are offering great deals through our online shopping portal. It allows the customer to go through the latest online deals and also enjoy reward points for online shopping. The online shopping enables the customers to shop or make other transactions 24/7 from any location where there is connectivity available. From the bank’s perspective this has helped in business growth and customer retention. At the end, online shopping creates reason-to-return and brand loyalty.                                                                       

FST Media: How will you measure the success of ING’s payment platform for mobile and DTH recharges, and what does this mean for the future of payments?

Ramakrishnan: We have recently launched the state of the art mobile banking platform built on IBM work light platform on iOS and Android which has the complete transactional banking capabilities – such as internal fund transfer to other bank accounts through NEFT and instant transfers (IMPS), mobile recharge, DTH recharge and shop online with mobile banking.

The ING Mobile app will be a game changer in the way mobile banking is offered in India. As people increasingly start using mobile phones for shopping, bill payments, this will become the fastest growing area. In fact, NPCI has already test run a micro payment system in India using mobile. The next wave in mobile payments would be retail payments using mobile. In fact, the payments industry is talking about mobile payments as next big thing for the days to come.

FST Media: How is IMPS changing the way customers interact and transfer funds to each other, and what does this mean for the future of peer-to-peer payments in India?

Ramakrishnan: The IMPS is a great revolution which has really influenced the payments system in India. Today, the customers have an option to carry out interbank fund transfer services through their mobile phone. It is also being extended through other channels such as internet banking and ATM. In fact, IMPS is a game changer in Indian banking – now, it has accomplished handling P2P, P2A & P2M and is available as a 24/7 instant payment process. 

In India, the retail payments are the biggest share of payments by volume. The most part a cash economy with more than 60 per cent of all retail transactions being led in cash. Proliferation of mobile banking will accelerate peer-to-peer payments.

FST Media: What is proving to be your most effective customer acquisition channel and why?

Ramakrishnan: A strong trusted brand is a key element for customer acquisition along with technology innovation, it is important for creating unique experiences. With over 530 branches across India servicing more than two million customers across multiple channels – such as branch banking, ATM, phone banking, mobile banking and internet banking – our primary customer acquisition channels are branches and our feet-on-street sales force, this helps our customers to see a more human side of their bank.

FST Media: What tools or references keep you abreast of emerging technology trends?

Ramakrishnan: I read blogs and am involved with different forums and communities. Also, I subscribe to various technology journals. Apart from these, our constant interactions with our technology suppliers also help me to keep up-to-date on emerging technology trends.

FST Media: With respect to career development, what is the best advice you ever received?

Ramakrishnan: Take ownership; be committed to what you do. Believe in your dream – one day it will come true.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Ramakrishnan: I enjoyed being part of a successful Change team and I would like to be remembered as a truly committed team player.