Firms target NRIs for key senior positions to open payments banks


Mumbai: Faced with shortage of relevant talent in India, entities planning to start payment banks in the next one year are turning to expats who have the experience of working in large corporations in the US or Singapore and are looking to come back to the country.

Eleven firms, including payment solution providers Paytm, Fino Paytech Ltd and Kumar Mangalam-controlled Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, which received a licence to start payment banks last year, are in the midst of building their leadership teams with special focus on strengthening their workforce on the technology side.

A few other large organisations which also got payment bank licences include Airtel M Commerces Ltd, Vodafone m-pesa Ltd, Reliance Industries Ltd and Tech Mahindra Ltd.

Global executive search firms Korn/Kerry International, Michael Page and Antal International said they have received mandates to hire senior managers and business heads from few of the payment bank licensees. According to these head hunters, Indians working abroad and who wish to come back to India is a “big hunting ground” to source talent, especially to lead technology and product development verticals.

A few names who relocated to India recently and took up critical roles include Bharat Bhanushali who joined Fino Paytech as technology head and Krishna Hedge who was recently hired by Paytm to lead its consumer investment products. While Bhanushali has worked with a technology firm in the Silicon Valley, Hedge moved from Singapore where he was the managing director for credit research at Barclays.

More such Indians are likely to join these companies mainly at senior level roles in the coming months. According to hiring agencies and human resource (HR) consultants, few critical roles are currently in the process of hiring and some of them are at an advanced stage of negotiation.

“Among all the new sectors, payment bank hiring is the most challenging one. One of the challenges is getting the right kind of talent for an industry which does not have any precedent. Secondly, because the business model of payment bank is such that it requires to be cost effective, they are not able to pay top dollars for talents that would ideally work for them,” said Monica Agarwal, executive search consultant (global financial markets), Korn/Ferry International.

Senior technology professionals for payment banks are currently offered an annual salary package of up to Rs.1.5 crore along with stock options. According to HR consultants, this compensation is a conservative one as compared to other e-commerce firms like Snapdeal and Flipkart which are shelling out annual salaries as high as Rs.5 crore for technology heads.

Despite the financial constraints, Agarwal said companies are willing to tap “returning Indians” due to lack of talent with vast experience in building technology platforms and product development. She said 10% of the hiring that Korn/Ferry has done in the last six months for payment banking are either people who were based out of India or who have spent a large part of their career working for technology and financial giants in the Silicon Valley.

Paytm, run by One97 Communication Pvt. Ltd, has almost completed putting in place its key management team. Of the eight vertical heads the firm has hired so far in the last few months, two of them came from outside the country, said Amit Sinha, vice-president (business and people), Paytm.

For the company’s overall business, it has hired around 8-10 Indians from abroad in the last one year at senior and mid-level roles, he added.

However, Sinha pointed out that the company does not have any strict guidelines to recruit talent from the overseas market and will continue to look for domestic talent as well.

Similarly, Santrupt Mishra, global HR head of Aditya Birla Group, said though the group would look for talent, especially from banking and telecom sectors in India, it is also open to hiring returning Indians with relevant talent, who could “bring something of great value to the company”. He said the group has recently appointed a chief executive officer (CEO) of its payment business and is expected to make the official announcement in the next one week. He, however, did not disclose the name of the person or whether the person has been hired internally or from outside the group.

The group has already employed around 30 people for the new payment bank business, of which a significant number are currently working to build its digital and technology platform.

“Typically the request that comes in (from payment bank licensees) is to look at candidates who have experience building large scale systems or high volume transaction related technology platforms, and they are all in the US typically in the Bay Area. There isn’t enough in India,” said Joseph Devasia, managing director (India), Antal International.

Anshul Lodha, associate director (financial services and legal) of Michael Page, also agreed that the talent pool relevant for a payment bank is “very shallow” in India. This forces companies to either look out for talent outside the banking and financial sectors like e-commerce and telecom firms or from the overseas market.

However, Rishi Gupta, managing director and chief executive officer, Fino Paytech, said there is no dearth of talent in India and would focus on hiring someone from India who has understanding for the domestic market.