State Bank of India chief Arundhati Bhattacharya on Friday said the state-owned lender will complete the merger with its five associate banks and the Bhartiya Mahila Bank by March 2017, PTI reported. On completion of the merger, it will be one of the largest banks in Asia, with an asset base of Rs 37 lakh crore.

The five associate banks that will integrate with the parent lender are the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore and State Bank of Hyderabad. The first such merger took place in 2008, when the State Bank of Saurashtra became part of the SBI, followed by the State Bank of Indore in 2010.

The announcement comes at a time when employees of public sector banks are protesting against the proposed merger. Services at around 80,000 branches in the country were hit on Friday because of the one-day nationwide strike.

Bhattacharya, however, said the merger was inevitable and employees need to understand it. "There have been strikes on many occasions, but we have to educate them and bring them on board," she added.