How to capitalize on your data: It’s not as hard as you think

Axis Bank’s success with analytics has transformational impact

Axis Bank, according to Balaji Narayanamurthy, Executive Vice President of the bank’s Business Intelligence Unit, has a vision to be the preferred financial services provider in India. But competition is intense among the country’s banks. The leaders at Axis Bank decided to make bold moves, including the integration of analytics technology to improve decision making focused on its customers and operations.

Today, Axis Bank is India’s third-largest private sector bank. The organization has more than 2,400 domestic branches (including extension counters) and nearly 13,000 ATMs across the country, with overseas offices in Asia and the Middle East, to reach a large cross-section of customers with an array of products and services.

Balaji Narayanamurthy shares his experiences creating an analytics culture to support the bank’s mission.

Our implementation of SAS Analytics has let us make substantial progress in terms of returning big business value to our organization.

Balaji Narayanamurthy
Executive Vice President,
Business Intelligence Unit

What does it take to gain competitive advantage?

Our perspective of competitive advantage is to offer a suite of products and solutions that is superior to those from our competitors. We will succeed because our decisions are based on insights from our data. It is also important for us to find new business opportunities in order to continue to grow successfully. Understanding the data we are capturing is key to making sure our offerings meet the changing needs of our customers and our business.

Tell us about your initial challenge and how you decided to tackle it.

My mandate was to find the insights within the bank’s data to determine the business actions needed to differentiate the bank from its competitors. When I joined the bank in 2010, simple analytical applications were being used across the organization.

I determined that we needed to centralize the data to perform more advanced analytics on the data to get improved results. I headed a small analytics team, and we began working with a few business units that sponsored our efforts. In the three years that followed, the units realized significant growth based on the insights provided by my analytics team. This approach allowed us to prove the greater accuracy and value of data-driven decisions.

Another positive sign has been the increased confidence and investment in analytics expertise by our business units. My team has grown to 50 members.

I understand that your analytics team is not part of your IT department. Why?

Analytics is totally cross-functional in achieving business outcomes. It was readily apparent that our analytics team had to be very responsive to the needs of the business units. So our team worked more optimally outside the IT department, but retained a close partnership with our IT colleagues. Our IT department played a big role in implementing the data infrastructure, including implementing the software and pulling the right people to support the analytics framework.

What led you to select analytics from SAS?

We have been SAS® users for many years, and we felt SAS offered the best depth and range of advanced analytics. We reached out to the local SAS office to help us figure out how to begin our journey using analytics. They worked beside us from the beginning and supported our exploration and experimentation with analytics on our data. We did not feel the need to look elsewhere. Our relationship with the SAS team has grown as they continue to support our efforts to provide business value.

How has analytics changed Axis Bank?

Our implementation of SAS Analytics has let us achieve substantial progress in terms of returning big business value to our organization. For example, in our consumer lending business, we have automated the assignment of scores based on risk and other propensities. The risk scorecard has led to scorecard-driven underwriting, which we believe will result in better accuracy, consistency and, ultimately, lower credit costs for the business. We are also applying analytics in our marketing campaigns and are seeing great returns. All the new business practices based on our analytics work have increased the growth rate of that business unit and established the business value of analytics.

Where do you see analytics being applied in the future at the bank?

There is still quite a lot of work ahead of us especially in three areas. First, we must tame the beast called big data. While we have made great progress mining a lot of bank data, there are non-traditional sources of data that we need to analyze, such as data from Internet and mobile banking, social media and so on.

Secondly, we want to improve customer service by understanding our customers’ challenges and using that additional layer of insight to solve those problems. Our customers are our priority.

And third, we want to incorporate fraud analytics to protect the interests of our customers and preserve the integrity of the bank. From my viewpoint, the use of analytics will continue to grow in other areas of the bank and help Axis reach its vision to become the preferred financial services organization.

AXIS Bank logo


Centralizing the analysis of bank data to find insights that improve decision making and gives competitive advantage in terms of customer offerings and operational efficiencies.


SAS® Analytics


  • A centralized view of information about the bank’s data for improved efficiencies in operations.
  • Data-driven decisions result in better products and solution offerings for customers.
  • Reduction of credit costs over the long term.
  • Business and sales productivity goes up and operating expenses go down.
The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.