Country’s second biggest private lender HDFC Bank has rationalised its staff by 4,581 employees in a single quarter courtesy efficiencies in the system and lower hiring. The bank, which reported its slowest profit growth ever at 15% for the December quarter, saw total headcount reduce to 90,421 on December 31, 2016 as against 95,002 in September 30, 2016. In an e-mailed response, the country’s most valuable bank sought to de-link the reduction in employees from any other factor but efficiencies and lower hiring.
“The drop in headcount has primarily been a result of combination of natural attrition and a hiring at a clip lower than normal made possible by achieving higher productivity and efficiencies over the last few months,” it said. The Indian banking industry has an attrition rate of 16-22% every year, while for HDFC Bank the same is at 18-20%. However, no data is available on the ‘involuntary attrition’ (sackings) in the industry.
With efficiencies setting-in, a company may decide not to replace a hand who quits with a new one, which results in a decline on the overall headcount. As compared to the year-ago period, the bank’s employee count increased by 5,802 over the 84,619 people in December 2015. The benefits of the staff reduction were visible on the cost to income front, with the ratio dipping to 43.8% in December 2016, from 43.7% in September and 44.7% in the year-ago period. The employee costs have, however, increased to Rs 1,688.63 crore from Rs 1,657.21 crore in the preceding quarter.
It can be noted that there has been a greater degree of automation in banking with algorithms making it easier to reduce dependence on employees and also doing the same work much faster. Accounts are being opened over the counter courtesy Aadhaar, loans are getting cleared in minutes and technologies like blockchain are reducing human intervention in operations.