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.

Management of NPAs -Some recovery techniques.

When a loan account becomes Non-performing it is a headache and signal of the deteriorating health of a bank. Any addition to this portfolio raises anxiety for the institution so this needs to be kept at a minimum level by effective recovery techniques.

Although it is always better to avoid slippage of accounts to NPA category by proper follow-up because ‘PREVENTION IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN CURE‘ but still some accounts do slip to NPA category because of one or the other reasons as already discussed in the earlier blog.

RECOVERY METHODS: We should study the NPA portfolio carefully and plan a strategy in a scientific manner, categorizing the accounts in order of ease of recovery.

Following are some suggestions at operational levels:

  1. One should not lose sight of the renewal date of the DP notes and no such account be allowed to become time-barred by limitation. So necessary recovery proceedings be initiated within the limitation period of the particular loan account. Fresh DP note, acknowledgment of debt or a credit into the account by the loanee with a credit slip duly signed by him will extend his limitation period. If this is not possible despite all efforts and persuasions the lawsuit be filed in the court of law well before the date the limitation period expires.
  2.  After categorizing the accounts in order of ease of recovery, first, handle the accounts which can be recovered easily or by comparatively fewer efforts than in case of other accounts.
  3. There may be some freshly slipped account to NPA category where only a few installments or some interest is pending for payment. A recovery of that small amount can result in the upgrading of the whole amount of NPA account. All such accounts be given top priority as less effort produces comparatively much better results.
  4. Some NPA accounts of persons of good repute and standing can be recovered by hot persuasions. Keep a regular contact with these persons and their guarantors and encourage them to pay bank’s dues and save heavy legal charges and embarrassment at the courts to which the bank may be forced to go in case of nonpayment of its dues.
  5.  Regular contact with the defaulter and his guarantors is a must. The recovery team members should be polite, persuasive but firm in their pursuit of recovery. During any discussions with the concerned parties, space should always be kept for further discussion. Bank’s DEFAULT IS A BIG SOCIAL STIGMA and many people pay if properly approached to avoid this embarrassment in society due to the regular visits of the recovery team.
  6.  As there is always a shortage of staff in branches and it is difficult to spare people to form a team so banks should build recovery teams on a CLUSTER MODE where staff from few branches in the cluster join and work for all associated branches. The leader of the team should be rotated depending upon the recovery of a loan of the concerned branch because the leader from the concerned branch can better understand the customer and his default account. If possible, some Female Staff should also be associated with recovery teams as this will help in avoiding many embarrassing situations which the recovery teams face during their recovery drives.
  7. The defaulter should be given reasonable time and encouraged to repay the due amount.
  8. There are also some HARD NUTS TO CRACK i:e the WILFUL DEFAULTERS and habitual defaulters they are real sharks and deserve no leniency so need to be dealt with ruthlessly.
  9. Wherever merits demand suitable settlements can be made after negotiations. The negotiating teams should be experienced and skilled in this field.
  10. Publication of photos of defaulters and their guarantors, reporting to CIBIL as per authority and consent already obtained during the execution of legal documents at the time of releasing loan be resorted to on the merits and demerits of each case.
  11. In case of Wilful and hard type defaulters, negotiations should not be held in the cozy chambers of the bank’s executives but in the chamber of recovery officer.        These chambers should not have comfortable chairs and sofas but ordinary chairs. The walls of the chambers be painted with recovery slogans and pictorial images showing the bad effects on the reputation and standing of a defaulter in the eyes of society and public(try to corner them psychologically).
  12. The recovery officer should not sit in the chamber to welcome the defaulter when the defaulter is expected to visit him. Someone else should guide him to the chamber and let him sit there for some time and get acclimatized with the environment of recovery chamber. Recovery officer should make the defaulter and his guarantors understand the ramifications of legal recovery proceedings and costs involved. They should be advised and encouraged to repay the loan to avoid legal embarrassment.
  13. Negotiations be held with defaulters on merits of each case and nothing less than the realizable value of security charged to bank be agreed to be accepted in settlement of the account as this creates problems in the long run and sets the wrong precedence. As already said in the foregoing paragraph that during negotiations the position of the defaulter is that of a SHARK and that of the bank as a TEDDY BEAR. By skilled negotiations, you should be able to reverse this position. Please note that negotiations should never end up in a deadlock and scope should be always kept to restart the same again after some time.
  14. There may be some cases where chances of recovery are dismal and the value of the security has diminished to a worthless level. Do not waste your time and energy on such cases and let the management take a call on the fate of such accounts.
  15. Recovery camps/Recovery fortnights /special recovery drives can be arranged at different levels to settle accounts. Defaulters should be encouraged to avail the opportunity to settle the account at some concession which can be decided by banks during these programs. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ACT AT THE RIGHT TIME AND STRIKE THE IRON WHEN IT IS HOT. AN UNTIMELY EFFORT HOWSOEVER HARD OR SINCERE IT MAY BE BRINGS NO RESULTS.
  16. The recovery under SARFAESI Act, through debt recovery tribunals, bank courts, arrears of land revenue code and such other legal methods are already well defined and should be resorted to wherever required under the guidance of legal cells of respective banks.
  17. Recovery of Rural area defaults of comparatively small amounts be handled with compassion. Village heads, Sarpanch, and Village level workers (VLWs) should be involved. They should be told that more default in a village or an area is a factor stopping the bank from more lending in the area. These people can have a great influence on defaulters.

RECOVERY NEEDS A MISSIONARY APPROACH. A casual approach is just a formality and brings no results.

THE TOP MANAGEMENT must provide all guidance and support to recovery teams because they are the people who are the front warriors and without whom, the mission cannot be accomplished. Only they can help the banks to sweep out the Junk from the system…….

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Bank’s NPAs. Causes and Remedies.

NPAs are a challenge for the survival of banking industry across the globe, and especially for the banks in the developing countries. The cause of concern for these nations is the rising trend in NPAs which is spreading like an epidemic. Unless this trend is contained and curtailed, the fear is, failing or slowing down of economies of the affected nations.

NPAs adversely affect the health of banks and the economy in many ways.

  1. They stop creating any income for the banks, that is why such assets are called non-performing assets.
  2. They eat away a portion of income the good advances i.e. from performing assets and other sources of income because of the provisioning to be made against the NPAs, thus reducing the overall profits of the banks.
  3. They tell upon the reputation of the bank. The value of stocks comes down thus adversely affecting the investors which ultimately is a cause of discouragement for the public to contribute to such a bank’s  deposits and resources.
  4. It badly affects the morale of the employees because any reduction in profits deprives the staff of expecting any incentives and career growth.This trend if sets, is a very serious matter and a big cause for losing a battle.
  5. The economy of the nation suffers because the banks cant support the economic activity due to the shortage of loanable funds as the resources get blocked in the NPAs.
  6. The capital adequacy ratio falls below the required standards and in order to meet this shortfall, the banks go for capital raising through the public issue which in such depressed condition and loss of reputation becomes difficult to be fully subscribed because of poor response from the market. This forces banks to manage capital at discounts rather than premium. The cost on account of managing public issue is huge, and another cut in the profits of the bank. However, in case of public sector banks, the central govt inducts capital out of its own sources to bail out banks. The recent case is the induction of more than two lac crores of rupees by Indian govt in the capital of public sector banks to bail them out of the crisis.

THE INSTITUTIONS WHICH ARE CONSIDERED AS THE AGENTS OF DEVELOPMENT AND SOURCE OF RESOURCES FOR THE EXCHEQUER ARE BECOMING A BURDEN ON THE GOVT.

This amount could have been used for the uplifting the economy but instead, it has affected the growth of it.  How long this can be allowed to go on. Can any economy afford to have such a state of affairs where the institutions meant for its development become a burden on it? They have to stand on their own legs and support the economy instead. This serious issue needs the focused attention of the management of respective banks as well as of the govt.

CAUSES OF NPA’s

Bank’s assets turn NPA for genuine as well as for bad reasons. These need to be timely identified and remedial steps taken to avoid them. Once an asset becomes NPA it becomes difficult to upgrade or recover it. This puts an additional burden on the resources of the bank as well as on the workload on the employees whose maximum energy and attention get consumed on such cumbersome work rather than on the development of the main business. The genuine and unavoidable causes for NPAs are (A) change in govt. policy. For example ban on plastic bags affected the plastic bag industry and loans in such industries went bad. (B)change in the lifestyle of consumers effects the industry whose products go out of fashion. (C)Fall of natural calamities. (D)Wars and prolonged public disturbances. These cant be avoided, and assets becoming NPA because of such circumstances need to be dealt with by the concerned Govt. and banks with compassion.  The BAD CAUSES are:

(A) Defective and poor appraisals of loan proposals.

(B) Political pressure/other considerations for sanctioning of loans.

(C) A mad rush/run to meet the loan targets unreasonably set by the management.

(D) Handling the proposals both at appraisal, sanction as well as at disbursement level by inexperienced and untrained staff.

(E) Diversion of funds to projects other than the ones for whom the loan actually sanctioned.

(F) Poor pre and post disbursement followup.

(G) Compromising with the quality of security and its realizable value in white money.

(H) Avoiding actionable steps at the early stages of indication of slippage to NPA category.

(I) Lack of proper accountability of staff at different levels associated with the appraisal, sanction, and disbursal and follow up of loan cases.

(J) AND above all is the wilful default by the loanee especially in case of big advances.

(K) It has been observed that proposals, especially large ones having multiple banking arrangements or consortium financing, are not appraised at individual bank’s level with much care as should have been applied. Generally, member banks copy paste the proposal of the leader bank. Something suiting a certain bank may not fit well into the systems of any other bank. Every shoe does not fit every foot and may pinch at the end causing a trouble, So banks should individually make their own assessments about the suitability of proposal. An account in such an arrangement going NPA in one of the member banks infects all banks. Every tier in the sanctioning process from branch to the board level must add value to the proposal.

REMEDIES

  • Political interference can be neutralized by effective appraisal without compromising the quality of proposal and security. The only weight-age to be given to such pressures should be limited to early and smooth sanctioning of the loan.
  • Targets for advances be set in a scientific manner and properly trained staff need to be put on appraisals. Creation of specially trained staff requires proper planning and sustained efforts need to be made to upgrade their skills. There should not be square pegs in the round holes or otherwise things will end up in failures.
  • Proper legal documentation and creation of legal charge be got done before releasing even a single paisa of the sanctioned loan. Disbursal should be need-based and in phases. Post disbursement inspection must be conducted on and after every phase of disbursement in order to check any diversion of funds.
  • All assets charged to banks must be got properly insured and diarised to be renewed on due dates. Value of securities be got assessed at suitable intervals of time. Disbursing authorities necessarily need to follow installation and the timely start of a project as any delay may result in cost overruns thus making the project unviable. This may result in a loan into going to NPA in the beginning itself.
  •  All statutory/necessary permissions, clearances, licenses must be in place before disbursal of loan.
  • THE CONTROLLING AUTHORITIES MUST KEEP AN EAGLE’S EYE over the big loans and LARGE PORTFOLIOS and guide the operating levels at every stage. Pre and post inspection and controlling authority’s guidance should not be only on paper but on the ground. These are not the only safeguards as there may be many others depending on each case.