The State Bank of India may reduce its workforce by around 10% over the next two years, Managing Director Rajnish Kumar told IANS on Sunday. He said the decline in staff strength following the bank’s merger with six entities would be on account of attrition, reduced hiring and digitisation. Kumar, however, ruled out the possibility of layoffs, saying there would only be a decline in the headcount.

“Around 10% reduction in two years may be a possibility,” Kumar said. The bank currently has around 2,07,000 staffers and will add approximately 70,000 employees after its merger with six other lenders comes into force on April 1. The entities are State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Hyderabad and Bharatiya Mahila Bank.

“This may come down to 2,60,000 by March 2019. So it may be less than 10%. Let us first merge and see the impact of the key process changes,” the SBI senior official said. Several employees will be offered the voluntary retirement scheme. The official said recruitments could be halved within a year. “We will return to the usual 5,000 to 6,000 recruitment every year,” Kumar added.

The SBI managing director further said that the development would not affect the bank’s policy of branch expansions. “We keep on opening new branches depending on business potential. That will not stop.”

On February 16, SBI merged with five of its associate banks – State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.