BANK’S BUSINESS; Few Suggestions. Part…..3.

In part 1(BANK’S BUSINESS; Few Suggestions. PART….1) and 2(BANK’S BUSINESS; Few Suggestions. Part….2) of the blog, different suggestions were put forth for the banks for improving the health of their institutions. Three remaining suggestions are discussed here under:-

  • Creating different layers of income

Banks shouldn’t depend on only one type of income i.e from interest on loans and advances. They have now many other fields available for creating different layers of income such as (1) Bank insurance (2) Selling of mutual funds (3) Trading of shares          (4) Providing Depository services to clients(financial services for clients) (5) Making treasury operations more efficient (6) Better cash management (7) Providing fee-based services to various Govt. departments, institutions and Corporates for collection taxes, fees or their bills (9) Providing cash management services to big religious trusts, Corporates, railways, airlines, and metros etc.(10) Providing consultancy services for different activities (11) Providing non-fund based facilities such as letter of credits and bank guarantees (12) Acting as bankers to The Issue and underwriting the Issue of shares etc. etc.

Earning income is important but plugging its leakages by exercising effective control over all types of capital and revenue expenditures too is very important. ‘Spend where necessary but strictly avoid wastage’ is a mantra for an efficient control system on revenues.

All these services are very lucrative but require properly trained and dedicated manpower to handle these portfolios.

  • Training and upgrading of knowledge.  

Providing proper training and upgrading of knowledge of the staff at the operational levels is very necessary. It is generally observed that the staff doesn’t take the training seriously and consider deputation to training as a pleasure tour on paid holidays. This concept/notion is very dangerous. Providing training to staff is a very expensive exercise and in addition to heavy expenses, it takes a toll on the quality of services which get affected during the absence of the concerned staff from their active duties. We all know that it is only the men in the armed forces who take their training very seriously because they are aware of the fact that they would be the first to suffer the consequences of not taking the training seriously.

Both these aspects of heavy expenses and non serious attitude towards training can be taken care of by following the ‘DEEP SE DEEP’ model of providing training. There is no dearth of prime training institutions in the country and abroad. A few intelligent officers from the senior scales can be deputed for training to a particular institute for training in a particular field with a clear understanding and instructions that they will follow the schedule of training very seriously, have discussions with the experts who provide training in order to remove doubt if any and come well prepared to impart the same training to other fellows in the bank on their return. These officers so trained be required to impart training to other staff members in batches at the bank’s own offices/Premise/training centres in the evening for a few hours. The staff so trained will have to follow the same routine of providing training to other staff and so on. This model will save expenses, make the trainees accountable and experts, and create in-house expertise in many fields of activities. This will also create a lasting bonding amongst various cadres of staff as well as a sense of belonging for the institution. Bank’s training centres can be made self-sustaining and income generation  units by providing training to staff of other banks in specialised fields at a suitable cost/fees.

  • Customer meets with higher level executives.

A good leader is a good listener. People want to be listened to. They feel relieved and delighted once they are listened to. They feel that they are cared for and are important. Bank’s top brass should therefore not ignore this aspect of public feeling at any cost and shouldn’t feel shy of holding customer meets and face criticism if any with a good spirit. This creates long lasting bonds with clients as they feel that they are important. Any cutoff from the masses is suicidal for the banks. Banks, therefore, need to remain in touch with their customers, listen to them and implement the good suggestion forwarded by them.

BANK’S BUSINESS; Few Suggestions. Part….2

In part one of the blog suggestions regarding resource mobilization were discussed (BANK’S BUSINESS; Few Suggestions. PART….1). In this part, few suggestions are offered for an effective and healthy credit dispensation. A healthy credit dispensation requires:-

  1. Selection of a developing and long lasting sector/a viable economic activity for credit dispensation.
  2. Selection of the right prospective borrower/group of borrowers.
  3. Proper and scientific evaluation of the proposed activity/ proposal of the prospective borrower.
  4. Proper evaluation of the risk factors involved and mitigation of the same.
  5. Availability of adequate tangible and purposeful security as well as ensuring the availability of proper margin( Borrower’s part of the investment in the proposed project/activity).
  6.  A proper evaluation of the proposal at all levels and disbursement of the same by the dedicated, sincere, honest, and well trained and qualified staff.
  7. Need-based disbursement of the loan after proper execution of the required legal documents and after meeting all the terms and conditions prescribed in the sanction letter.
  8. A regular post disbursement followup to ensure that the funds disbursed are actually utilized for the purpose for which the same have been disbursed.
  9. Regular spot inspections of the unit in order to ensure that the same is running properly and the inventory level is not depleting.
  10. Timely renewal of the facilities allowed/DP note and periodical valuation of the property mortgaged to ensure that its distress sale value is sufficient to cover the amount outstanding at any given time.
  11. A regular follow up of the loan portfolio.
  12. Any concession in the rate of interest in any sector shouldn’t be upfront, rather it should be a backend offer on the timely repayment of the loans. This would encourage timely repayment of loans and prevent them from slipping to the NPA category.
  13. A timely action for regularization of any account showing signs of sickness is always a better option. (Bank’s NPAs. Causes and Remedies.
  14. Very effective and robust recovery management. (Management of NPAs -Some recovery techniques. )
  15. Settlement of NPA account by negotiation should never be less than the value of all the available securities including the personal as well as third-party guarantee available, and the same should cover the amount due in full with up to date interest including all legal or other costs. Concession if any should not be encouraged and be given only in very deserving cases on the merits of each case.

Although absolute freedom is not available for exercising  the choice for selection of a sector for credit dispensation in view of the social responsibilities on the shoulders of the banks, yet they should after meeting their responsibility of financing the social sector/priority and the neglected sector, make a firm choice for deployment of their funds in the sectors of their choice where they have trust, experience, and confidence. Niche banking is always preferable unless the staff is well trained to handle all other sectors. Many banks have suffered a lot by fishing in the troubled waters in absence of experience to swim across the tides.

Selection of the borrower should be independent. Undue laxity, influence, or any pressure is sure to bring bad results. There should be no compromise in the selection, appraisal, sanction, and disbursement of the loan. BANKERS MUST BEAR IN MIND THE FACT THAT ONCE THEY COMPROMISE IN THE SELECTION, APPRAISAL, SANCTION, AND DISBURSEMENT  OF ANY LOAN DUE TO ANY CONSIDERATIONS, BE IT POLITICAL PRESSURE OR OTHERWISE, THEY WOULD AT THE END HAVE TO COMPROMISE A LOT WHILE RECOVERING SUCH LOAN. There is no dearth of live examples of such cases, especially in the very recent past.

There should never be any haste in the sanctioning the loan and nor should there be any undue delay. Evaluation of a proposal has to take some justifiable time. After all, it pertains to the parting with the public money which the public has kept with us with extreme confidence and trust. Unless we maintain that trust, we can’t expect to attract good resources.

Every activity has an element of risk attached to it. This has to be honestly identified and properly provided for. Suitable legal and tangible securities which are properly identified are to be obtained in addition to getting the same along with all inventories properly insured against all risks. All risk mitigation factors as advised by the risk management departments of the respective banks be adequately taken care of. Banks these days are offering margin free loans i.e 100% financing and which is not a healthy proposition. The borrower must have some stake in the activity financed to him or otherwise, he would have no pains/interest in carrying out the activity judiciously as he has nothing to lose in case of a failure.

Four qualities/attributes of the staff; Honesty, Sincerity, Dedication, and a deep Sense of Belonging for the institution are the basic necessity for building a strong financial institution. Any lacking in these basic convictions in the staff is bound to dupe the banking sector. There is no dearth of allurements to staff and once they swallow the bait, the hook is sure to get entangled in the throat of the staff as well as the bank resulting into very heavy losses. Therefore staff in the bank and especially in the credit department should be honest, dedicated, sincere and well trained and their knowledge should be got periodically updated so as to keep them abreast with the day to day changes in their field of activity. There should never be square pegs in the round holes in the credit department because of the sensitivity of this very vital portfolio in the banking sector.

Once the loan is sanctioned, both the proposed borrower as well as the branch staff are relieved and excited. This is the time when most of the mistakes are made. Even a single penny shouldn’t be released unless all legal documents are properly executed, got vetted, and all terms and conditions of the sanction letter have properly been complied with.

The sanctioned amount is to be released in need-based installments and utilization of the disbursed amount must be ensured by conducting on-site physical verification as well as from the bills produced/GST paid vouchers etc. Every loan disbursed needs regular follow up till it is fully repaid with interest. You ignore this and you will lose sight of the same and land in trouble. Giving loan and its regular follow-up are similar to sowing a crop and taking care for its growth by regular visits to the field, ensuring proper watering, hoeing, proper manuring, de watering where required, spraying of pesticides/insecticides and timely harvesting. Unless this is not done, the crop is bound to fail. Same applies to the loans disbursed.

Handling the credit portfolio is a highly technical job so needs to be handled by well experienced staff with utmost care. The changing economic situation and its exposure beyond the national and international borders makes lending more vulnerable to various risks. An inept handling of this sector therefore is a risky proposition and therefore needs to be handled by men of integrity, experience, and knowledge of the concerned subject………..To be continue as part 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BANK’S BUSINESS; Few Suggestions. PART….1

Banks these days are under tremendous pressure for mobilizing resources as well as for credit dispensation in social as well as in other financial sectors. A very simple definition of banking is, ‘ TAKING MONEY, GIVING MONEY AND MAKING MONEY’. Banks don’t have their own funds. They take it from the public, lend again to the public, and in the process make money for themselves. They have to ensure that the procedure of running the bank is safe, secured, and a win-win situation for all the stakeholders. Seven things are very important for the banks to run their business in a secure, profitable, and growth-oriented manner;-

  1. A sound resource base.
  2. A proper credit dispensation under well-trained staff (Bank’s NPAs. Causes and Remedies). in a  secured, lucrative, and risk-free market.
  3. A robust follow-up and effective recovery. management system. Management of NPAs -Some recovery techniques.
  4. An intelligent inspection and supervision control DEFECTS IN BANK AUDITS AND INSPECTIONS system.
  5. Non banking/para-banking activities for creating different layers of income.
  6. A systematic system for training and skill development of staff.
  7. Regular contact with the client/public and listening/understanding and appreciating their point of view for a better brand building.

For creating resources Banks try to attract deposits from the public by tailoring different products suiting the capacity, requirement, and affordability of the public. Various products are made by the banks with an eye on a particular segment of society. Fixed deposits with different maturities for those who can afford to deposit fixed sums for a fixed period of time. Monthly deposits for those who can’t afford a fixed sum but can spare a comparatively lesser amount every month. Schemes for pensioners, senior citizens, Students, girl child, salaried class, industrial workers etc. etc. Current accounts for the business and trading community. Saving accounts for general savings etc. etc.

Although scores of schemes for resource mobilisation are launched by the controlling offices yet at the operating level only a few traditional schemes are given preference and the rest find a very little attention, with the result that many target groups remain untapped. Operational level, therefore, needs to focus on all the schemes and try to sell all the products available in their kitty. They should fix scheme/products wise targets of all the products launched by the bank. Staff members should be assigned individual targets of all such schemes and the controlling office should keep an eye on such programmes and encourage staff in meeting their targets

There are some very attractive schemes especially for salaried persons, professionals, self-employed, students, and even the business people who can accumulate wealth by taking benefit of monthly deposit schemes which unlike the saving bank account which has a very low rate of return. These schemes have yields available for the term/fixed deposit. Even the last few installments in such accounts attract the higher rate of interest equivalent to that of fixed deposits. For example, if a normal branch by its concerted efforts opens 1000 such accounts in a year with an average monthly deposit of Rs.5000 per month will mobilise 6 crores of rupees in one year. The figure will go up to 18 crores in 2nd year if another 1000 accounts are added in that year, If the same momentum of opening 1000 account with an average of Rupees 5000 per month is maintained for five years, the deposit growth would go to 36 crores in the third year, Rs.60 crores for the 4th and Rs 90 crores for the 5th year. A normal bank with say 1500 very effective branches will this way mobilize resources to the tune of Rs.135000 crores in just five years. Is not this growth pattern most attractive? and does this not deserve to be paid very focussed attention at all operating levels?.

For the promotion of all such schemes, all that is needed is awareness amongst the staff which further to be spread amongst the public by organizing awareness camps, special deposit mobilization fortnights with individual targets for all the staff members who have to work as a team. Rewards and appreciation letters can be offered to the staff for exceeding their targets as well as for topping in their district. or zone or in the bank as a whole.

Newspaper or other paid media advertisements are a costly affair and the public doesn’t pay much heed to such advertisements. It is advisable to distribute printed pamphlets to the public during awareness camps, through the services of newspaper vendors and also by talking to walk-in customers. A WORD OF MOUTH IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN A WRITTEN PASSAGE.

One thing lacking in the modern time branches is proper visibility of the products in the shelf of the banks for its clients/public and the rates at which these are available. We presume that the client or the public knows everything but the fact remains that the sale persons at the counters themselves are not aware of the products available in their stores and their attractive features themselves. This needs serious remedial action by the main leadership of the banks………….(To be continued in part 2)

 

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BANKS AND THE POLLUTION

Pollution is a big monster which has engulfed the whole world especially the developing and the underdeveloped countries. The reason being that such countries need to develop factories, industry, infrastructure, mining, technology, defence, agriculture and education etc. Except for services and education, all other sectors of the economy create pollution in one way or the other. Factories, industries, and technology create smoke dust, dangerous gases, heat and noise which all add to the pollution level all around. Infrastructure creates noise, dust, and electronic pollution. Development in defence is the mother of all types of pollution in the air, on the ground and in the sea. On the micro level, all of us contribute to the addition in pollution in many ways.

Banks are the agents of development and no economy can survive or develop without a sound banking system. while they are contributing to the development of nations, they are by default contributing to the creation of pollution. Creation of pollution can’t be segregated for elimination from the development, however, it can be reduced by going green wherever possible. But we can’t have a green defense, ammunition, missiles, warplanes. Likewise, we can’t dream of green industrial wastage, green effluents, and green noise, smoke, and e- wastage. These need to be properly managed and treated before being disposed of.

Pollution as such is a compulsory evil which needs to be managed in a proper manner and kept at a tolerable level: a total elimination is impossible.

There are mainly two bodies which are entrusted with the job of managing pollution and cleanliness. Urban and rural local bodies such as municipal committees/corporations and the pollution control boards. However, the green tribunals are also doing a wonderful job by enforcing applicable laws for the safety of the environment and ecology. Municipal bodies lack planning, adequate funds, and trained manpower. The very urgent and necessary job of cleaning and garbage management is being done in a very casual manner. Municipal garbage from drains is removed and stocked in lanes, dumped on the roads in open where animals, birds, and flies feast to their will and is ultimately transported to dumping yards which are either within the dwelling areas or are very close to them. The small and the big drains remain choked thereby creating harmful gases and spreading of foul smell laced with dangerous bacteria. The effluent in the drains is allowed untreated into the rivers and canals with impunity. It appears as if all the concerned are in a deep slumber although they like other citizens are equally affected by the pollution so created.

The plight of the municipal field workers is pitiable. They are not properly trained to handle such a risky job which in addition to affecting their health has sometimes resulted in their deaths due to exposures to hazardous and toxic gases while cleaning the gutters. Their very tedious, dangerous, and risky job which ordinarily no one will like to do unless one has the compelling circumstances of poverty, is not properly appreciated and suitably compensated. The need of the hour is to provide adequate training to these menial laborers and their job to be properly compensated and appreciated. They need to be provided with all the necessary items required for their safety such as helmets, long gumboots, rubber gloves, and pollution masks. Unless they are not adequately trained, compensated, provided with necessary safety items, they can’t be held accountable for any lax in the performance of their duty. A very casual approach at the administrative level is bound to induce a work culture of casual nature.

The pollution control boards have the prime responsibility of controlling the pollution but the level of pollution all around speaks volumes about the failure of their efforts to control the same. The history is witness to the fact that whenever any control was exercised on any activity, it went out of control. We had exchange control, gold control, and also the birth control but all these controls failed to achieve the desired results and ultimately their nomenclature was changed. Exchange control was changed to Foreign exchange management act (FEMA). Gold control act too has been repealed and now it is from control to seamless trade. Birth control is now Family planning. Control seems to be a crude word. Pollution control boards are therefore desired to be renamed as pollution management boards which should be made accountable for the proper management of pollution.

The present position of these boards is not appreciable and seems to be lacking in action, performance, and governance. Factories and industries are existing in the middle of towns, cities, and the metros, making hell for the life of the residents. Diesel generator sets at almost all commercial complexes as well as at Pvt. residences are contributing a lot to the already existing pollution. Municipal waste is dumped in the lanes and on the roads. Even the greenest agriculture/horticulture sector is not behind in contributing their share of pollution by burning huge quantity of stubble in the fields and pruned branches and dry leaves of the trees. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers and spraying of poisonous pesticides is adding to the pollution in the air and on the earth thereby disturbing the balance of nature ( SAVE THE EARTH ). Toxic effluents from factories and households are allowed freely to flow to the so-called sacred rivers.

And above all, we the citizens do clean our houses but unmindfully throw the garbage on the lanes and roads sometimes just in front of our houses. We always expect others to respect the law and do things for us. Who will come to our rescue if we are bent upon digging our own graves and make this wonderful planet a hell for our coming generations? The coming generations will curse us if we all, responsible for this mess, didn’t mend our styles of working and ensure the health of the Earth and that of humanity as a whole.

Construction of unplanned or wrongly planned concrete jungles after destroying the natural green cover without caring a bit for the ecology and environment is being allowed which also is a major cause for the pollution. Who will stop this or mend the wrongs already done? Are the concerned authorities waiting for someone to come from the heavens to set things right for us? Nature has already started showing its anger(NATURE’s EQUILIBRIUM) and reaction in the form of storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These early warnings are signs of the Doomsday. We all have to respect nature and try our best to save our beautiful planet.

Banks although not directly creating pollution, but are aiding the creation of the same in a big way. They can play a vital role directly and indirectly in managing pollution in a big way. There is hardly any activity which is not in one way or the other dependant on the banks. Banks should strictly ensure that the activity they are financing will not pollute the air, water or the land in any manner. They should ensure that the factories and the big complexes have proper sewage treatment plants (STP) in proper working order as well as arrangements for the proper treatment and disposal of the garbage, effluents, and the emissions. Installments of finance can be withheld until these facilities are not created. Banks should ensure that such add ups are in proper working order by physically inspecting them during their periodical inspection of the inventories and the plant, machinery, and other assets financed by them.

Banks do ensure that the unit proposed to be financed has adequate space/land available but have failed to ensure that the proposed loanee for a vehicle loan has adequate parking space at his place of residence or elsewhere excepting the lanes and the roads. The lanes and the roads appear as car bazars with hardly any space left for movement of vehicles or for the people to walk. Banks have a great role in the creation of congestion in the lanes and on the roads thus slowing down the movement of traffic and creation of a lot of pollution. One may have to visit the bank ten times to get a loan sanctioned for the purchase of a buffalo, but the car loan is sanctioned, disbursed, and even the car is got delivered within less than an hour. We see attractive advertisements of the banks in the newspapers about the facility of quick sanction and disbursement of the loan for the vehicle and other electronic items at much cheaper rates and at no margin or very nominal margin. Has anyone seen such an advertisement for a loan for the purchase of a cow, buffalo, or a horse which provide livelihood and create no pollution? Banks also need to promote with the similar zeal the sectors which are eco-friendly and provide more job opportunities to the people.

Banks need to promote those sectors which are going green by setting a self-example of going green themselves. To start with they can get all their main buildings run on green solar energy by harnessing the same on their rooftops and growing more green plants, grass, and flowers in the open spaces. This would set an example for others to follow. They should promote the use of green manure in agriculture and horticulture by helping the farmers to convert animals dung into vermicompost and the converting the other field wastage, leaves, pruned branches of trees into the green manure by the available techniques which are cheap and easy to use. This needs to be done in a mission mode as this can change the life of people in terms of quality as well as financially. They can do this as well as help farmers in the management of stubble by diverting their CSR funds for this noble cause. Banks are agents of development, let them now prove that they are agents of change also. With the type of dedication, commitment, and zeal with which the bankers have been working, it is expected that they can do this very effectively.

BANKS; LEVEL FINANCING

Banks are the true agents of development of any economy. They have played a vital role in the overall development of economies world over. Although overall development did happen but the spread of the same is not even all along, which has resulted in uneven income in different sectors and areas. The distribution of credit, therefore, needs to be rationalized in such a manner that the benefits of the same reach out to all across the areas as well as sectors and activities.

Banks have always shied away from lending in rural and undeveloped or underdeveloped areas and sectors despite a lot of directions from the regulators as well as from the state. This is due to the fear of losing money because of the nonviability of the proposed units and schemes in these areas. Lack of proper infrastructure in rural and underdeveloped areas is mainly responsible for the poor growth of the economy in these areas. The prime reason for poor lending in such areas is lack of infrastructure which makes the projects and schemes less viable and hence does not attract bank’s attention.

Now that lot of infrastructure has reached the rural and less developed areas. There are better power availability and better road connectivity, transport, and markets in the rural areas though not as better as in the cities but there is a great push to provide more and improve the existing facilities in these areas. Banks too have opened their units in these areas. The only problem is that banks are mobilizing resources from these areas and passing on the main part of the same for investment in other areas or to their controlling offices for deployment elsewhere. The required purpose of opening branches in such areas, therefore, gets defeated by siphoning out the resources from underprivileged areas to the better-privileged areas thereby further widening the gap of development in different areas. In order to ensure the equal level of development across all the regions, the norms for the calculation of credit-deposit (CD) ratio need to be redrawn/modified. Following suggestive measure may be of help to plug the loopholes in the system:

  1. To start with block should be considered as a unit.  For the calculation of CD ratio, all branches of different banks operating in a block be made to meet the mandatory CD ratio of 60% individually. Only that part of credit which has been utilized within the limits of the block should be taken for the calculation of CD ratio for the block. These ratios should be monitored at the Block level. The block-wise unit size may be carried over to Panchayat level after some time.
  2. Branches of a bank who in order to meet the requirements of CD ratio exceed the limits of the block and deploy funds in other blocks, or for the units in urban areas or industrial areas in other blocks. All such branches of banks should be imposed with a penalty of 1% on the interest earned on the amount of loan allowed in areas beyond their block and 2% on the interest of the part of finance in urban or an industrial area in other blocks.
  3. In order to encourage branches in the metro, urban, and semi-urban areas to fund units in rural and underdeveloped areas an incentive of 2% be offered provided 80% employment in such units is given to the locals of the block in which such financing is done.
  4. Foreign banks who have branches in metros only should also be made to contribute to the development of underdeveloped areas and sectors as per the rules of engagement with them. The Incentives proposed above may also be provided to such banks also.
  5. The amount of penalty and incentives stated above to be routed through a special fund which may be called ‘ Level Development Fund’ (LDF). This fund may be maintained by the coordinator of the State level bankers committee of the concerned state. Any shortfall at any time in this fund to be made good by the concerned state govt. The incentive to be provided or penalty to be imposed be calculated quarterly basis on the figures of 15th of the last month of each quarter in order to avoid artificial fluctuations on account of any window dressing to which the banks generally resort to in order to show better figures in the balance sheets on the  closing date of the respective quarter.
  6. In the case of consortium financing, the amount financed by the respective member banks of the consortium will be treated as financing in the block in which the unit so financed is located and not the block in which the financing branch is working and the penalty would accordingly be levied.  The location of the unit is to be considered and not the location of the controlling or administrative office of the unit.
  7. In case of income or commission earned out of nonfund based business such as a letter of credit or guarantees of any type, the penalty and incentive of 1 or 2% as the case may be, will be imposed under the similar circumstances of exceeding or entering in the jurisdiction of the block as discussed above.
  8. Penalty once charged is to be nonrefundable and no claim of any type to be entertained on any pretext such as the account becoming an NPA for any reasons.
  9. Any shortfall in the amount required to meet the mandatory requirement of meeting 60% CD ratio by any branch of a bank in a block to be kept in RIDF with NABARD at the prescribed rates.
  10. Branches of the banks in any block may divert funds after meeting the mandatory CD ratio of 60% in the block in which they are functioning for deployment anywhere as per their choice. However, in case they exceed CD ratio for financing within the block where they are functioning, they shall be given an incentive on the interest on the additional amount at 1%.

The CD ratio should be ensured to be maintained at the mandatory level by each branch of a bank block-wise, and by the respective banks district-wise, region wise, and state-wise. Inter-region and inter-state financing to be excluded for the purpose of calculating respective CD ratios. Suitable penalty as proposed above to be imposed on such lending. This would discourage flight of resources from the concerned areas to the other areas and ensure a level development of all areas and sectors.

In the present as well as during the future times the lucrative market for financing is in the rural areas as there is a lot of money and market in that sector.

BANKS: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Banks at present are under tremendous stress because of ever-rising nonperforming assets (NPAs) and huge frauds which have taken a big toll on their profits, thus resulting into deterioration in their balance sheets as well as the brand image in the eyes of the public. Under these testing times, Banks are facing huge challenges which need to be faced with courage, maturity, dedication, hard work and tact. The challenges at present are enumerated as under:-

  1. The health of the Banks:-  The mounting NPAs, losses due to big frauds and continuous increase in operating expenses due to periodic increase in various types of variable costs such as salary, fuel, rent, and boarding lodging expenses are a big challenge for the banks to meet. These are a serious threat to the overall health of the banks. Concerned with this trend The Indian Banks Association (IBA) has offered a shockingly meager increase of only 2% to the bankers during the negotiations for the revision of their salary. This may be a cruel joke with the bankers but it speaks volumes about the health of the banks.
  2. Keeping the flock together:- Under the stress on resources, the workers get demoralized and start losing interest in the institution. Some may try to change job or search for the greener pastures. Only a team with high moral and a deep sense of belonging (A SENSE OF BELONGING)can keep the institution strong. This challenge needs a good and inspiring leadership at the top who could keep the flock together by providing guidance, hope, and good future to the stakeholders.
  3. Maintaining a sustainable growth:- With the graphs showing downwards trends, it is becoming difficult to manage growth in face of the tough national and international competition. All high-value proposals of multinational companies are taken by foreign banks who provide them credit at very cheaper rates because their cost of funds is very low. They can afford to give loans at thinner spreads and still make handsome profits because of high volumes and low cost of transactions. Because of reduced interests on deposits, the depositors are not attracted towards banks as in some cases, the net interest income after payment of income tax doesn’t cover the cost of inflation. Added to this is the fear in minds of the depositors about the introduction of a new law about bail-in in the banking sector, which though has been put on the back burners but people still have a fear in mind that the ghost may reappear at any time. They ponzy schemes and the crypto currencies like the Bitcoins have taken a big toll on the deposits of the banks. In view of stress on resources,  the banks are unable to fund large proposals.
  4. In-cumbersome procedures:-The age-old procedures of processing proposals with a lot of paperwork especially for the small traders and businesses and other small loans, discourage the perspective loanees from coming forward. Although some progress has been made in simplifying the procedure yet a lot needs to be done in order to attract customers.
  5. Comparatively Smaller unit size and strength of Banks:- Barring very few banks like State bank of India, the size, strength, capital base, and technological exposure of our banks is no match with the foreign banks. With the globalization and the world becoming a global village, our banks have to compete with the foreign banks. This is not possible unless we match their strength as well as the cost of operations.
  6. Diminishing of the physical interface:- With the introduction of technology in the banks, there is less interface with the customers as most of the transactions are done through the internet, mobile, or online banking, as is done in the foreign countries. Our culture, traditions, and behavior are different from theirs. Face to face interaction has an element of emotion to which we are used to, and the absence of which creates dryness in the relationship. With the increased size of business as well as the number of customers, it may be difficult to keep interface contact with them.
  7. Replacing the outdated technological infrastructure:- In order to match the competitors, the technological infrastructure needs to be updated or replaced with the more sophisticated and efficient one. This may not be economically feasible for the weak banks but in the face of competition and to ensure sustainable growth it becomes imperative to go for it. To stay in the market, an appreciable increase in the volume of business can only take care of the cost factor involved in the upgrading of electronic infrastructure. Only big volumes can reduce the cost of the transaction. The recent case of heavy costs incurred by banks while replacing the currency note holding trays of lakhs of ATMs, when the Govt. introduced new currency notes in place of old notes of different denominations is a live example of updating technology under compulsion in order to stay active in the market.
  8. Strengthening of internal controls:- In view of the rising NPAs and incidences of frauds, the strengthening of internal controls (DEFECTS IN BANK AUDITS AND INSPECTIONS) at any cost has become very urgent. The recovery of NPAs and strengthening of internal controls, management audit, effective inspections and audits of all operational activities, and forensic audits may add costs to the already burdened banks but there is no escape and must be activated in a mission mode in order to regain the public confidence.
  9. Skill building and succession planning:- Advance training in specialized fields and skill upgrading of staff is need of the hour. Gone are the days when banking was every body’s job and bankers used to be a jack of all trades but masters of none. Now with a lot of advancement in the banking field, new innovative ideas are the order of the day in order to beat the competition and the challenges. Value addition to banking products with fine packing and branding which may suit the tastes, requirements, and choices of the customers have to be tailored in order to stay ahead in the competitive atmosphere. A robust and sustainable succession planning must be done at least for the next two decades and which may be reviewed and upgraded periodically.
  10. Setting up an advisory for the clients and brand building:- The Brand building is a long and continuous process. Successful leaders have built successful Brands which have resulted in heavy returns for their businesses. A product can be easily copied by anyone but a brand can’t be copied. Banks need to attract more clients by providing them with the products suitable to their requirements and choice. The markets and businesses now are not protected against competition from across the international borders especially after the signing of the world trade agreement. Now only the strongest,  the fittest, and those who can afford to adopt a change can survive; others are bound to vanish from the scene. Under such circumstances, banks are bound to suffer losses as their products are exposed to greater risks. This is one of the reasons for a spurt in the level of NPAs of banks in the last few years.                                                                                                                                           THIS IS A BIG CHALLENGE FOR THE BANKS AND FOR MEETING THE SAME BANKS NEED TO PROVIDE EXPERT ADVICE TO THEIR CLIENTS AND FIND SOLUTIONS FOR THEIR SURVIVAL. BANKS NEED TO ESTABLISH ADVISORY WITH EXPERTS WHO COULD PROVIDE SOLUTIONS TO THEIR CLIENTS FOR SURVIVAL. The upcoming of big Malls, online shopping through big international giants like AMAZON, ALIBABA, FLIPKART, SNAPDEAL etc have adversely affected the retail market in the country. In order to compete with these big sharks, the retailers have to come up with a matching model of business in the market. Banks have to come up with new innovative models for their clients in their own interests.
  11. Retaining the existing clients:- In view of the tough competition in the sector, banks have a big challenge ahead in retaining the existing clients not speak of adding more to their kitty. The clients have various options and opportunities available to them, so the banks need to ensure that none of the good clients slips out of their grip. Gone are the days when there used to be a customer loyalty and attachment with their banks. Now the customers change banks more often than their vehicles. A regular contact with the customer/ holding customer meets by higher executives whose words and decisions matter need to be organized in order to create more confidence and bonding with the customers. Good leaders are good listeners and people love to be listened to. Promoting and advertising of banks products is very necessary. One of the cheapest ways to promote and advertise banks products is to feed their salient features as caller tunes into thousands of the mobile phones of staff members. In addition to products, the caller tune can be made to contain a mission or a brand promoting song. 

Good leaders have the tact and the wisdom to convert their weaknesses into their strengths and challenges into opportunities. All that is required is a strong will, dedication, a deep sense of belonging to the institution, and a good team of dedicated staff.

OPPORTUNITIES:- While there are big challenges, there exist equal opportunities also. Some of the opportunities available to banks are…..

  1. Big market and big population:- The size of the market is fast increasing and in order to meet the requirements of the second largest population of the world, which is increasing by 20 million souls every year, ample opportunities are becoming available  to the banks to finance in all sectors, may it be agriculture, horticulture and allied, industry and manufacturing, trade and services, infrastructure, mining, shipping, transport, power, tourism and so on. In addition to this, banks have the opportunities to go for business beyond the international boundaries as the entire world is open to them for doing business. All that is required is strength and will.
  2.  The country still not fully developed:- The country is still not fully developed and there is a lot of scope for investment in almost all sectors of the economy. Still, we are calling for FDI in various fields for economic development. Banks need to enlarge their capital and size to substitute the FDI. There is no dearth of opportunities, banks need to redraw their working models suiting the economic activity and matching the foreign banks.
  3.  Advisory services:- With the advent of an open economy, there is a need to change business models in almost all sectors. Banks can provide services for providing training to clients in order to take up new business models and earn some fees and attract customers. This is already being done on a small scale by banks and govt. like some awareness programs for artisans, farmers, and agriculturists etc. EDP(entrepreneurship development programs) are conducted by EDI in the country where banks can participate and attract young budding entrepreneurs.

Money blocked in NPAs and loss assets:- There is a lot of money blocked in NPAs and loss assets on account of money lost in frauds and for which banks have already made provisions out of their incomes. These block of funds are in a way HARD AND A LITTLE TOUGH MINES of reserves for the banks. Any recovery from these heads adds to the income and overall health of the banks. These reserves must be tapped by effective recovery techniques (Management of NPAs -Some recovery techniques.) and maximum effort needs to be made to address further slippage to this category. (Bank’s NPAs. Causes and Remedies.)

Rod and reward:- Banks must not spare the rod wherever required and should not become a miser while promoting the talent and rewarding the performers.

Challenges make one more strong. Challenges provide an opportunity to face hard situations and increase one’s self-confidence. They provide an opportunity to prove your will and strength. A nation becomes strong only when it faces challenges and so are the banks. Banks have to take these challenges in the right perspective which ultimately will change their fate.

DWINDLING TRUST IN BANKS- 20 Steps/ Remedial measures Suggested

The deteriorating health of banks during the past couple of years has shaken the public confidence in the banking systems. The ever-increasing NPAs which at present are estimated to have touched a whopping figure of about Nine lakhs crores sends shivers down the spine of the stakeholders. Every year a fresh and heavy dose is added to the portfolio of bad loans and the trend doesn’t seem to have an end. This volcanic effect if not arrested, will wipe out the important agent of economy i.e. banking from the scene.

Another monster endangering the industry is the increasing incidences of big frauds in the banking sector in the recent years. It appears as if the bankers have surrendered before the fraudsters and the defaulters. The causes have already been discussed in earlier blogs Defects in bank audits and inspections and Bank’s NPAs. The faith and trust of the public in the banking sector is shaken badly. BANK IS THE OTHER NAME OF TRUST. PEOPLE KEEP MONEY WITH BANKS ON THE TRUST THAT THEY WILL GET GOOD RETURNS AND THEIR FUNDS WOULD REMAIN SAFE. However, with all said and done, the following 20 measures are suggested to regain public confidence in the banking sector:-

  1. Remove uncertainty in the banking operations once for all. Clean up the balance sheet and don’t keep any NPAs under the lid. Any evergreening or hiding of NPAs may be a short time solution but its effects are dangerous. BRING COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY IN THE OPERATIONS.
  2. Once done, you can start afresh and can put the progress on track and by moving slowly and cautiously you can regain the lost speed by putting in more vigor, experience, honesty, and hard work.
  3. With speed, you need to avoid accidents by choosing the right tracks and extra vigilance. Make internal inspection and controls more effective and purposeful rather than a mere formality. The concurrent audit is a very effective tool for inspections as it nips the evil in the bud. Make it more effective by allocating the job to experienced and hard working people. More stress should be on spot rectification rather than just pointing out and reporting. Any mistake or an irregularity if allowed to stay for some time takes roots and destroys the system, so spot rectification is need of the hour to stop the spread of the weed.
  4. At present, there seem to be too many inspections by different departments and controlling heads and some of which are an overlapping on one and the other. Too much of everything is bad including the number of inspections. The number doesn’t matter, it is the quality which counts. It is generally seen that inexperienced people and not so good performers are placed in the audit and inspection wings in the bank. This attitude needs to be totally changed, and efficient, knowledgeable and hardworking people should be allocated this job. Unless a serious thought is given to this issue and the inspection/audit deptt. is not strengthened, the chances of intrusions into the systems would continue, thereby adversely affecting the health of the banks.
  5. Specially trained staff should handle credit appraisals, sanctions, and disbursement of loans. Follow up of credit disbursed should be done on time and in a very effective manner. Inexperienced and untrained staff is prone to make mistakes, mishandle, and ultimately land the bank in trouble. Don’t jump into the fields about which you have no experience. Many banks went into trouble especially in the consortium financing because of their lack of adequate experience and blindly following the leader of the consortium.
  6. Controlling offices to be more vibrant and vigilant. Every tier through which the credit proposal moves including the board of directors, must add value to the proposal and share responsibility. No one can shirk responsibility on the pretext of being nontechnical in the respective field. This is a very dangerous attitude. People at the helm should be more serious, accountable and responsible.
  7. Banks should have experts as directors on the boards of the bank who could provide better guidance and direction based on their rich expertise and experience in their respective fields. Persons with political leanings/connections should as far as possible be not appointed as directors on the boards of the banks.
  8. A periodic rotation/shifting of people in the credit wing be done regularly as well as proper training and refresher courses be conducted for the persons handling credit in order to keep them abreast with day to day changes in the credit market, its procedures, and emerging risks.
  9. No proposal should be handled in a hurry. It may be processed expeditiously but not in a hurry. The prospective borrower is always in hurry, make him appreciate that even hurry takes some time. There have been instances when the highest body of the bank i.e. board of directors have complained that sufficient time was not provided for evaluating the agenda of the board meeting and some proposals were introduced as a supplementary agenda item on the day of the board meeting. How can one expect any value addition by any expert to such an item on the agenda?
  10. With the digital and online banking have taken roots, the interface interaction with the customers seem to have taken the back seat. Although the banks have effective complaint redressal systems yet face to face interaction is very important. Banks must conduct periodic customer meets at all levels and listen to the point of view and suggestions of customers and redress their grievances if any. The customer is the working capital of the bank. His suggestions must be evaluated and acted upon on merits of each case.
  11. Interaction with the staff by the executives at different levels helps in knowing their expectations from the bank as well as sharing the expectations of the management with the staff. This needs to be done periodically wherein individual staff targets can be set and evaluated. The concerns and policies of the bank must be shared with the staff as a family and they should be involved in the overall development of the institution and encouraged to meet individual targets. This can help banks to build good teams and induce a sense of responsibility, understanding, and a deep sense of belonging to the institution.
  12. The policy decisions of the board as well as of the regulators must be strictly followed in letter and spirit.
  13. Banks must learn from the past experience and avoid entering into waters whose depth and force of the flow is not known.
  14. Avoid wasteful and avoidable expenditure as you are under the constant public glare. This creates a lot of negative publicity for the institution.
  15. The seniors at all levels have to be a role model for others in the field of dedication, devotion, hard work, honesty, transparency, simplicity, no favoritism, and expenditure control.
  16. Banks should not spare the rod where ever required without any prejudice or bias. They should also be not miser in encouraging and promoting people to achieve the given targets.
  17. Banks must have a workable and sound whistleblower policy. People at the top need to be sensitive to even minor and feeble signals of misdeeds by anyone in the institution. They should read between the lines and make independent investigations where ever required.
  18. Banks should create and strengthen other layers of income from para-banking activities and also try to increase income from fee-based and non-fund based business.
  19. Banks, till date, had been enjoying the luxury of managing comfortable NIM (Net interest margin) which is a ratio of the difference in interest earned on assets and interest paid on deposits to the assets. Since there are a number of well-organized trade and industry association both at the local and national level who manage to get the interest on trade and industrial loans reduced, but unfortunately there is hardly any organized body representing the depositors who can watch their interests. The result is that depositors have no option than to accept whatever is offered to them. The consumers of the credit manage a good deal, banks manage a comfortable NIM, and all this adversely affects the returns for the depositors. This situation is fast changing with more awareness especially through the internet and the depositors are searching for the better green pastures in the shape of mutual funds and other instruments with better security and returns. The shift of capital to cryptocurrencies is a matter of concern for the banks. In such circumstances, the banks may find it a bit hard to mobilize funds except after sacrificing a good part of their NIM.
  20. In view of above banks need to make long-term strategies for managing funds and lay more stress on non-fund based and fee-based income. A more scientific asset liability management and better risk management strategy will go along way in increasing incomes of the banks. The funds locked in bad debts need a special focus of the top management. The recently passed insolvency and bankruptcy act is a boon for the secured creditors though with a cost yet very useful for recovery and cleaning the balance sheets of the banks. The suggestions put forth are not exclusive and the banks can take any other measure to improve its working and image in the overall interests of all the stakeholders and also in order to regain the lost ground.