[op-ed snap] Charting the Indian banking sector’s future



Op-ed discusses issue of bank consolidation in light of recent SBI consolidation. Mains worthy.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: NPA, provisioning, bank consolidation

Mains level: Pros and cons of bank consolidation, problems being faced by PSBs and other related issues.


Present situation:

  1. slump in credit growth and increase in stressed assets has affected the profitability of all banks, and threatens the very survival of some of them
  2. State-owned banks account for more than three-fourths of the stressed asset load, which is now far higher than their net worth
  3. Provision levels are inadequate, as the banks hold only 28% of gross non-performing assets and restructured assets, as provisions
  4. There is a $110 billion gap between the stressed assets in the system and the provisions made.

Challenges Faced by our PSB:

  1. The core challenge is that many of the public sector banks (PSBs) are undifferentiated, sub-scale, and with limited capabilities to be full universal banks
  2. About 80% of them own only 25% of the assets
  3. No specialization: They also operate in virtually every market segment with very limited sector or vertical-focused specialization
  4. No differential focus: They focus on the same customer segments, offer similar products, and very often compete only on price
  5. Social obligations: They have to shoulder a disproportionate share of social and nation-building obligations
  6. Less autonomy: Policies on compensation and human resources reduce management autonomy, and inhibit their ability to attract and manage talent

Lessons from across the world:

  1. Empirical evidence from bad-loan crises in other parts of the world suggests that resolution often coincides with a consolidation of the banks
  2. It is probably inevitable in India

PSB reforms required:

  1. Offer the banks more freedom with capital and talent
  2. Innovation from existing and new players need to be encouraged to serve the large and diverse needs of the country
  3. A far more effective but disruptive option, would be to create mega-PSBs by consolidating entities into three or four players
  4. A hybrid approach, creating one or two global banks and two to three large national banks through mergers can also be adopted
  5. These large banks would offer a full-range of commercial banking services to corporate, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), retail, mass banking and international customers
  6. The remaining banks could specialize, with focus on select products or geographies, largely for retail and SME customers avoiding loans to large corporates

Consolidation procedure that can be adopted:

  1. The top three or four high-performing PSBs with sizeable scale (including international presence), better balance sheets, progressive management and global aspirations, could be the anchors
  2. National-scale players could be anchored by PSBs with strong national or regional brands, a multi-state presence and stronger balance sheets than regional counterparts
  3. Some regionally focused banks could be grown through mergers to bring them to national stature
  4. Aligning the sequencing of the consolidation is essential for success
  5. It would depend largely on the capital requirement, level of digitization and technological-commonality among the banks

Consolidation not a solution by itself:

  1. The merged entities will need more oxygen to survive and thrive. This includes:
  • Capital infusion to address stressed assets challenges
  • Building a motivated and capable leadership team to ensure successful integration
  • Forging strategic partnerships to build new capabilities.


Deputy Governor S S Mundra for bank account portability


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Important as an innovative development in the Indian Banking Sector.


  1. What: Reserve Bank Deputy Governor S S Mundra has proposed for the introduction of bank account number portability(just like Mobile SIM Cards)
  2. Why Now: With technological advancements in the field of payment system such as UPI etc, coupled with massive enrolments under Aadhaar and their linkage to individual bank accounts, it has come within the realms of possibility
  3. Other Suggestions to Banks: Mundra also warned banks against using charges on maintaining minimum average balance in accounts and offering other facilities as an excuse to deny or deter a few customers from availing some services
  4.  The RBI’s concern is limited to ensuring availability of banking services to all customers and it is not looking into amount banks are levying on customers to offer these facilities
  5. According to Mundra, documents to serve as an address proof for KYC compliance continues to remain a major irritant even while the customers are permitted to submit a simple declaration about the current address which may be different from the address proof which was originally submitted. Banks should take care of this

RBI’s Branch authorisation policy revamped



Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

New policy announcements by RBI are very important especially those related to financial inclusion. This is just a newscard level info. Wait for some op-eds to come on similar stuff. You will get to know more on what triggers this definition re-think etc.


  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has liberalised the branch authorisation policy and also widened the role of bank boards, making them responsible for complying with the new guidelines
  2. Removed the restriction on tier-I branches: Earlier the rule was linked to the number of branches opened in the unbanked areas

What are the changes in new policy?

  1. New definition of what is a branch? Earlier, all the outlets including extension counters and ATMs were called as a ‘branch’. Now, they will be called as a ‘banking outlet’
  2. There will be a ‘banking outlet’ which will be open for minimum four hours a day and five day a week
  3. How will this help? It will widen the role of the bank boards, which was limited to approving annual branch expansion plan earlier

No logic behind low credit rating for India: Parekh

  1. Critical of rating agencies for giving India the lowest investment grade rating, eminent banker Deepak Parekh has wondered how a country with such “strong fundamentals” on both economic and political fronts can be rated so low.
  2. India continues to be rated ‘BBB-’, just a notch above the junk grade and lowest among investment grade ratings, by most of the global credit rating agencies.
  3. This is despite the government pitching hard for an upgrade on the basis of several reforms initiated over the last few years.
  4. On the other hand, Italy and Spain, which are far weaker and smaller, are having much higher ratings than India.
  5. With all macroeconomic fundamentals being positive, India, the fastest growing emerging economy for over one year now is rated just BBB-.


Important. For both Prelims and Mains. Economic Survey 2017 discussed this issue in detail and lashed out at various credit rating agencies for this discrimination. For Prelims, read about various credit rating agencies and the methodology followed to give credit rating to a country. For Mains, study about reasons why these agencies are avert in giving higher rating to India and what is way forward.


  1. What is a ‘Credit Rating’? An assessment of the creditworthiness of a borrower in general terms or with respect to a particular debt or financial obligation.
  2. A credit rating can be assigned to any entity that seeks to borrow money – an individual, corporation, state or provincial authority, or sovereign government.
  3. Credit assessment and evaluation for companies and governments is generally done by a credit rating agency such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s or Fitch.
  4. Moody’s was the first agency to issue publicly available credit ratings for bonds, in 1909, and other agencies followed suit in the decades after.
  5. These rating agencies are paid by the entity that is seeking a credit rating for itself or for one of its debt issues.
  6. Credit rating agencies typically assign letter grades to indicate ratings. Standard & Poor’s, for instance, has a credit rating scale ranging from AAA (excellent) and AA+ all the way to C and D.
  7. A debt instrument with a rating below BBB- is considered to be speculative grade or a junk bond, which means it is more likely to default on loans.
  8. There are a few factors credit agencies take into consideration when assigning a credit rating to an organization.
  9. First, the agency considers the entity’s past history of borrowing and paying off debts. Any missed payments or defaults on loans negatively impact the rating.
  10. The agency also looks at the entity’s future economic potential. If the economic future looks bright, the credit rating tends to be higher; if the borrower does not have a positive economic outlook, the credit rating will fall.

Centre for more PSB mergers

  1. Fresh from the successful merger of five associates with the State Bank of India, the government is looking to consolidate more public banks going forward, with an aim to create only a few lenders of global size and scale.
  2. The Finance Ministry will soon undertake a broad study on further consolidation and look at various options for merger among the remaining 21 public sector banks.
  3. There are factors like regional balance, geographical reach, financial burden and smooth human resource transition that have to be looked into while taking a merger decision.
  4. The merger process will get a boost with the likely improvement in the NPA (non-performing asset) situation over the next two quarters.
  5. The merger proposals in the banking sector would require clearance from the Competition Commission of India.


Another proposed move to resolve the rising NPA problem. CCI nod for mergers is a prelims trivia and should be remembered.

SBI merger to hurt staff, customers

  1. Who said? All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA)
  2. What? The proposed merger of State Bank of India with its five associate banks from April 1 will throw up numerous financial and physical challenges to the industry, banks, employees and customers
  3. It will affect the seniority of top officials of Associate Banks
  4. It will result in redeployment or loss of jobs of some workmen and closure of branches
  5. The banks might lose some of their regular customers


Note the issues involved in merger- for mains. Know the banks which are to be merged- for prelims.


  1. The Centre had announced State Bank of India will merge its associate banks with itself
  2. The associate banks are State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur (SBJJ), State Bank of Mysore (SBM), State Bank of Travancore (SBT), State Bank of Patiala (SBP) and State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH) to create a global bank

Union Cabinet approves five associate banks’ merger with SBI

  1. The Union Cabinet approved the merger of five of State Bank of India subsidiaries with the SBI
  2. They are: State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, and State Bank of Travancore
  3. The merger proposal was announced in May 2016 and was scheduled for March 2017


The merger had been in news for a long time and was debated widely for its feasibility. See the earlier card here. Remember the names of banks for prelims.

[op-ed snap] A level playing field for debtors and creditors

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC)

  1. It has the potential to make credit cheaper, its sources wider and engender corporate accountability
  2. Strengthening the rights of creditors (even perhaps at the expense of debtors) can reduce the cost of credit and increase access to credit for the entire economy
  3. Until the enactment of IBC, the rights of creditors were unclear and their application was unpredictable
  4. Insolvency is a collective action problem—collective action by all creditors could achieve better outcomes by jointly deciding on a borrower’s viability and path for resolution
  5. Due to differing and misaligned incentives, creditors act individually—secured creditors tend to enforce their security which can destroy value for all creditors
  6. An offence of “fraudulent trading” has been introduced for the first time
  7. The promoters and management of the company may be made personally liable if demonstrated that they were aware that the company was in a precarious financial situation and yet took on more debt
  8. IBC also has provisions criminalizing the concealment of assets, falsification of accounts and defrauding creditors


IBC brings Indian law in line with international best practice. One of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business criteria for Resolving Insolvency (on which India ranks 136 of 185 countries) is that dissenting creditors must be repaid at least liquidation value. Make notes.

Finmin revises criteria for recapitalisation of PSU banks

  1. Change: PSU banks looking forward to the next round of capital infusion will need to fulfil a new set of criteria, including credit recovery
  2. Conditions: The second tranche of capital allocation for the current fiscal would be based on cost of operations as well as recovery and quality of credit on the basis of risk weighted assets
  3. Background: Govt in July had announced the first round of capital infusion of Rs.22,915 crore for 13 banks
  4. The first tranche was announced with the objective to enhance their lending operations and enable them to raise more money from the market

India not ready to privatise public sector banks: Arun Jaitley

  1. Finance Minister: India has not reached the point where it can consider selling majority stakes in the public sector banks that control seven tenths of assets in the financial system
  2. Also, public or political opinion has not converged to the point where we can think of privatisation in the banking sector
  3. Govt is consolidating some of the public sector banks to strengthen them, but does not plan to reduce the state’s share below a threshold of 52%

Banks should identify key areas for certification of staff: RBI committee

  1. News: A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) committee has recommended that banks should identify specialised areas for certification of staff manning key responsibilities
  2. To begin with, banks should make acquiring of a certificate course mandatory for areas like treasury operations, risk management, accounting, audit function and credit management
  3. Background: RBI had constituted a Committee on Capacity Building in July 2014, under the chairmanship of former executive director, G Gopalakrishna
  4. Objective: Implementing non-legislative recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC), relating to capacity building at banks and non-banks, streamlining training intervention
  5. Also, suggesting changes thereto in view of ever increasing challenges in the banking and non-banking sector

Centre injects money into public sector banks

  1. News: In a bid to boost credit growth in the economy, the Centre announced a sum of Rs 22,915 crore for recapitalisation of 13 public sector banks
  2. Union Budget: Proposed allocation of Rs 25,000 crore infusion in FY 2017, in line with the Indradhanush
  3. The remaining amount will be released later according to performance which would depend on efficiency improvements, growth in both credit and deposits, and reduction in the cost of operations
  4. The banks’ lending capacities are restricted by poor asset quality and weak capitalisation
  5. The infusions required in the current year were calculated from the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of credit growth for the last 5 years and the banks’ projections of credit growth

State-owned banks widen reach quicker than private lenders

  1. Context: Recent data released by the Reserve Bank of India comparing private and public sector banks
  2. Public sector banks have increased their presence across the country in terms of ATMs and points of sale devices, far faster than private sector banks have
  3. ATMs & POS: There were 142,500 PSB ATMs as of March 2016, which amounts to 72% of the total number of ATMs in the country
  4. The issuance of credit cards and the share in credit card transactions are two areas where the private sector outshines the public sector
  5. There are 27 public sector banks and 19 private sector banks in operation currently

RBI to ease registration process for NBFCs

  1. Context: RBI to simplify the registration process for NBFCs
  2. The new application forms will be simpler and the number of documents required to be submitted will be reduced
  3. The entire process could be made online for ease, speed and transparency
  4. NBFC sector cannot be on a par with the banking sector and the step is meant to ‘harmonise, not equalise’
  5. Why? Totally exempting small NBFCs from regulations may not be feasible from the customer service point of view

What is Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR)?

  1. What? It is about the terms that banks can write into the loan agreements, which will kick in at the time of default
  2. Aim: improving the working of banks faced with defaulters
  3. Restructuring: Transferring equity of the company by promoters to the lenders to compensate for their sacrifices
  4. Issues: Lack of clarity about its legal foundations
    SDR scheme adds one more layer of complexity into a complex system

RBI eases ECB norms for infra space

  1. Context: RBI allowed all companies engaged in the infrastructure sector to raise ECBs with a minimum maturity of five years
  2. NBFC: These also include the non-banking finance companies (NBFC) regulated by RBI
  3. Condition: The borrowings have to be fully hedged
  4. Limit: The individual limit of borrowing under the automatic route is $750 million
  5. NBFCs engaged in the infrastructure space were earlier allowed to raise ECB funding, but there were certain limitations

Govt, RBI move in step on banking sector

  1. Context: Govt & RBI are working together on long-overdue purging of stressed assets
  2. Both are chipping in to ensure that a capital cushion is available to banks as they go through clean-up
  3. Neither of them are sympathetic towards defaulting entities or banks that are hurting because of clean-up
  4. Political interferences in the loan approval process, an alleged reason for bad loan mess, have stopped
  5. The intensive asset quality review conducted by RBI was also aimed at clean up of balance sheets

Six or more anchor banks likely to lead consolidation

  1. Context: Recently, Gyan Sangam’ bankers’ retreat held at Gurgaon, discussed the idea of bank consolidation
  2. News: Govt. will identify 6 to 10 PSBs which will drive the consolidation process among the state-owned banks
  3. The govt will set up an expert panel for the consolidation process
  4. Reason: The health of PSU banks deteriorated sharply after RBI conducted an Asset Quality Review
  5. Parameter: Merger between the banks will be based on geographical and technological synergies, human resources and business profile



Learn about Bank Board Bureau

  1. Background: PJ Nayak committee was formed to review the governance of Board of Banks in India
  2. The committee recommended bureau as an interim step till the govt. hands over key governance roles to Bank Investment Company
  3. Composition: The bureau will have 3 ex-officio members and 3 expert members, in addition to the Chairman

Learn about Banks Board Bureau (BBB)

  1. Context: BBB will be a super authority of eminent professionals and officials for public sector banks (PSBs)
  2. Relevance: Will replace the Appointments Board of Government
  3. Structure: Chairman, 3 ex-officio members and 3 expert members
  4. Functions: Give recommendations for appointment of full-time Directors as well as non-Executive Chairman of PSBs.
  5. Give advice to PSBs in developing differentiated strategies for raising funds through innovative financial methods and instruments and to deal with issues of stressed assets

Centre’s nod for Bank Board Bureau(BBB)

  1. News: PM approved the setting up of the Bank Board Bureau with former Comptroller and Auditor-General of India Vinod Rai as its first Chairman
  2. Tenure: 2 years
  3. Why BBB? To improve the governance of public sector banks(PSBs), as part of the 7-point Indradhanush
  4. NPAs of PSBs are estimated at almost Rs. 4 lakh crore, and they need to raise capital of Rs. 2.4 lakh crore by 2018 to conform to Basel-III capital requirement norms
  5. Bureau’s Mandate: To play a critical role in reforming the troubled public sector banks
  6. By recommending appointments to leadership positions and boards in those banks and advise them on ways to raise funds and how to go ahead with mergers and acquisitions

Increase capital infusion in PSU banks, says Moody’s

  1. News: According to Moody’s, the govt should increase its proposed capital infusion in PSBs because of a surge in bad loans
  2. Reason: The credit profile of public sector banks will further worsen, if necessary steps are not taken
  3. Proposal: In 2015, the govt had proposed Rs.70,000 crore capital infusion over 4 years
  4. Criticism: Moody’s estimates that the 11 PSBs external capital requirements will be Rs.1.45 lakh crore for the four fiscal years

Government to lower stake in PSU banks to 51%

  1. Context: 9 state-owned banks have reported a combined loss of Rs 11,251 crore
  2. Background: PJ Nayak Committee report on banking reforms
  3. The news: The govt is going to announce a series of major banking reforms, including lowering its stake in state-owned banks to 51%
  4. Reason: The political govt needs to maintain arm’s-length distance from these banks and allow them to have more professionalised bank boards
  5. Importance: Public sector banks have played an important role in financial inclusion

Central bank calls for review of PSU banks’ dividend policy

  1. According to a RBI report, the dividend policy of public sector banks must be reviewed.
  2. PSBs pay hefty dividend to the shareholders irrespective of the quality of the balance sheet.
  3. The govt. is the majority shareholder in all the PSBs and it uses the dividend from its banks to meet its fiscal deficit target.
  4. As per Indradhanush reforms, PSBs are expected to work as ‘private’ entities in terms of their business strategies, operations, controls and financial target.

NBFCs’ sector-specific expertise drives sustained increase in market share

  1. The recent CII report on NBFCs shows that they have steadily eaten into retail banks’ share of credit in the Indian market over the last decade.
  2. NBFCs have taken large share in sectors such as home loans and commercial vehicle loans, due to their sector-specific expertise.
  3. NBFCs command 90% of the used commercial vehicle market, 80% of the loan against property market, and 70% of the consumer durables market.
  4. The NBFCs share of overall credit grew from 10% in 2004-05 to 13% in 2014-15.
  5. NBFCs are attractive to first-time buyers who value a strong relationship with the official from the lending agency.

Don’t cover up banks’ wrong acts, SC tells RBI

The Supreme Court held that RBI should not cover up the acts of banks and financial establishments indulging in “disreputable business practices”.

  1. RBI cannot withhold information on defaulters and other issues covered under the RTI Act.
  2. It is the responsibility of the RBI to take strict action against those banks.
  3. Earlier, CIC had directed RBI to furnish the information sought by applicants under the RTI Act.

Let’s explore some Banking terms

  1. A loan becomes a non-performing asset(NPA), if the borrower does not pay any interest or principle till 90 days.
  2. If the borrower pays his dues regularly and on time, then bank will call such loan as its Standard Asset.
  3. Banks are required to classify NPAs into 3 categories: Sub-standard, doubtful and loss, based on the period for which the asset has remained non performing.
  4. Sub-standard asset is the first category of NPA, that is when interest or principal is due for more than 90 days.

From non-performing to performing

A well-functioning insolvency resolution framework is fundamental for dealing with business failures

What’s new in IBC draft?

  • The ministry of finance recently released the draft Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), proposed by the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee.
  • An effective insolvency resolution process is one tool, among others, for banks and other creditors to address low recovery rates.

What’s the issue of Banks in India?

  • Banks in India face acute problems of asset quality.
  • Perceiving that laws did not sufficiently empower secured creditors to activate recovery by seizing security.

How does single comprehensive law empowers the system, with the proposed IBC?

  • It empowers all creditors — secured, unsecured, financial and operational to trigger resolution.
  • It enables the resolution process to start at the earliest sign of financial distress.
  • It provides a single forum overseeing all insolvency and liquidation proceedings.
  • It replaces existing management during insolvency proceedings while keeping the enterprise as a going concern.

The way forward

  • The proposed framework strengthens creditors, without discrimination and it will prevent new loans from getting added to existing stock of NPAs.
  • It will aid development of alternative debt securities, spread the risk of corporate failure across larger sets of creditors.
  • It lead to the double benefit of lower systemic risk and deeper debt finance for a rapidly growing economy of entrepreneurs.

Did you know SARFAESI Act, 2002?

  1. It was enacted to regulate securitization and reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of security interest created in respect of Financial Assets to enable realization of such assets.
  2. It allows banks and financial institution to auction residential or commercial properties to recover loans.
  3. The first asset reconstruction company (ARC) of India, ARCIL, was set up under this act.

World recognises India’s strong standing amid global economic turmoil

From economic point of view, today, world is looking up to India not only with sense of hope but also satisfaction.

  1. PM announced that a series of banking sector reforms were in the pipeline that would boost growth in rural areas.
  2. Efforts are being made to make banking premises-less, paperless and eventually currency-less, thereby curbing black money menace.
  3. The govt. has plans to infuse Rs.70,000 crore in the PSBs in the next few years to help them deal with the distressed assets issue.
  4. The global rating agency S&P has retained the sovereign credit rating for India at ‘BBB-’ with stable outlook.

RBI’s steps to create small banks

  1. RBI, has selected 10 financial institutions to set up separate small banks to lend to small businesses and farmers, who typically struggle to get funding from traditional lenders.
  2. Private-equity backed Ujjivan Financial Services Pvt Ltd and Janalakshmi Financial Services Pvt Ltd were among institutions.
  3. More than 100 million people in the country work at small businesses but only about 4 percent of small businesses have access to institutional finance.
  4. The winners will in future be able to become fully fledged banks depending on their performance and if they comply with rules for banks.

What prompted RBI to classify some banks as systemically important?

  1. In November 2011, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) came out with a framework for identifying Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs) and the magnitude of additional loss absorbency capital requirements applicable to these G-SIBs.
  2. The BCBS further required all member countries to have a regulatory framework to deal with Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs).


  • Supervisory scrutiny will be more strict for them
  • Concentration risks will have to be taken more seriously in doing business
  • Strategic business shift to meet higher standards

RBI declares SBI, ICICI Bank systemically important banks

  1. RBI has declared SBI and ICICI banks as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs).
  2. D-SIBs are perceived as banks which are equivalent of too-big-to-fall in other countries.
  3. D-SIB category banks need to set aside more capital per loan than their peers to prevent a contagion effect, in case of financial crisis.
  4. The D-SIB framework requires the RBI to disclose the names of banks designated as D-SIBs every year in August, starting from August 2015.
  5. This is in-line to directions of Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to all member countries to have a regulatory framework to deal with SIBs.

RBI asks Govt to speed up reforms in banking system

  1. RBI warned govt. that any delay in reform of the banking system would lead to greater risk in the economy.
  2. He emphasized the need to increase efficiency through greater entry and competition.
  3. He stressed on the need for more govt. participation in the country’s financial markets to increase their size, depth, and liquidity.
  4. Govt. can create supporting frameworks that improve transparency, contract enforcement, and protections for market participants against abusive practices.
  5. For a country as big and populous as India, reforms cannot be shots in the dark, subjecting the economy to great uncertainty and risk.

Bandhan gets final approval for banking licence from RBI

  1. On April 2, 2014, RBI had granted an in-principle approval to Bandhan and IDFC to set up a bank.
  2. As a bank, Bandhan plans to focus on retail clients and will not focus on corporate clients for lending.
  3. In early 2014, an RBI committee headed by Bimal Jalan submitted its report on the criteria, business plans and corporate governance practices of applicants applying for New Bank Licenses.

Banking sector to undergo sea change in two years: Rajan

  1. We might have a whole new set of institutions, payment banks, small finance banks, possibly a postal bank.
  2. Rajan also said the central bank was looking at allowing full capital account convertibility in a few years.
  3. Full capital convertibility means a foreign investor can repatriate his money into his own local currency at will, which is not allowed in the country now.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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