A dialogue with Ajit Kanagasundram
1 February 2018 | 4:00 - 4:30pm SGT
When it came to a decision to launch cards in Asia in 1988, Rana Talwar, who was then consumer bank head for Singapore and Southeast Asia, and who built the Asia and Middle East upscale consumer banking franchise for Citibank, did not rely on consultants as this was not his style. After some introspection came up with his own strategy – he would launch in multiple geographies simultaneously and the objectives would be simple – five million credit cards in five years. This objective was achieved in under four years and Talwar chose good managers as his main players rather than people who had credit card experience.
At first, there were many objections to launching cards in Asia. The pundits said -there were no credit bureaus, there was low merchant acceptance, Asians will not revolve their balances, fraud will be endemic, etc. But, Talwar ignored the naysayers and trusted his gut instinct.
What followed was the genesis of the Enhanced Cards System (ECS), which was subsequently rolled out across Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. ECS gave the Asia cards businesses a clear advantage over the competition. The result was a standard system across the globe with three regional codebases but capable of sharing enhancements within and across regions within weeks. Back then, the one chosen as head of a regional cars technology centre was Ajit Kanagasundram.
Join us as we discuss with Kanagasundram his experience in building a global processing capability for Citibank, including why the mainframe is still the most reliable transaction processing hardware in the age of the cloud, and how the bank’s global cards project came into fruition, among others.