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Keep more capital buffer for your own interest: RBI ED to banks

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Mumbai: Reserve Bank executive director Sudarshan Sen has exhorted banks to maintain higher capital levels than the regulatory mandate to see through business cycles and crises, warning those failing to have adequate buffers will get punished by the system itself. There is a need to look beyond numbers like 8 per cent of risk weighted assets or 9 per cent, he said.

“When the going gets tough, it is the banks with capital which will get going and those without it will be punished by the ecosystem,” Sen told an event organised by the Business Standard newspaper late on Thursday.

“Business cycles and financial crisis are old companions and they are here to stay,” he added. Terming the regulatory mandate on minimum capital level as the “poverty line”, he said there is a need to aspire to be well above that.

 

“We shouldn’t really be debating whether the poverty line should be 8 percent or 9 percent because that is not where we want to be,” he said.

The meaningful debate should be around what is the optimum level of capital given the ground realities in our country, including low recovery and high default rates, and not just expediency, he said.

Sen cited studies which have suggested that the minimum capital ratio should be between 9 and 53 per cent and added that banks in jurisdictions that mandate the minimum capital to be at 8 per cent actually operate at a much higher 14 per cent buffer levels.

“We need to reflect that banks which choose to operate at this poverty line of minimum capital, would be condemned to stay poor,” Sen said.

He also said that in our country, banks do not set aside any pillar-2 (tier 2) supervisory capital, and the countercyclical capital buffer is the only cushion which is helpful to absorb shocks. The central banker said studies on the supervisory capital suggest domestic banks will be needing upwards of Rs 2 trillion in capital towards this.

“It is possible in times to come that banks will be required to hold supervisory capital,” he said.

Sen said our banking system follows a standardised approach of computing the capital that needs to be set aside, which depends on external ratings rather than the system of historical losses followed in other jurisdictions and added that a shift in computation can result in a requirement of Rs 2 trillion in capital for the system.

He also said the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) is unlikely to greatly improve loan recovery rates and there is a need to increase bad asset provisioning to above the present 50 per cent, he said.

“Given the fact that recovery rates are so low I am not sure we are going to see any great improvement in the recovery rates if we continue in the same way as IBC has so far been” Sen said.

“I think we have to be cognisant of the fact that the level of provisions that we have for NPAs needs to be much higher than the present level of 50 per cent,” he added.

As a final suggestion, Sen also laid down what should be guiding the thinking for the bankers from here on.

“When we ponder that the worst is behind us, let us spend some time discussing some time what we need to do in terms of capital, competencies and corporate governance to be better prepared for the next crisis when it comes. And come, it will,” he said.


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Business

RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to wall, floor for security by September-end

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Mumbai: The Reserve Bank asked banks to ensure their ATMs are grouted to a wall, pillar, or floor by September-end, except those installed in high secured premises such as airports, to enhance security of the cash vending machines.

In 2016, the RBI had st up a Committee on Currency Movement (CCM) to review the entire gamut of security of treasure in transit.

Based on the recommendations of the panel, the central bank has now issued instructions aimed at mitigating risks in ATM operations and enhancing security.

 

As part of the security measures, all “ATMs shall be operated for cash replenishment only with digital One Time Combination (OTC) locks”.

Also, “All ATMs shall be grouted to a structure (wall, pillar, floor, etc.) by September 30, 2019, except for ATMs installed in highly secured premises such as airports, etc. which have adequate CCTV coverage and are guarded by state/central security personnel”.

Further, banks may also consider rolling out a comprehensive e-surveillance mechanism at the ATMs to ensure timely alerts and quick response, it said.

The new measures to be adopted by banks are in addition to the existing instructions, practices and guidance issued by the RBI and law enforcement agencies.

The RBI also warned the banks that non-adherence of timelines or non-observance of the instructions would attract regulatory action including levy of penalty.

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SBI refuses to disclose communication from RBI, govt on electoral bonds

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New Delhi: The State Bank of India has refused to disclose any communication it received from the government or the Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds, terming it “personal information” and held in “fiduciary capacity”.

Responding to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had demanded copies of all letters, correspondence, directions, notifications or e-mails received from the RBI or any government department between 2017 and 2019, the SBI said it cannot be provided by it.

The bank cited two exemption clauses under the RTI Act to deny information — Section 8(1)(e) which pertains to information held in fiduciary capacity and Section 8(1)(J) which pertains to personal information of a person which has no link to any public activity.

 

“Information sought by the applicant cannot be disclosed as it is in fiduciary capacity, disclosure of which is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005,” the Central Public Information Officer of the bank said in his reply.

The bank also refused to give any details of action taken by it on such communications from the RBI and the government.

The electoral bonds, for giving donations to political parties, are being sold through SBI only. The sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period.

The scheme of electoral bonds notified by the Centre in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.

The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year.

The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with the authorised bank within that period only.

A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has demanded a stay on the sale while the CPI(M) has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions.

ADR recently filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year.

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Walmart’s Flipkart, Indian startup GOQii settle dispute over sharp discounting

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New Delhi: Walmart unit Flipkart has settled a legal dispute with an Indian startup that alleged it suffered losses because its products were sharply discounted on the global retailer’s website.

GOQii, a seller of smartwatch-type health devices, sued Flipkart last month in a Mumbai court, alleging its devices were discounted by around 70 per cent to the retail price, much more than the two sides had agreed. The court had, as an interim measure, ordered device sales to be halted on Flipkart.

In a joint statement , the companies said the dispute had been resolved and GOQii health devices would again be available on Flipkart. They didn’t say how the settlement was reached.

 

Vishal Gondal, CEO of GOQii, told Reuters the company would withdraw the case against Flipkart. The e-commerce retailer’s “team worked on a resolution benefitting the brand and the customers”, Gondal said in the statement.

The legal spat was seen as a test case of the giant retailer’s operating strategy in the country.

Small traders and a right-wing group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have raised concerns about large e-commerce companies, saying they burn billions of dollars deeply discounting some products to lure customers onto their sites, in the expectation that they will also buy other goods.

GOQii said it signed an agreement last year with a Flipkart unit to sell two of its devices at a price not below 1,999 rupees (USD 28.63) and 1,499 rupees. It later found the devices were being sold for 999 rupees and 699 rupees, calling it “unauthorized” discounting.

In response, Flipkart said it reserved “the right to institute actions for defamation, both civil and criminal”, arguing it wasn’t responsible for any discounts which are determined by third-party firms which sell via its website.

The two companies struck a friendlier tone in their joint-statement on Friday as they brought the legal battle to an end.

“We have ensured constant engagement with GOQii to resolve any differences,” Flipkart said in the statement.

With a 19 per cent market share, GOQii was the second-biggest player in India’s so-called wearables market last year, data from industry tracker IDC showed. The market is dominated by China’s Xiaomi, with Samsung a small player.

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