Indian bank ICICI is feeling “bullish” about customers in Birmingham after moving its city branch from Colmore Row to Soho Road.
The bank has relocated to the Handsworth street to be closer to account holders in the heart of the city’s Asian community, four years after initially setting up in the city centre.
The management of ICICI, India’s second biggest bank, said the move came at a time when many Indian-owned businesses were feeling confident about the future.
Anubrata Biswas, ICICI UK head of retail, said: “We are an Indian bank so obviously we wanted to be closer to the Indian community and Soho Road was the obvious choice. We estimate that there are around 15 to 20,000 Asian businesses in Greater Birmingham.
“Some are primarily involved in trading – bringing in goods and reselling them – others are in services like retail and then you have a large chunk of professionals like solicitors and dentists.
“Our sense is that the trading segment is doing quite well and I think that it is primarily because their business model is clear and sharp.
“They have focused on their competence and I think that’s worked well for them. Apart from that, the professional services are businesses that never go out of fashion so they haven’t done poorly even during the crisis.
“For Birmingham we remain quite bullish,” he added.
ICICI’s new offices were unveiled at an event attended by Consul General of India C Gururaj Rao, Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby and Shantose Kaur, president of the Institute of Asian Business.
Shantose Kaur, the first woman president of the Institute of Asian Businesses, welcomed the bank’s move to the Soho Road.
She said the area’s economy had not suffered from many empty units during the recession as other high streets had done – thanks in part to the high concentration of family-owned businesses who take a longer term view of business.
“On the whole Indian businesses are no different to other businesses – we have felt the pinch as everybody else has. However on the Soho Road it’s a different thing altogether.
“When a shop closes on Soho Road it’s because it’s going to be refurbished, not because it’s closing down.
“The economy on the Soho Road is vibrant and we are a community of business people.
“The businesses are very family-oriented and they work for themselves rather than shareholders,” she said.
ICICI said Birmingham was a very important market for the bank’s expansion in the UK, where as well as banking services it offers international currency transfer.
Mr Biswas said: “The advantage of Birmingham is that it’s the second largest economy in the UK and it is positioned in the model of the UK’s transport network.
“Thirdly, it has the youngest workforce in the UK. Those three put together make us optimistic about Birmingham in general.”
He added: “We are present in 19 countries but we consider the UK to be the centrepiece of our international banking strategy.”