A pedestrian passes signage outside a Barclays Plc bank branch in London, U.K. (Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)

Barclays Considers a Return to Consumer Banking in India

(Bloomberg) -- Barclays Plc is considering a return to consumer banking in India as it seeks to deploy more of the capital it holds in the South Asian unit, people familiar with the matter said.

The U.K. bank, which decided to pull out of the business in 2011, aims to rebuild the retail banking operation in Asia’s third-largest economy through digital channels this time around, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Barclaycard International Chief Executive Officer Barry Rodrigues would oversee the platform, which would mobilize deposits and offer loans electronically, the people said.

Barclays is reentering some businesses and markets in the Asia-Pacific region as CEO Jes Staley puts an era of restructuring behind him. It reopened its Australia office in April to focus on advisory and capital markets, two years after exiting the country.

The Indian retail business model wouldn’t require any additional capital infusion from the parent company because the amount that it holds in the nation would be enough for its growth plans there, the people said.

“Barclays has absolutely no plans to return to consumer banking in India,” the bank’s Mumbai office said in an emailed reply to questions. The company has more than $1 billion of invested capital in the nation, it said.

In 2011, Barclays decided to wind down consumer lending operations in India, shut most of its branches there and sell 32 billion rupees ($466 million) of loans as Europe’s debt crisis and increased regulation threatened to erode earnings. The lender, which had about 79 outlets in the country at its peak, then shifted its focus to wealth management and corporate and investment banking. It has six branches in India now.

HSBC Holdings Plc and Citigroup Inc. have cut outlets in India in recent years, as they sought to move more services to digital channels. That switch is the most competitive way to tackle consumer banking in India, and offers fewer regulatory hurdles, said Vivek Belgavi, a financial technology expert at PwC in India. But Barclays “might have to pay up a higher cost for client acquisition” under a digital model, Belgavi added.

Deutsche Bank AG called off talks to sell its retail and private businesses in India, people familiar with the matter said in April. The change of heart followed the appointment of Christian Sewing as the German bank’s new chief executive officer.

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