India’s Clampdown On Unaccounted Cash Into The Private Banking Industry

4 May 2018: Big winners from India's cash clampdown are private bankers, prompting a major lender to start on a hiring binge for wealth managers. The most preferred wealth manager in India,  HDFC Bank Ltd., among high net worth clients viewed by Euromoney, plans to add as many as 150 relationship managers by the end of 2020 to the current 250, said Rakesh Singh, group head of private banking. Real estate and gold purchases were often financed with cash as a way to avoid Indian taxes, and have come under greater scrutiny since demonetization. 
 
The recruitment drive at the private banking unit moved into high gear last year as India’s rich started shifting investments away from property and gold and into financial markets, Singh said in an interview last month. “Demonetization has been the inflection point for the private banking business in India,” Singh said, predicting HDFC Bank’s wealth assets will double to a record $16 billion over the next three years. Singh’s unit manages wealth for 16,000 of HDFC Bank’s richest clients.
 
HDFC Bank, India’s largest private-sector lender by assets, was ranked among the country’s top three wealth managers in a 2018 survey by Euromoney. Singh said HDFC is seeking to grab a larger share of the growing number of millionaires in India, as well as to get existing clients to do more transactions and invest more of their money through the bank. Unlike larger rivals IIFL Holdings Ltd., which has some 300 relationship managers and the wealth management business of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., HDFC Bank relies on royalties for its wealth management funds, rather than on consulting fees or bespoke investment products.
 
The nation’s revamped bankruptcy process is in full swing but risks being delayed by factors ranging from a shortage of judges to legal challenges. “We believe it is not the right thing for high net worth individuals to get exposed to stressed asset investments,” said Singh. “It is better to wait for two years for the process to get well settled, and rough edges to get sorted out” before plunging in, he added.