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It was a cold January morning. The mood inside Citibank’s office in Gurugram, an industrial city bordering the national capital, was as gloomy as the weather outside. A $1.6 billion consumer-business deal between private lenders Axis Bank and Citibank was nearing completion and, like most mergers, saw resignations across the ranks.
Meanwhile, two mid-level employees of the bank had left for a short break. “Many seniors are leaving. You should too,” said one colleague to another over tea. Ken Spoke to both employees. They were from Citibank’s retail assets team and did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In May 2021, Citigroup announced the closure of its retail banking division in India. In July 2022, antitrust regulator Competition Commission of India approved the deal with Axis Bank. During and after this transition, former assistant vice president of Citi’s corporate-banking division Archit Raj, senior private-banking executives Sreenesh Pai, Himanshu Khullar, Alok Bagri and Bhavik Modi and some key employees of the consumer-banking division left.
As part of the deal, Axis Bank, which has around 100,000 employees, had made a total of 3,600 offers to Citi employees. Of these, 400 were rejected. former city executives said Ken Many of these offers were rejected because employees wanted to work with some other foreign bank rather than move to an Indian counterpart, while others joined some leading fintechs.
“Work culture was a recurring theme among those who decided to move on,” said the former city executive. The remaining 3,200 City employees, approximately 60% in product roles, officially joined Axis on March 1, 2023. But even for those who decided to continue, it was not easy.
Back in Gurugram, a few weeks after the two colleagues had a tea conversation, one quit. For another and many alike, the past four and a half months at work have been “a whole new set of challenges”. Some include settling into Axis’ “aggressive” work culture, dealing with increasing customer complaints—especially in the credit-card department—and coping with rising attrition rates.
Banks are experiencing high attrition from 2022 due to attractive pay packages from fintechs, talent in the IT sector and overburdened staff in lenders’ sales departments. Yes Bank ranks third among private banks in terms of annual employee turnover in Axis Bank. According to the bank’s annual report, the bank’s attrition increased from 31.6% to 34.8% in the year ended March 2023. In comparison, HDFC Bank’s attrition rate at the end of March 2022 was 19.1%. The private lender is yet to publish its latest figures.
This impoverishment comes at a time when Axis Bank is also steadily getting worse on customer-complaints. In the year ended March 2020, private banks had the fourth highest number of complaints.