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Banking News 20.04.2017

New office bearers of AIBOC


The Business Line

Published on March 20, 2017



D Thomas Franco Rajendra Dev, President, AISBOF

now elected as the General Secretary of AIBOC


Coimbatore, March 19: Dilip K Saha, General Secretary, Punjab National Bank has been elected President, All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC). 


D Thomas Franco Rajendra Dev, President, All India State Bank Officers' Federation (AISBOF) was elected as the General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), at the 11th Triennial Council of AIBOC.


Press Release by AIBOC:


The 11th Triennial General Council of All India Bank Officers' Confederation met in Deep Smriti Auditorium, Tagore International School Campus, Jaipur from 17th March to 19th March 2017. 


More than 1,000 delegates from 21 Public Sector Banks, 7 Private Sector Banks, Banks from the Co-operative sector, Regional Rural Banks representing 2,80,000 Officers gathered to deliberate on  issues affecting Banks and Bank Officers.


The General Council was addressed by Shri Ashok Lahoti, Mayor, Jaipur and Shri Dibakar Mohanty, Managing Director of SBBJ.


The General Council of AIBOC  unanimously elected Com Dilip K Saha, General Secretary,  Punjab National Bank as the President of AIBOC. Com D Thomas Franco Rajendra Dev, President, All India State Bank Officers' Federation (AISBOF) was elected as the General Secretary of AIBOC.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Arundhati Bhattacharya: Why should there be

different set of rules for public sector banks?


Manju A B

The Daily News & Analysis

Published on March 20, 2017



Mumbai, March 20:  Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman, State Bank of India (SBI), will create history on April 1 when all five associate banks will merge with itself — in the largest such exercise in the banking sector — to blossom out as a single entity. She created history in 2013 when she rose from the ranks and took over as the first woman chairman of the 211-year old bank.


In an exclusive interview, she tells Manju AB that her life’s journeys are never with a complete roadmap but with a conviction that challenges can be tackled and goal post is never too far.



Is it necessary for SBI to demand a high monthly minimum average balance (MAB) of Rs 5,000 in savings accounts?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: There is an interest of 4% paid on savings bank account. Suppose someone is earning a salary of Rs 15,000, then for three days his account can fall below Rs 5,000. If you have Rs 60,000 in your account, you can fall below Rs 5,000 for many days, so it is the average of all the days in a month. In the urban areas, it is Rs 3,000, and in semi-urban areas, it is Rs 2,000. In rural areas, it is Rs 1,000. The Jan Dhan is zero balance.


According to RBI data, the Jan Dhan accounts have deposits of Rs 74,600 crore giving banks a free float?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: Yes, these accounts have money, but there are no restrictions on withdrawing the money. We pay 4% interest on these deposits. Every account is accompanied by a RuPay card which cost the bank about Rs 68 and the ATM infrastructure has to be built where every transaction costs Rs 18 to be paid to the card companies. We allow five free ATM transactions to our customers if they are using other bank ATMs.


Was the cost of running the demonetisation too expensive? Some private banks had shut their ATMs after the government waived off all transaction charges?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: The cost of demonetisation is pretty large. During the time of the demonetisation, it was the PSU banks which served the people. In many places, only the SBI ATMs were open. We refilled the ATMs regularly. Though the government waived off transaction charges on ATMs, we had to pay the card companies. The sheer logistics of transporting so much cash was quite large. Why should there be extraordinary expectations from the public sector when we are in the forefront of nation building?


HDFC Bank recently claimed that they offer five-star services...


Arundhati Bhattacharya: I don't accept that the private sector services are five-star and our services are not. I do not accept that at all. No one complains when the private banks charge high rates. Penalty for not maintaining minimum balance in a private sector bank is anywhere between Rs 450 to Rs 790 per month while for us it is Rs 20 to Rs 100. Why should there be a different set of rules for the public sector banks? Our internet banking site is by far superior to the others. It is the fifth most visited financial site globally. You don't achieve this by running shoddy services.


What will be the role of SBI’s subsidiary, Infra Management Solutions (SBIIMS)? What is SBI’s real estate valued at? Are you open to selling a part of this?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: The real estate is valued at Rs 35,000 crore excluding the assets of the associate banks and about Rs 15,000 crore is added to our tier 1 capital. We are also open to selling our real estate in areas where it is in excess and unutilised. This company will be manned by engineers and construction specialists who will negotiate on our behalf and also look after the upkeep of these premises.


Are you worried for your loans to the telecom sector? Reliance Jio, for instance, is running the longest promotional scheme to capture customers. Have you spoken to the government?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: Not just for us, it should be a matter of concern for the government as well as they are also loosing revenue because of these schemes. We have not exactly spoken to the government in so many words. But we have flagged it off at various quarters that banks have a substantial exposure to the sector. When you have such schemes, there is an impact on competition. Quarterly results of major telcos are pretty impaired. So, it depends on how long these schemes will run. If it is for a short period of time, these people can surely weather the storm.


Any anxieties about the mega merger?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: We are all set for the merger. We already had a template as two banks were merged. So, we worked on the template left behind by our predecessors. Our books of accounts are merged. Relocation of banks and ATMs will happen as we expand our foot print into new areas. We may take some branches a few kilometers away from where they are now. Branches which are set up in clusters in the older part of the cities may be repositioned in the newer parts of the cities. I feel the younger people in the associate banks will be happier to be part of a bigger bank like SBI. The older lot may find it difficult to relocate, and so, we have a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). But, we are not forcing anyone.


The total NPA pile is likely to cross Rs 9 lakh crore at the end of March 31, and SBI has more than Rs 1.5 lakh crore...


Arundhati Bhattacharya: Post the merger, SBI may end up with Rs 1.6 lakh crore gross NPAs, according to the consolidated figures, we have up to December 31, 2016. We will meet the RBI deadline of March 31, 2017, to clean up our balance sheet. Resolutions will also happen.


But isn’t the issue about over-leverage? Bhushan Steel and Essar Steel would have about Rs 1 lakh crore of loans taken together, almost equivalent to the total stressed debt in the sector?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: Yes, which is why we are saying that there should be a valuation of these assets. We should take some pain. We should take some write-downs and also some conversion of debt to equity. Reduce the debt burden. There is no point running these accounts to the ground.


In the restructuring schemes like Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A) and Special Drawing Right (SDR), the share prices soar initially, when the schemes are getting approved by banks and then plummet when banks take over part of the shares?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: If you look at the SDR scheme closely, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has already given an exception. The conversion of debt to equity is allowed at par value and it will not trigger an open offer if we go beyond a certain limit. We have requested these provisions to be provided for in corporate debt restructuring (CDR) and S4A. The 10% conversion of debt into equity in a CDR is too less.


You want the CDR terms to be diluted?


Arundhati Bhattacharya: Yes. Not necessarily be diluted but changed if you allow the Sebi formula for conversion to be allowed into SDR to CDR. It is not dilution. If bankers have the right kind of mechanisms, we will be able to turn around these units. What is the basis of seven-year turnaround in CDR? It should be more like the time given under 5/25 scheme



From E-Group, Banking-News



Cabinet nod for the merger of Bharatiya

Mahila Bank with SBI likely in 3 months


The Press Trust of India

Published on March 19, 2017



New Delhi, March 19 (PTI): The government is expected to give final approval to the merger of Bharatiya Mahila Bank with the country’s largest lender SBI within three months. The Cabinet last month approved amalgamation of five associates of SBI with the parent but the merger of Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) was not considered due to some issues, sources said. “Now it a is matter of time. The final approval from the Cabinet should come within three months,” a source said.


The Union Cabinet has already given in-principle approval to the merger of BMB with State Bank of India (SBI). With the final approval, the first round of consolidation of public sector banks would be over. According to sources, the next round of consolidation in the PSU banks would begin after these six lenders are integrated with SBI.


BMB, set up in 2013, has 103 branches with its presence in almost all the states. The total business of the bank is about Rs 1,600 crore with Rs 1,000 crore of deposits and Rs 600 crore of advances, majority of which is retail business, according to the bank’s website. Integration process of all the five associates with SBI would start from April 1 as part of the largest consolidation exercise in the banking history of India.


The assets of State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (SBBJ), State Bank of Mysore (SBM), State Bank of Travancore (SBT), State Bank of Patiala (SBP) and State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH) will be transferred to SBI from April 1, 2017.


With the merger of all the five associates, SBI is expected to become a lender of global proportions with an asset base of Rs 37 trillion (Rs 37 lakh crore) or over USD 555 billion, 22,500 branches and 58,000 ATMs. It will have over 50 crore customers.


Of the five subsidiary banks, SBBJ, SBM and SBT are listed. The board of SBI earlier approved the merger plan under which SBBJ shareholders will get 28 shares of SBI (Re 1 each) for every 10 shares (Rs 10 each) held. Similarly, SBM and SBT shareholders will get 22 shares of SBI for every 10 shares. The shares of the listed associates will be delisted from stock exchanges following the merger.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Farm loan waiver is no solution to farmers’ woes


Tamal Bandyopadhyay, The Mint

Published on March 20, 2017



The focus should be more on making the prime minister’s crop insurance scheme a success than demanding farm loans waivers from banks.


Last week, the Indian National Congress at the Maharashtra assembly submitted a breach of privilege notice against State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya for “insulting farmers and the House” by her remarks on farm loan waiver. The leader of the opposition in the state assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, was upset with Bhattacharya because she “did not apologise for her remarks despite the Congress’s demand”.


The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have been demanding a loan waiver for around 3.1 million farmers in Maharashtra who owe Rs. 30,500 crore to the banking system. “Bhattacharya is not a policymaker and she cannot take a decision regarding loan waivers to the farmers. She had no right to make such comments,” and her remarks were “violation of the rights of the legislature which make laws,” Vikhe Patil said.


What did Bhattacharya say? The boss of India’s largest lender early last week said farm loan waivers disrupt “credit discipline” among borrowers as they expect future loans to be waived as well. Bhattacharya feels that while it is important for banks to make credit available to the farmers, maintaining credit discipline is equally important. “For the time being, we will get our money back as the government will pay for it. But the farmers will keep waiting for the next elections for the next round of waiver,” she said.


Bhattacharya, in fact, echoed former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan’s concerns—“Repeated loan waivers by various state governments distort credit pricing, thereby also disrupting the credit market.”


Vikhe Patil did not move a breach of privilege motion against Rajan in the past and I hope he would not do so against a columnist who is not a policymaker and probably, in Vikhe Patil’s view, doesn’t have any right to have an opinion on this.


The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election manifestos in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and the Congress manifesto in Punjab have committed to write off loans of small and marginal farmers. In the recent past, Tamil Nadu had waived off loans of small and marginal farmers. The ousted Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh had in 2012 announced a waiver of crop loans up to Rs50,000 taken from state cooperative banks. There are many more such instances.


The mother of all farm loan waivers happened in 2008 when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance announced a Rs60,000-crore debt waiver package for small and marginal farmers in the budget which was later extended to the large farmers as well and the amount increased to Rs71,600 crore. It benefited at least 36.9 million small and marginal and 5.97 million large farmers. The small farmers are those who have a land holding of up to one hectare (2.5 acres), while the marginal farmers have land holding between 1-2 hectares. Around 80% of all land holdings in India are with the small and marginal farmers.


This is not the first time the Indian government has doled out concessions to farmers. In 1989, the Janata Dal government, a coalition of several parties representing socially underprivileged and lower castes and farmers, floated the first-ever agriculture loan write-off scheme. A brainchild of the then deputy Prime Minister and minister of agriculture Devi Lal, the scheme waived loans up to Rs10,000 issued to farmers, landless cultivators, artisans and weavers by state-run banks. Till 1992, more than 44 million farmers benefited from this scheme to the tune of Rs6,000 crore.


Incidentally, Bhattacharya’s comment was made a day after the State Bank announced a one-time settlement scheme for around Rs6,000 crore farm equipment and tractor loans. Such one-time settlements, where banks settle for less than what the borrowers are to repay or take a haircut, is a commercial decision and part of the bad loan recovery process. However, when farm loan waivers are decided by the political parties and thrust upon the banks, it destroys the credit culture as the borrowers (in this case, the farmers) are encouraged to think that they don’t need to repay bank loans even when they are not distressed.


Indeed the government reimburses the banks for such loans waived but the damage to the credit culture is irreparable. Any delay in the government’s reimbursement and borrowers’ refusal to repay their loans hurts the cooperative banks the most. Typically, the commercial banks have funds to disburse new crop loans but the cooperative banks—which use their entire deposit base to lend to agriculture and depend heavily on recovery of loans to give fresh loans—find it difficult to remain in business when farmers stop paying. Also, the farmers stop getting fresh loans.


Most politicians—irrespective of the parties they belong to—are happy to exploit the banking system to do good to the farmers and loan waiver is one of many tools they use. In November-December 2016, when the demonetisation exercise was on, RBI relaxed the bad loan recognition norms for small loans as many borrowers in the informal sector were temporarily affected by the currency shortage but many politicians misinterpreted this as a payment holiday for the farmers, leading to a partial halt in repayment of loans in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.


Agriculture in India is facing a tough time because of its dependence on the monsoon. Over 50% of the crop area does not have any irrigation facility and almost three-fourth of the annual rainfall is concentrated in four months a year, between June and September. A deficit monsoon for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 and unseasonal showers ahead of the winter harvest in 2015 have hit the farmers hard. Entire south India is bearing the brunt and Tamil Nadu is facing the worst drought in 140 years. Farmers from the southern state last week staged protests at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar carrying skulls of fellow farmers who have committed suicides. More than 5,500 farmer suicides were recorded in 2014 and the figure rose at least 40% in 2015, with Maharashtra contributing the most, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.


Indeed the situation is grim but is the farm loan waiver the right solution? Or, should the government look at diversifying the cropping pattern and developing new technology to fight drought? Incidentally, the latest Karnataka budget has chosen to focus on managing water. There was pressure on the chief minister to waive crop loans but the state budget while continuing the interest-free, subsidized loans for farmers, raised allocations to water resources to a record high of Rs18,028 crore or 11.2% of the budget. After a gap of more than a decade, the state government will also do cloud seeding. Similarly, the Maharashtra government has refused to buckle under pressure for farm loan waiver and instead allocated close to Rs14,000 crore to the agriculture sector, primarily for irrigation.


The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the new crop damage insurance scheme approved by the Union cabinet in January 2016, is also a vast improvement on the old crop insurance model in vogue since 1970s. The new scheme which has the lowest premium so far has proposed use of remote sensing, smart phones and drones for quick estimation of crop loss and speedy claim process. The focus should be more on making this a success. Conserving water, improving the irrigation facilities, and developing agriculture markets and competition can be the building blocks for growth in agriculture and mitigating farmers’ woes. State governments are barking up the wrong tree by resorting to loan waivers.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Expand ambit of oversight panel

to curb bad loans: Vinod Rai


The Business Line

Published on March 20, 2017



Mumbai, March 19: Concerned over rising bad loans, Banks Board Bureau (BBB) Chairman Vinod Rai has written to the Centre seeking a new approach to deal with issue. In a letter to the Finance Ministry, Rai has said that the ambit of the oversight committee could be expanded to provide guidance to banks on how to effectively utilise mechanisms such as debt restructuring.


NPA worries


According to sources in the banking industry, the Chairman has expressed worry over the non-performing assets of the public sector banks. For fiscal 2015-16, public sector banks had gross advances of ₹51,04,915 crore, of which ₹ 5,02,068 crore (9.83 per cent) was categorised as gross non-performing assets (GNPA).


Till September in the current fiscal, public-owned banks’ gross NPAs rose further to ₹5,89,502 crore.


The overseeing committee was set up in June to ensure that debt recast is done in a transparent manner. A number of bankers BusinessLine spoke are also keen to have the oversight committee play bigger role.


BBB has been suggesting ways to deal with the issue including allowing public sector entities to buy assets of stressed companies.


“Recovery is absolutely on top of the agenda so that the lending process can start again. Just now banks are engaged in resolution of their stressed assets. So, what we are proposing to do is to resolve that (bad loans issues) quickly first because we do not want to saddle banks with greater issues,” Rai had said in August.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Govt lays down strict conditions

for capital infusion in PSU banks


Gopika Gopakumar, The Mint

Published on March 20, 2017



The conditions for bank recapitalisation include active bad loan management, fundraising from markets, selling non-core assets and shutting money-losing bank branches


Mumbai, March 19:  The government’s Rs8,586 crore capital infusion in 10 weak public sector banks (PSBs) in the current fiscal year is based on their meeting strict milestones, including raising capital from other sources and curtailing employee benefits.


On 16 March, the department of financial services sent a letter to the bosses of these banks detailing the conditions to be met and also asked them to get their employees on board. Mint has reviewed a copy of this letter.


The conditions imposed by the government include: active bad loan management, arranging capital from the market, a continuing plan for selling non-core assets, shutting money-losing branches and temporarily paring employee benefits, if necessary. The Business Standard reported on Sunday that this would include curtailing industry-standard pay hikes and benefits such as leave travel allowance.


To ensure that employees and workers’ unions are committed, the government wants to formalize this framework with a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU).


“This MoU is to commit all participants (the government, PSB management and employees of the concerned PSBs) to the agreement for a time-bound plan beginning FY18 onwards with quantifiable and measurable milestones which can be monitored on a quarterly basis,” said the letter. Such an MoU is not unprecedented. Twenty years ago, three banks, including Indian Bank, UCO Bank and United Bank of India, were asked to curtail their employee benefits.


Spokespersons for the 10 banks and the department of financial services couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.


“So far the government was saying, we will not capitalise weak banks. We welcome this shift. We are not averse to signing any agreement which includes temporary changes in employee benefits. We want banks to perform well,” C H Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association, said, adding that the union is, however, against dilution of government ownership.


Separately, Venkatachalam told news agency IANS that the bank unions are meeting on 24 March to discuss this issue. “The release of capital is based on the premise that banks would significantly improve their performance with prudential financial management and going further that they will be able to meet capital needs through their own earnings,” said the letter written by the department of financial services.


In July, the government had announced that it would infuse Rs22,915 crore (out of the Rs25,000 crore earmarked for the current fiscal) in 13 state-owned banks. At that time, it had said it would release 75% of the earmarked funds immediately, while the remaining amount, linked to the banks’ performance, will be released later.


Under its so-called Indradhanush programme, the government will infuse Rs70,000 crore in state banks over four years while they will have to raise a further Rs1.1 trillion from the markets to meet their capital requirements in line with global Basel III risk norms.


PSBs are to get Rs25,000 crore in 2015-16 and 2016-17 each. Besides, Rs10,000 crore each would be infused in 2017-18 and 2018-19. In his budget speech on 1 February, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced a capital infusion of Rs10,000 crore for the next fiscal.


SBI Caps has been mandated to design a detailed bank-wise plan based on which the tripartite agreement between the government, bank’s management and employees of the bank will commit to the milestones. Banks have been asked to send in their consent by Sunday.


“Capital under Indradhanush plan is more of a bailout capital in nature. We do not see this as growth capital. During demonetisation, there is a high probability that operating expense shot up and margins took a hit. It has therefore became difficult for the bank to meet the capital requirement ratios,” said Udit Kariwala, financial institutions analyst, India Ratings.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Deviant shells and the war on black money


Kaushik Dutta

The Business Line

Published on March 20, 2017



Only collective effort and strong, deterrent action

will help eliminate below-the-radar operations


Shell companies are in the news again. Investigative agencies have found that about Rs. 4,000 crore of cash was deposited in shell companies following the demonetisation drive in November 2016.


This should surprise no one. In May 2016, investigations revealed that 24 ghost companies operating from a single branch of a leading public sector bank in Delhi were used to cheat the Government and banks of several crore rupees. In another case (in 2015), 59 companies operating from a single branch of another bank had remitted forex worth Rs. 6,000 for non-existent imports.


Globally connected


The leaked Panama Papers (2016) exposed a global network of shell companies operating from tax havens used for moving assets and cash from one country to another illegally. No wonder, an OECD report (Misuse of Corporate Vehicles for Illicit Purposes) said that shell companies, which are front companies incorporated around the world without any tangible business, are increasingly being used for illicit purposes.


Often such shells have a common registered address with ‘dummy’ directors who may be real persons but are untraceable or unrelated to the business, or are poor and unlettered and lend their names for a consideration. In Kolkata, Delhi and other cities, over 300 companies can be found registered at one single address, all for facilitating illicit transactions.


In India, shell companies have traditionally been used for rotating and siphoning off funds through fictitious sales, inflated purchases, unjust commissions or for creating equity for individuals operating behind the scenes. They are also used for creating fictional tax losses or expenses, which are sold to profitable companies at a price, thereby reducing or eliminating the tax liabilities of these companies.


Banks officials play a critical role in their operations. Suspicious transactions are often below the threshold of automatic banking software triggers. In some cases, ‘seed’ money is introduced as capital in one shell which is then passed on to other shells in a single day in a single branch. Thus, each company gets identical sums as capital, which is instantly lent or invested in another company. The exercise is repeated five to ten times to create the illusion of real transactions and multiplying money. The SIT on black money says such manipulation of stocks and creation of non-taxable capital are gaining popularity.


In cases involving forex, large remittances are sent out as payment for fictional imports, advances or commissions, later moved into other shells and then brought back as receipts (called round-tripping). SIT points out that investments from the Cayman Islands, a tax haven, to India amount to Rs. 85,000 crore, reflecting the role of shells operating from tax havens in money-laundering.


Shells are also used to act as fronts to hold properties or payments for fictitious sale until it is bleached white.


The fight-back


How does India fight against illegal activities of shells? Limiting cash deposits to Rs. 3 lakh is one such measure which makes large deposits or layering of cash difficult, if not impossible.


Another is real-time monitoring and detection of unusual transactions or rise in the market price of those with little business. For this, MCA 21, the portal in which all corporate filings reside, is a good starting point. It can be mined for common directors, common registered addresses, little business and suspicious transactions to create alerts. A central KYC registry of transactions will also be useful.


Technology plays a significant part in surveillance and oversight. Robust business rules embedded in the artificial intelligence (AI) of machines can create actionable analysis, drawing information from databases of income tax, banks, the RBI, SEBI and MCA. Such a mechanism will help both pre-emptive and preventive actions.


Swift and exemplary punishment is equally essential. Suspected shells must be promptly weeded out and action under the harsher provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and sections of fraud in the Companies Act 2013 should be initiated. Apart from those directly involved, others in the chain of activities should also be held culpable.


Ultimately, it must be a collective effort. A strong deterrent mechanism brought about by diligent investigations and quick judicial decisions will produce t

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