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Banking News 22.04.2017

Bank Officers’ Unions want pay at par

 with the Central Government  Officers


Anup Roy & Abhijit Lele

The Business Standard

Published on March 22, 2017



Demands include 5-day banking, PF to be calculated

on total salary and allowances, not only on basic pay


Mumbai, March 21: At a time when the government is contemplating cutting employee benefits to 10 laggard public sector banks, bank officers have demanded that they should be given revised basic pay at par with central government officers on the same principles of 7th Pay Commission.


The negotiations have not started yet, as not all banks have given the mandate to Indian Banks Association (IBA) to negotiate on their behalf.


Meanwhile, United Forum of Bank Unions, the umbrella organisation of bank unions, is yet to appoint coordinator for negotiations. But unions on a standalone basis have started to demand high emoluments. At the end of December 2016, the gross bad debt of the banking system crossed Rs. 6 lakh crore and the total stressed assets is estimated to be more than Rs. 9.5 lakh crore.


The government on March 16 shot a letter to 10 banks stating that capital infusion in these banks would depend upon quarterly milestones and only after these banks sign a memorandum of understanding with unions to sacrifice employee benefits should there be a need.


The 7th Pay Commission had recommended overall 23.55% hike in basic plus allowances. The government had accepted 14.27% hike in basics, while the allowanced would have to be decided later. According to reports, allowances could be decided in this month itself.


The current wage pact comes to an end in October. The last wage negotiation, pending since 2012, was settled in May 2015 at 15% hike. This time the government wanted to finish the process early and so it prodding banks to start the negotiation process, starting January of 2016, but banks dilly-dallied. Finally, in December 2016, the government shot its fourth letter to banks to start the process with the unions. Still, not all banks have given the mandate to the IBA. The State Bank of India (SBI), for example, will give the mandate to unions only after the merger process is over in April.


According to sources, 16 banks – all from the public sector - have given a mandate to the IBA to negotiate on behalf of banks. Five banks, including the SBI, Dena Bank and Bank of Baroda are yet to send mandate. The SBI will perhaps send in April after integration with associate banks, sources said.


The IBA will form panel and can start the negotiation with unions only after its gets all the mandate, an official at the IBA said.


The letter has gone to the IBA from by a joint committee of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation, All India Bank Officers’ Association, Indian National Bank Officers’ Congress and National Organisation of Bank Officers.


In their demand letter, these organisations have also demanded very steep hikes in dearness allowances (DA) and wage increases, for example, merger of special allowances with dearness allowance as on 31 October 2017, with existing basic pay. And have asked for a revised DA formula “with provision for automatic merger and improvement in compensation against price rise.”


Besides, an allowance “equal to amount of last drawn increment should be granted every year after reaching a maximum in the scale,” and “date of sanction of annual increments should be on January 1 and July 1 every year,” are also in the demand letter.


There are also such demands as two months’ salary to compensate expenses on transfer and payment of lump sum amount of transfer to meet the education expenses of children.


Out of 34 demands, there are provisions for improvement in leave travel concession and making the mode of entitlement as “air travel to all the officers, and executive class for senior executives.”


Also, the unions are back in their demand of five-day banking and Provident Fund calculation at the rate of 12% of the total salary and allowances. Plus gratuity at the rate of one month salary and allowances, without any ceiling. According to the income tax rules, provident fund is calculated only on the basic salary. Gratuity is calculated on 15 dayss. Besides, the unions want abolishment of new pension scheme and roll back to the old pension system.


“Unions always demand the moon and scale down to a laughable level,” said a senior officer who is part of a union. “Bank books have deteriorated since 2012 (when the last wage pact got implemented) and banks can’t do deficit budget like the government. What will happen is that government will refer the wage structure to the Pay Commission and unions will have absolutely no role in the process,” said the senior executive, who did not wish to be named.


If the commission gets to decide on bank pay, the chances of any hike will go for good, fear some union members.


Charter of Demands - Highlights:


  1. Revised basic pay at par with central govt officers


  1. Revised DA formula automatically adjusting price rise


  1. Allowance equal to last drawn increment to be granted every year after reaching maximum in scale


  1. Two months’ salary to cover incidental expenses on transfer


  1. Payment of lump sum amount on transfer to meet education expense of children


  1. Leave fare compensation with entitlement of air travel for all officers and executive class for seniors


  1. Provision for crèche facility/flexi timings/work from home for women employees


  1. Five-day banking


  1. Family should include father in law and mother in law, brothers and sisters (divorced or deserted)


  1. PF to be calculated on total salary and allowances, not only on basic pay



From E-Group, Banking-News



State Bank of India to shut down 47% 
of associate banks' offices post-merger


Meghna Mittal, IANS

The Economic Times

Published on March 22, 2017



New Delhi, March 21 (PTI):  State Bank of India (SBI), which will see five associate banks merge into it on April 1, has decided to shut down almost half the offices of these banks, including the head offices of three of them. This process will start from April 24.  "Out of the five head offices of the associate banks, we will retain only two. Three head offices of the associate banks will be unbound along with 27 zonal offices, 81 regional offices and 11 network offices of the associate banks," SBI Managing Director Dinesh Kumar Khara told IANS in an interview.


"We will keep their structure in place till April 24 and, post that, we will start dismantling the associate banks' controlling offices, which includes head offices, regional offices, zonal offices and network offices," Khara said. The five associate banks that will merge with SBI are: SBBJ (State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur), SBM (State Bank of Mysore), SBT (State Bank of Travancore), SBP (State Bank of Patiala) and SBH (State Bank of Hyderabad).


SBI is India's largest bank with assets of Rs 30.72 lakh crore and figures at No. 64 in the global ranking of banks (as of December 2015; December 2016 ranking is still awaited). Post-merger, with assets of approximately Rs 40 lakh crore, it will be among the top 50 banks in the world. SBI Chief Economist Soumya Kanti Ghosh told IANS that, post-merger, the bank will be at No. 45.


The move is to avoid overlapping offices in the same area and "we intend to remove any kind of duplicacy in the controlling structure", Khara said.  The five associate banks will cease to exist as legal entities and become a part of SBI from April 1, but the various merger processes will start only after April 24, once the balance sheets of the five entities are audited and added.


"We will have to get the balance sheets of the associate banks audited a day prior to the merger, that is, on March 31. The balance sheets of the banks will be drawn up and added; it takes 15-20 days. Soon after the audit is done, the branches will be completely merged with SBI," Khara told IANS.


There are currently 550 SBI offices while its associate banks have 259. The target for the number of controlling offices after the merger is 687 -- a reduction of 122 offices. Employees directly affected by these shutdowns -- estimated at 1,107 -- will be redeployed, mostly in customer-interface operations, Khara said. "The net result is that people in controlling functions will be available for deployment on the ground for improving reach to the consumer," he said.


"There are about 5-7 people in every regional office and 20-odd people in each zonal office. One regional office controls 30-40 branches, while 4-5 regional offices are controlled by one zonal office," he told IANS. The associate banks have also offered a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to employees who do not wish to relocate. "VRS is only an option, else they will be relocated. They will have a different role," he said.


Along with the winding-up of these offices, a number of merger processes will come into effect simultaneously, including the data merger of the five entities. "Data merger will also start from April 24 and we will finish it by May end. That is the plan of action," he said, adding that the bank had given itself six months to complete all merger-related processes.


"I would rather say that within a quarter all the things should be in order. Ideally, we would like to have it in one quarter, but it will not spill over beyond the second quarter," Khara said. SBI says the merger will be done seamlessly as it has the experience of two earlier mergers. State Bank of Indore was merged with SBI in 2010, while State Bank of Saurashtra was merged in 2008.



From E-Group, Banking-News



SBI in a better position to serve women customers

at lower cost: Dinesh Kumar Khara, MD, SBI


The Economic Times

Published on March 22, 2017



Mumbai, March 21: In a chat with ET Now, Dinesh Kumar Khara, MD & Group Executive, SBI, says SBI will be in a position to carry out the objective for which Bharatiya Mahila Bank was set up in a more economic manner.  Edited excerpts:


News coming out that Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) will be merged with SBI. When is this likely to happen?


Dinesh Kumar Khara: We got this information yesterday and the Government of India has given the approval for merger of Bharatiya Mahila Bank with the State Bank of India. We are awaiting for the notification and we are well geared up for carrying out this merger as early as possible.


Can you give us more details in terms of how this process will be carried on, how this merger will take shape?


Dinesh Kumar Khara: Actually the Bharatiya Mahila Bank has got about 103 branches which has spilled across the country. So soon after the merger, on the effective date, the Bharatiya Mahila Bank as an entity will be merged into State Bank of India. And the customers of Bharatiya Mahila Bank will become the customers of State Bank of India and likewise we will be making an offer of employment to the existing employees of Bharatiya Mahila Bank too. That is the broad outline. We will be offering the products of State Bank of India to the customers of Bharatiya Mahila Bank. It may not be out of place to mention that State Bank of India has got exposure of more than Rs 46,000 crore to the women customers segment of the bank.


So compared with the total exposure of about Rs 2,000 crore which was with Bharatiya Mahila Bank, our ability to reach out to the women customer segment and offering them the products at the most competitive price is better. To that extent, we will be in a position to carry out the objective for which Bharatiya Mahila Bank was set up.


And the release which came out last evening also talks about greater services and greater outreach. What can we expect once the merger completely takes place?


Dinesh Kumar Khara: When the complete merger takes place, we will be offering various concessions to women customers. For example, there is a concession of 0.05% interest for the women customers who are raising home loan and car loan from us. Our cost of funds, our cost of raising resources is much lower as compared to that of Bharatiya Mahila Bank. We are in a position to generate much better returns on the treasury. All these things will get translated into the lower cost of resources and which in turn will translate into lower cost of funds for the borrowers.


Will the entity Bharatiya Mahila Bank cease to exist and will that brand be taken out and replaced with SBI or will they be continued to exist as Bharatiya Mahila Bank but will be an associate of SBI?


Dinesh Kumar Khara: No, the legal entity of Bharatiya Mahila Bank will cease to exist from the effective date and as soon as we get the notification, we will get to know the effective date too. That is how it is going to be and it will all fold into State Bank of India and all Bharatiya Mahila Bank branches would be known as State Bank of India branches.


What benefit does this give because the purpose of BMB was to actually serve a lot of women customers? No doubt the synergies will come in but it had its brand name where a lot of women customers would go. Now if that is just another SBI Bank and SBI has a huge presence across the country, how will the benefit work out?


Dinesh Kumar Khara: Being a larger entity, we are in a position to reach out to specific customers segments too and that is one of the reasons why as compared to Bharatiya Mahila Bank where the total exposure is about Rs 2,000 crore, we in State Bank of India have lent about Rs 46,000 crore to women customers.


That is a very major difference which needs to be noticed. The ability of an entity to serve a particular customer base depends upon their reach, their ability to invest into digital platform. Being a larger and the bigger entity, we are in a much better position to invest into the digital platforms and networks. All this eventually will bring benefit to the customer segment and as it is, we have got a special focus for women. We give preferred treatment to women customers. We are offering 0.05% lower interest rate have been charged for such kind of lending so that is how it is. So I think to that extent, we are in a better position to really leverage the capital. We are in a better position to reach out to the customers at lower cost for the same services.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Interview: B Shriram, MD State Bank of India

78% of our transactions are now on alternate channels


Shayan Ghosh and Shobhana Subramanian

The Financial Express

Published on March 22, 2017



Mumbai, March 21:  State Bank of India (SBI) is in a digital mode now with close to 78% of its transactions taking place via alternate channels. While it has seen a surge in deposits following demonetisation, the interest rates that customers earn would depend on how much of the money stays back, managing director B Sriram tells Shayan Ghosh and Shobhana Subramanian. Excerpts…


How do you see loan growth shaping up in the current environment?


B Sriram: This year has been pretty tepid, in the sense that we did around 4.5% up to December though two or three things need to be highlighted here. One, of course, was the shift of loans to the bond market because of the price differential for higher rated corporates. We have had almost Rs 32,000 crore of short-term loans going into the commercial paper (CP) market and another Rs 7,000-8,000 crore into bonds. In addition, about Rs 12,000-13,000 crore of loans against FCNRB deposits have been paid out. In all, about Rs 50,000-52,000 crore of our loans have been impacted. If you factor that in, we could have managed around 6% at the end of December. Typically, March is a busy quarter in terms of budgeted achievements and also because new proposals come up after the September quarter and large corporates finalise their plans. We are therefore looking at around 5-6% growth this year.


What are your expectations from FY18?


B Sriram: I believe that FY18 will be better than this year and expect credit growth of 8-9%. The reasons are twofold. One of course is that the retail side will continue to hold up. Today’s growth of about 18-20% in home loans and personal loans should be sustained next year. On the corporate book, we do have some green shoots which could turn into growth. Today, if you see the loan book, the mid-corporate segment is seeing negative growth while the large corporate book has witnessed 3-4% credit growth. But looking at our proposals on hand, I think we will be the beneficiaries of some refinance owing to our lower interest rates.


Do you see the difference between bank lending rates and bond market rates narrowing?


B Sriram: The difference between the bank lending rate and the bond market rate has already narrowed to some extent because we brought down the MCLR rate by 90 basis points in January. Moreover, companies which make use of the bond market are rated AA and above and are able to get loans at close to the MCLR rate as well. Loans also have certain features which are not available in bonds.


What is your view on interest rates on loans and deposits?


B Sriram: In terms of interest rates, we will have to wait and see since going forward they will be driven by the demand for credit. Basically, the substantial decrease in lending rates in January was intended to spur demand. And if you were looking at credit growth in excess of what we are targeting, then the additional volume growth will compensate for the pressure on margins.


Meanwhile, deposit rates will continue to move in tandem with the deposits made due to demonetisation. We have to see how much of it really goes out. While 30-40% has moved out, there is still a substantial chunk remaining with us. Initially, we had estimated that around 15-40% of the deposits would stay and today we feel that the retention may be towards the upper end of the ceiling. If that is the case and there is no credit growth, then we are looking at a mismatch in terms of the applicability of those funds to the asset side. Therefore there could be some resizing of the deposit side


Are you witnessing a saturation in retail loans?


B Sriram: The retail side is pretty healthy. But corporate loan growth will not happen overnight. Moreover, the books of most of the larger corporates are already leveraged. Generally, the instant pass-through effect on loan growth is on the retail side. Renewable energy is still a priority for us. Then there are completed road projects, construction; we are also under-exposed in services, NBFCs and so on.


Are your customers adopting alternate banking channels?


B Sriram: There has been a huge spike in digital transactions because of demonetisation which forced people to use cards and wallets. That has given us a fillip, and we have gone out there and got a huge number of customers. All the digital channels are seeing growth and today almost 78% of our total customer-facing transactions are happening on alternate channels.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Cash transactions proposed

to be capped at Rs.2 lakh


The Press Trust of India

Published on March 21, 2017



The Government now moved a proposal to cap cash transactions

at Rs.2 lakh instead of Rs.3 lakh as provided in the Union Budget


New Delhi, March 21(PTI): As the Finance Bill was taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha, Opposition parties like Trinamool Congress (TMC), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) protested against the introduction of the amendments to 40 Acts, saying it was being done in the form of “back-door entry.”


The amendments to the laws like Companies Act, Employees Provident Fund, Smuggling and Foreign Exchange Act, TRAI Act and Information Technology Act, have been moved with an aim of making the functioning of tribunals more efficient by merging the smaller ones and reducing their numbers from 40 to 12.  The objections by the Opposition parties were overruled by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who ruled that the ‘incidental provisions’ involved in the amendments constitute a ‘Money Bill’ and therefore can be considered as part of the Finance Bill.


Among the amendments made to the Finance Bill was a provision to cap cash transaction at Rs.2 lakh. Earlier, while presenting the Budget on February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed the cap to be Rs.3 lakh with effect from April 1, 2017. A penalty of equal amount would be levied in case of violation of the provision, according to a tweet by Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia after the amendment was moved.


Mr. Jaitley, while defending the move to make amendments, invoked first Lok Sabha Speaker G.V. Mavalankar. He said if a substantial portion of a bill deals with imposition or abolition of tax, then even if it has other incidental provisions, it still can be introduced as a Money Bill. “You cannot have a bill which says government will spend Rs.1,00,000 crore without detailing how it would be spent. You cannot have a bill where you say there will be 5% without specifying what will be the deduction, what will be the power of assessing officer, appeal provision... No tax can be imposed without reference to courts or tribunals… These are incidental provisions...,” Mr. Jaitley said.


The Minister said Opposition’s objection is borne out the language in Article 110(1) and ever since the inception, the House has been debating on the word ‘only’ used in the Article. As Mr. Jaitley moved the Finance Bill for discussion, N.K. Premanchandran (RSP) said the government is pushing the amendments to the House and not following the rules. “It is being bulldozed... If you conduct the House like this, then there is no need for the Monsoon and the Winter sessions... (Parliamentary) Standing Committee can be curtailed. The supreme right of Parliament is being taken away,” Mr. Premachandran said.  The government is bringing amendments to the Representation of People Act, RBI Act and SEBI Act, he noted and added, “How can the issue of electoral bond come under Finance Bill? These amendments do not come under the purview of the Finance Bill.”


Mr. Jaitley said the electoral bond has been proposed for cleansing the political money since a lot of electoral funding, across the spectrum, comes from unknown sources. The Budget has proposed Income Tax incentive for money paid by cheque, or small donation of Rs.2,000, or mass collection by digital medium and electoral bond issued under I-T Act. “How are the Electoral Bonds to be issued? Electoral bonds will not be issued by individuals. RBI will authorise a particular bank to issue electoral bonds. The buyer will buy by cheque and the money will go to the political party in a pre-declared account. RBI may authorise or notify a particular bank,” he said. Mr. Jaitley said, at present, the Representation of the People Act provides for revealing of identity of people making donations above Rs.20,000. The amendment would provide that if money comes by way of electoral bonds, the identity will not be disclosed. The Finance Minister also said the amendments proposed in the Post Office Act, the Oil Industry Development Act and the Research and Development cess can be made part of the Finance Bill as these squarely come within the purview of Article 110.


Deepender Hooda (Congress) said, the government should have brought a separate bill on transparency in electoral funding as amendment to the RBI Act was ‘consequential’ and not ’incidental.’ “Your aim was to bring transparency in electoral funding and that is why you brought amendment to the RBI Act. A separate transparency in electoral funding bill should have been brought,” Mr. Hooda said.  Mr. Hooda said the previous UPA government had given a growth rate of 7.8% in its 10 years of rule which, if calculated as per the new methodology for calculating gross domestic product, translates to 11.3% growth rate. The Congress member said the investments have declined and growth in non-food credit offtake has dipped to a 60-year low level during the NDA tenure. The Excise Duty on petrol and diesel has gone up to Rs.8.95 per litre and Rs.7.96 per litre under the NDA rule, from Rs.1.10 per litre and Rs.1.35 per litre during the UPA tenure.  “The most retrograde tax is the Excise Duty on petrol and diesel... Whatever the richest man (industrialist Mukesh) Ambani pays, that much a poor farmer will pay... I ask the government to lower the Excise Duty on petrol and diesel by at least Rs.5 per litre,” Mr. Hooda said. Mr. Hooda then said the search and seizure power given to the tax officials as part of the Finance Bill 2017 is a “draconian provision” and against the tenets of natural justice.


Rakesh Singh (BJP) said the government is working towards overall development of the women, the children, the poor, the youth and the farmers. Talking about the agriculture sector, he said total foodgrain production is estimated at record levels this year at 272 million tonnes. “This year farmers have received highest prices for their produce,” he said, adding the farmers got such prices for the first time since Independence. Citing some examples, he said ‘chana’ prices ranged at Rs.8,000-Rs.9,000 per quintal, while wheat was at Rs.1,000-Rs.1,500 per quintal and ‘masoor’ at Rs.6,000-Rs.7,000. On Income Tax, he said the previous governments were not able to provide tax benefits up to Rs.5 lakh but they are expecting this from the present government. Mr. Singh said the real estate sector was marred by scams, but this government is moving forward on providing affordable houses in both urban and rural areas. India is one of the fastest growing economies because of the measures taken by the Modi government, he said, adding several reports have found that India is the best place for making investments. This year, the government managed record tax collection — both direct tax (Rs.6.17 lakh crore) and indirect tax (Rs.7.7 lakh crore), he said, adding Opposition stated that demonetisation is not a good step, but these figures states other story. The government is also promoting digital transactions to reduce corruption and increase transparency in the system. Talking about BHIM App, he said over one crore people have downloaded this and the numbers are further increasing. “The previous government did not utilize the post offices properly, but this government introduced ‘India Post’ payment banks,” Mr. Singh said. To promote the ‘ease of doing business’, the BJP member said the government announced several measures and has targeted to bring India’s rank within top 50. Currently, it ranks 130th out of 190 economies. Through the Finance Bill, “we want to bring in better tax system” because we have to take several measures like providing power to in rural areas among others, he said.


M. Chandrakasi (AIADMK) demanded reduction of tax rates for elderly people, saying it will be a “boon” for them as the decision would protect their interests. He also said that Tamil Nadu should be adequately compensated during the GST implementation till the break-even is reached. Saugata Roy (TMC) said when the government introduced the Finance Bill in February, it had 150 clauses and seven schedules but now the government has added another 33 clauses and two schedules. This is “unprecedented and we have already protested,” he said, adding “this government is thinking that they can do anything.” He also said that the government has included tribunals in the bill which has no relation with the taxation proposals. He added that the chances for the government to achieve the tax collection target is unlikely because of reasons like “reckless” demonetisation decision of the government.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Carlyle leads race for $300m SBI card stake


Mayur Shetty & Boby Kurian

The Times of India

Published on March 22, 2017



Mumbai, March 21:  GE Capital is set to exit the credit cards joint venture with SBI, selling its 26% stake to private equity giant Carlyle Group for around $300 million, people directly familiar with the matter said. Carlyle is said to have emerged as the front-runner piping the other shortlisted bidders, Credit Saison of Japan and Warburg Pincus, after GE decided to sell shares in the two decade-old JV.


The deal with Carlyle is moving ahead after the SBI increased its holding to 74% each in SBI Cards and Payments Services and GE capital Business Process management Services — the two entities that run the credit cards business. Last week, the largest state-run lender said it was infusing Rs 1,160 crore to buy partial stakes of GE in the two entities. The SBI held 60% in cards and payments and 40% in the business process management units.


When contacted, GE spokesperson said the exit from SBI-card joint venture entities is in line with global strategy, with respect to GE Capital. "The process is still ongoing and we will share details when it concludes," the company added. SBI declined to comment, while Carlyle could not be reached for immediate comments.


Carlyle is buying into the two entities at a time when SBI has emerged as the second largest player in the credit card business after HDFC Bank. The company has also moved up to the number two spot in total card spend. SBI has a 15% market share of the card business in India, led by HDFC Bank, which has around 30% share. The top five banks, which include Citi, ICICI Bank and Amercian Express, account for over 75% of credit card spend in India, which is expected to be close to Rs 4 lakh crore.


According to SBI source, the bank wants to operate the card business as a subsidiary rather than a joint venture and have better integration with its core banking operations. The bank plans to dovetail credit cards with debit card payments and merchant acquisition business. The bank plans to install card swipe machines with 10 lakh merchants which will increase acceptance of cards and at the same time give the bank an opportunity to lend to these retailers.


Earlier, media reports had said Carlyle was bringing in Cognizant as a technology partner or vendor, which would be formalized once it bags the deal. Carlyle's current investments in Indian financial services sector include PNB Housing Finance and Edelweiss Capital. It held a stake in the country's top mortgage lender HDFC in the past.



From E-Group, Banking-News



NPA problem: Bankers alone

should not be blamed


Gunit Chadha

The Economic Times

Published on March 22, 2017



There has been significant debate on the NPA problem in India. While the regulator has done well to enfor

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