SBI staff count down 6,622 in fiscal first quarter

State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, has slashed its staff count by 6,622 in fiscal first quarter thanks to retirements and a voluntary retirement scheme.

SBI has current staff strength of 2.73 lakh against 2.80 lakh at the start of the fiscal.

A total of 7,247 employees exited the bank in the first quarter of FY18, while 3,569 employees of the former associate banks had opted for voluntary retirement scheme.

Against this, the bank added about 625 personnel only in the first quarter, reducing the total headcount to 273,181. There is a possibility of further decline as full year retirements in the current fiscal year are predicted to be around 15,460.

While the VRS scheme cost the bank Rs473 crore, SBI said, it will also lead to an annual saving of Rs400 crore savings in salary expenses.

The bank also said that about 10,600 employees from its administrative offices and branches will be redeployed in other roles.

SBI said that it will redeploy 2,000 employees from its administrative offices  while another 8,616 employees from branches will be redeployed, of which 30 per cent would be reassigned to sales functions.

The reduction in workforce is part of the combined entity's efforts to rationalise personnel costs.

So far, SBI has merged 594 branches and rationalised 122 administrative offices. This in itself is expected to result in savings of over Rs1,160 crore annually. SBI has said it expects to complete the branch merger target by the end of September.

"Manpower will go down with the period of time. Around 10 per cent reduction in two years may be a possibility," SBI managing director Rajnish Kumar told news agency Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) in an interview.

He said there would be some actual reduction in headcount along with re-assignment of the roles, but ruled out lay-offs.

"We have offered voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), there would be natural attritions and every year we may not replace head by head (replacement recruitment). Manpower will also reduce as a result of digital initiatives. There will be a combined effect," he added.

Following the merger of five associate banks and the Bhartiya Mahila Bank in the beginning of the fiscal, the total customer base of SBI increased to 370 million and the number of branch network to around 24,000.