Introduction of Digital KYC

Anita Baid (anita@vinodkothari.com)

The guidelines relating to KYC has been in headlines for quite some time now. Pursuant to the several amendments in the regulations, the KYC process of using Aadhaar through offline modes was resumed for fintech companies. The amendments in the KYC Master Directions[1] allowed verification of customers by offline modes and permitted NBFCs to take Aadhaar for verifying the identity of customers if provided voluntarily by them, after complying with the conditions of privacy to ensure that the interests of the customers are safeguarded.

Several amendments were made in the Prevention of Money laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005, vide the notification of Prevention of Money laundering (Maintenance of Records) Amendment Rules, 20191 issued on February 13, 2019[2] (‘February Notification’) so as to allow use of Aadhaar as a proof of identity, however, in a manner that protected the private and confidential information of the borrowers.

The February Notification recognised proof of possession of Aadhaar number as an ‘officially valid document’. Further, it stated that whoever submits “proof of possession of Aadhaar number” as an officially valid document, has to do it in such a form as are issued by the Authority. However, the concern for most of the fintech companies lending through online mode was that the regulations did not specify acceptance of KYC documents electronically. This has been addressed by the recent notification on Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Third Amendment Rules, 2019 issued on August 19, 2019[3] (“August Notification”).

Digital KYC Process

The August Notification has defined the term digital KYC as follows:

“digitial KYC” means the capturing live photo of the client and officially valid document or the proof of possession of Aadhaar, where offline verification cannot be carried out, along with the latitude and longitude of the location where such live photo is being taken by an authorised officer of the reporting entity as per the provisions contained in the Act;

Accordingly, fintech companies will be able to carry out the KYC of its customers via digital mode.

The detailed procedure for undertaking the digital KYC has also been laid down. The Digital KYC Process is a facility that will allow the reporting entities to undertake the KYC of customers via an authenticated application, specifically developed for this purpose (‘Application’). The access of the Application shall be controlled by the reporting entities and it should be ensured that the same is used only by authorized persons. To carry out the KYC, either the customer, along with its original OVD, will have to visit the location of the authorized official or vice-versa. Further, live photograph of the client will be taken by the authorized officer and the same photograph will be embedded in the Customer Application Form (CAF).

Further, the system Application shall have to enable the following features:

  1. It shall be able to put a water-mark in readable form having CAF number, GPS coordinates, authorized official’s name, unique employee Code (assigned by Reporting Entities) and Date (DD:MM:YYYY) and time stamp (HH:MM:SS) on the captured live photograph of the client;
  2. It shall have the feature that only live photograph of the client is captured and no printed or video-graphed photograph of the client is captured.

The live photograph of the original OVD or proof of possession of Aadhaar where offline verification cannot be carried out (placed horizontally), shall also be captured vertically from above and water-marking in readable form as mentioned above shall be done.

Further, in those documents where Quick Response (QR) code is available, such details can be auto-populated by scanning the QR code instead of manual filing the details. For example, in case of physical Aadhaar/e-Aadhaar downloaded from UIDAI where QR code is available, the details like name, gender, date of birth and address can be auto-populated by scanning the QR available on Aadhaar/e-Aadhaar.

Upon completion of the process, a One Time Password (OTP) message containing the text that ‘Please verify the details filled in form before sharing OTP’ shall be sent to client’s own mobile number. Upon successful validation of the OTP, it will be treated as client signature on CAF.

For the Digital KYC Process, it will be the responsibility of the authorized officer to check and verify that:-

  1. information available in the picture of document is matching with the information entered by authorized officer in CAF;
  2. live photograph of the client matches with the photo available in the document; and
  3. all of the necessary details in CAF including mandatory field are filled properly.

Electronic Documents

The most interesting amendment in the August Notification is the concept of “equivalent e-document”. This means an electronic equivalent of a document, issued by the issuing authority of such document with its valid digital signature including documents issued to the digital locker account of the client as per rule 9 of the Information Technology (Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries Providing Digital Locker Facilities) Rules, 2016 shall be recognized as a KYC document. Provided that the digital signature will have to be verified by the reporting entity as per the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The aforesaid amendment will facilitate a hassle free and convenient option for the customers to submit their KYC documents. The customer will be able to submit its KYC documents in electronic form stored in his/her digital locker account.

Further, pursuant to this amendment, at several places where Permanent Account Number (PAN) was required to be submitted mandatorily has now been replaced with the option to either submit PAN or equivalent e-document.

Submission of Aadhaar

With the substitution in rule 9, an individual will now have the following three option for submission of Aadhaar details:

  • the Aadhaar number where,
    1. he is desirous of receiving any benefit or subsidy under any scheme notified under section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 or
    2. he decides to submit his Aadhaar number voluntarily
  • the proof of possession of Aadhaar number where offline verification can be carried out; or
  • the proof of possession of Aadhaar number where offline verification cannot be carried out or any officially valid document or the equivalent e-document thereof containing the details of his identity and address;

Further, along with any of the aforesaid options the following shall also be submitted:

  1. the Permanent Account Number or the equivalent e-document thereof or Form No. 60 as defined in Income-tax Rules, 1962; and
  2. such other documents including in respect of the nature of business and financial status of the client, or the equivalent e-documents thereof as may be required by the reporting entity

The KYC Master Directions were amended on the basis in the February Notification. As per the amendments proposed at that time, banking companies were allowed to verify the identity of the customers by authentication under the Aadhaar Act or by offline verification or by use of passport or any other officially valid documents. Further distinguishing the access, it permitted only banks to authenticate identities using Aadhaar. Other reporting entities, like NBFCs, were permitted to use the offline tools for verifying the identity of customers provided they comply with the prescribed standards of privacy and security.

The August Notification has now specified the following options:

  1. For a banking company, where the client submits his Aadhaar number, authentication of the client’s Aadhaar number shall be carried out using e-KYC authentication facility provided by the Unique Identification Authority of India;
  2. For all reporting entities,
    1. where proof of possession of Aadhaar is submitted and where offline verification can be carried out, the reporting entity shall carry out offline verification;
    2. where an equivalent e-document of any officially valid document is submitted, the reporting entity shall verify the digital signature as per the provisions of the IT Act and take a live photo
    3. any officially valid document or proof of possession of Aadhaar number is submitted and where offline verification cannot be carried out, the reporting entity shall carry out verification through digital KYC, as per the prescribed Digital KYC Process

It is also expected that the RBI shall notify for a class of reporting entity a period, beyond which instead of carrying out digital KYC, the reporting entity pertaining to such class may obtain a certified copy of the proof of possession of Aadhaar number or the officially valid document and a recent photograph where an equivalent e-document is not submitted.

The August Notification has also laid emphasis on the fact that certified copy of the KYC documents have to be obtained. This means the reporting entity shall have to compare the copy of the proof of possession of Aadhaar number where offline verification cannot be carried out or officially valid document so produced by the client with the original and record the same on the copy by the authorised officer of the reporting entity. Henceforth, this verification can also be carried out by way of Digital KYC Process.


[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasDirections.aspx?id=11566#F4

[2] http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2019/197650.pdf

[3] http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2019/210818.pdf

GOI’s attempt to ease out liquidity stress of NBFCs and HFCs: Ministry of Finance launches Scheme for Partial Credit Guarantee to PSBs for acquisition of financial assets

Abhirup Ghosh  (abhirup@vinodkothari.com)

The Finance Minister, during the Union Budget 2019-20, promised to introduce a partial credit guarantee scheme so as to extend relief to the NBFC during the on-going liquidity crisis. The proposal laid down in the budget was a very broad statement and were subject to several speculations. At last on 13th August, 2019[1], the Ministry of Finance came out with a press release to announce the notification in this regard dated 10th August, 2019, laying down specifics of the scheme.

The scheme will be known by “Partial Credit Guarantee offered by Government of India (GoI) to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) for purchasing high-rated pooled assets from financially sound Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)”, however, for the purpose of this write-up we will use the word “Scheme” for reference.

The Scheme is intended to address temporary asset liability mismatch of solvent HFCs/ NBFCs, owing to the ongoing liquidity crisis in the non-banking financial sector, without having to resort to distress sale of their assets.

In this regard, we intend to discuss the various requirements under the Scheme and analyse its probable impact on the financial sector.

Applicability:

The Scheme has been notified with effect from 10th August, 2019 and will remain open for 6 months from or until the period by which the maximum commitment by the Government in the Scheme is fulfilled, whichever is earlier.

Under the Scheme, the Government has promised to extend first loss guarantee for purchase of assets by PSBs aggregating to ₹ 1 lakh crore. The Government will provide first loss guarantee of 10% of the assets purchased by the purchasing bank.

The Scheme is applicable for assignment of assets in the course of direct assignment to PSBs only. It is not applicable on securitisation transactions.

Also, as we know that in case of direct assignment transactions, the originators are required to retain a certain portion of the asset for the purpose of minimum retention requirement; this Scheme however, applies only to the purchasing bank’s share of assets and not on the originators retained portion. Therefore, if due to default, the originator incurs any losses, the same will not be compensated by virtue of this scheme.

Eligible sellers:

The Scheme lays down criteria to check the eligibility of sellers to avail benefits under this Scheme, and the same are follows:

  1. NBFCs registered with the RBI, except Micro Financial Institutions or Core Investment Companies.
  2. HFCs registered with the NHB.
  3. The NBFC/ HFC must have been able to maintain the minimum regulatory capital as on 31st March, 2019, that is –
    • For NBFCs – 15%
    • For HFCs – 12%
  4. The net NPA of the NBFC/HFC must not have exceeded 6% as on 31st March, 2019
  5. The NBFC/ HFC must have reported net profit in at least one out of the last two preceding financial years, that is, FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19.
  6. The NBFC/ HFC must not have been reported as a Special Mention Account (SMA) by any bank during year prior to 1st August, 2018.

Some observations on the eligibility criteria are:

  1. Asset size of NBFCs for availing benefits under the Scheme: The Scheme does not provide for any asset size requirement for an NBFC to be qualified for this Scheme, however, one of the requirement is that the financial institution must have maintained the minimum regulatory capital requirement as on 31st March, 2019. Here it is important to note that requirement to maintain regulatory capital, that is capital risk adequacy ratio (CRAR), applies only to systemically important NBFCs.

Only those NBFCs whose asset size exceeds Rs. 500 crores singly or jointly with assets of other NBFCs in the group are treated as systemically important NBFCs. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the benefits under this Scheme can be availed only by those NBFCs which – a) are required to maintained CRAR, and b) have maintained the required amount of capital as on 31st March, 2019, subject to the fulfilment of other conditions.

  1. Financial health of originator after 1st August, 2018 – The eligibility criteria for sellers state that the financial institution must not have been reported as SMA by any bank any time during 1 year prior to 1st August, 2018, the apparent question that arises here is what happens if the originator moves into SMA status after the said date. If we go by the letters of the Scheme, if a financial institution satisfies the condition before 1st August, 2018 but becomes SMA thereafter, it will still be eligible as per the Scheme. This makes the situation a little awkward as the whole intention of the Scheme was to facilitate financially sound financial institutions. This seems to be an error on the part of the Government, and it surely must not have meant to situations such as the one discussed above. We can hopefully expect an amendment in this regard from the Government.

Eligible assets

Pool of assets satisfying the following conditions can be assigned under the Scheme:

  1. The asset must have been originated on or before 31st March, 2019.
  2. The asset must be classified as standard in the books of the NBFC/ HFC as on the date of the sale.
  3. The pool of assets should have a minimum rating of “AA” or equivalent at fair value without the credit guarantee from the Government.
  4. Each account under the pooled assets should have been fully disbursed and security charge should have been created in favour of the originating NBFCs/ HFCs.
  5. NBFCs/HFCs can sell up to a maximum of 20% of their standard assets as on 31.3.2019 subject to a cap of Rs. 5,000 crore at fair value. Any additional amount above the cap of Rs. 5,000 crore will be considered on pro ratabasis, subject to availability of headroom.
  6. The individual asset size in the pool must not exceed Rs. 5 crore.
  7. The following types of loans are not eligible for assignment for the purposes of this Scheme:
    1. Revolving credit facilities;
    2. Assets purchased from other entities; and
  • Assets with bullet repayment of both principal and interest

Our observations on the eligibility criteria are as follows:

  1. Rating of the pool: The Scheme states that the pools assigned should be highly rated, that is, should have ratings of AA or equivalent prior to the guarantee. Technically, pool of assets are not rated, it is the security which is rated based on the risks and rewards of the underlying pools. Therefore, it is to be seen how things will unfold. Also, desired rating in the present case is quite high; if an originator is able to secure such a high rating, it might not require the assistance under this Scheme in the first place. And, the fact that the originators will have to pay guarantee commission of 25 bps. Therefore, only where the originators are able to secure a significantly lower cost from the banks for a higher rating, that would also cover the commission paid, will this Scheme be viable; let alone be the challenges of achieving an AA rating of the pool.
  2. Cut-off date of loan origination to be 31st March, 2019: As per the RBI Guidelines on Securitisation and Direct Assignment, the originators have to comply with minimum holding requirements. The said requirement suggests that an asset can be sold off only if it has remained in the books of the originator for at least 6 months. This Scheme has come into force with effect from 10th August, 2019 and will remain open for 6 months from the commencement.

Considering that already 5 months since the cut-off date has already passed, even if we were to assume that the loan is originated on the cut-off date itself, it would mean that closer to the end of the tenure of the Scheme, the loan will be 11 months seasoning. Such high seasoning requirements might not be motivational enough for the originators to avail this Scheme.

  1. Maximum cap on sell down of receivables: The Scheme has put a maximum cap on the amount of assets that can be assigned and that is an amount equal to 20% of the outstanding standard assets as on 31st March, 2019, however, the same is capped to Rs. 5000 crores.

It is pertinent to note that the Scheme also allows additional sell down of loans by the originators, beyond the maximum cap, however, the same shall depend on the available headroom and based on decisions of the Government.

Invocation of guarantee and guarantee commission

Guarantee commission

As already stated earlier, in order to avail benefits under this Scheme, the originator will have to incur a fee of 25 basis points on the amount guaranteed by the Government. However, the payment of the same shall have to be routed through the purchasing bank.

Invocation of guarantee

The guarantee can be invoked any time during the first 24 months from the date of assignment, if the interest/ principal has remained overdue for a period of more than 90 days.

Consequent upon a default, the purchasing bank can invoke the guarantee and recover its entire exposure from the Government. It can continue to recover its losses from the Government, until the upper cap of 10% of the total portfolio is reached. However, the purchasing bank will not be able to recover the losses if – (a) the pooled assets are bought back by the concerned NBFCs/HFCs or (b) sold by the purchasing bank to other entities.

The claims of the purchasing bank will be settled with 5 working days from the date of claim by the Government.

However, if the purchasing bank, by any means, recovers the amount subsequent to the invocation of the guarantee, it will have to refund the amount recovered or the amount received against the guarantee to the Government within 5 working days from the date of recovery. Where the amount recovered is more than amount of received as guarantee, the excess collection will be retained by the purchasing bank.

Other features of the Scheme

  1. Reporting requirement – The Scheme provides for a real-time reporting mechanism for the purchasing banks to understand the remaining headroom for purchase of such pooled assets. The Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance would obtain the requisite information in a prescribed format from the PSBs and send a copy to the budget division of DEA, however, the manner and format of reporting has not been notified yet.
  2. Option to buy-back the loans – The Scheme allows the originator to retain an option to buy back its assets after a specified period of 12 months as a repurchase transaction, on a right of first refusal basis. This however, is contradictory to the RBI Guidelines on Direct Assignment, as the same does not allow any option to repurchase the pool in a DA transaction.
  3. To-do for the NBFCs/ HFCs – In order to avail the benefits under the Scheme, the following actionables have to be undertaken:
    1. The Asset Liability structure should restructured within three months to have positive ALM in each bucket for the first three months and on cumulative basis for the remaining period;
    2. At no time during the period for exercise of the option to buy back the assets, should the CRAR go below the regulatory minimum. The promoters shall have to ensure this by infusing equity, where required.

[1] http://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=192618

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Government Guarantee for NBFC Pool Purchases by Banks: Analysis, questions, and gaps

[Updated as on 12th December, 2019]

By Financial Services Division, finserv@vinodkothari.com

The Finance Minister, during the Union Budget 2019-20, proposed to introduce a partial credit guarantee scheme so as to extend relief to NBFCs during the on-going liquidity crisis. The proposal laid down in the budget was a very broad statement. On 13th August, 2019[1], the Ministry of Finance came out with a Press Release to announce the notification in this regard, dated 10th August, 2019, laying down specifics of the scheme.

The Scheme, however, did not sail through, as literally no transactions was conducted under the Scheme until November, 2019. Various stakeholders[1] represented to the MOF to remove the bottlenecks in the structure. Subsequently, on 11th December, 2019, the Union Cabinet approved amendments[2] to the Scheme (Amendments).

The scheme,  known as “Partial Credit Guarantee offered by Government of India (GoI) to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) for purchasing high-rated pooled assets from financially sound Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)”, is referred to, for the purpose of this write, as  “the Scheme”.

The Scheme is intended to address the temporary liquidity crunch faced by solvent HFCs/ NBFCs, so that such entities may refinance their assets without having to resort to either distress sale or defaults on account of asset-liability mismatches.

In this write-up we have tried to answer some obvious questions that could arise along with potential answers.

Scope of applicability

1.When does this scheme come into force?

The Scheme was originally introduced on 10th August, 2019 and has been put to effect immediately. The modifications in the Scheme were made applicable with effect from 11th December, 2019.

2. How long will this Scheme continue to be in force?

Originally, the Scheme was supposed to remain open for 6 months from the date of issuance of this Scheme or when the maximum commitment of the Government, under this Scheme, is achieved, whichever is earlier. However, basis the Amendments discussed above, the Scheme will remain open till 20th June, 2020 or till such date when the maximum commitment under the Scheme is achieved, whichever is earlier. The Amendments however, bestows upon the Finance Minister to extend the tenure by upto 3 months.

This signifies that the parties must complete the assignment and execution of necessary documents for the guarantee (see below) within the stipulated time period.

3. Who is the beneficiary of the guarantee under the Scheme – the bank or the NBFC?

The bank is the beneficiary. The NBFC is not a party to the transaction of guarantee.

4. Does a bank buying pools from NBFCs/HFCs (Financial Entities) automatically get covered under the Scheme?

No. Since a bank/ Financial Entities may not want to avail of the benefit of the Scheme, the Parties will have to opt for the benefit of the guarantee. The bank will have to enter into specific documentation, following the procedure discussed below.

5. What does the Bank have to do to get covered by the benefit of guarantee under the Scheme?

The procedural aspects of the guarantee under the Scheme are discussed below.

6. Is the guarantee specifically to be sought for each of the pools acquired by the Bank or is it going to be an umbrella coverage for all the eligible pools acquired by the Bank?

The operational mechanism requires that there will be separate documentation every time the bank wants to acquire a pool from a financial entity in accordance with the Scheme. There is no process of master documentation, with simply a confirmation being attached for multiple transactions.

7. How does this Scheme rank/compare with other schemes whereby banks may participate into originations done by NBFCs/HFCs?

The RBI has lately taken various initiatives to promote participation by banks in the originations done by NBFCs/ HFCs. The following are the available ways of participation:

  • Direct assignments
  • Co-lending
  • Loans for on-lending
  • Securitisation

Direct assignments and securitisation have been there in the market since 2012, however, recently, once the liquidity crisis came into surface, the RBI relaxed the minimum holding period norms in order to promote the products.

Co-lending is also an alternative product for the co-origination by banks and NBFCs. In 2018, the RBI also released the guidelines on co-origination of priority sector loans by banks and NBFCs. The guidelines provide for the modalities of such originations and also provide on risk sharing, pricing etc. The difficulty in case of co-origination is that the turnaround time and the flexibility that the NBFCs claimed, which was one of their primary reasons for a competitive edge, get compromised.

The third product, that is, loans for on-lending for a specific purpose, has been in existence for long. However, recent efforts of RBI to allow loans for on-lending for PSL assets have increased the scope of this product.

This Scheme, though, is meant to boost specific direct assignment transactions, but is unique in its own way. This Scheme deviates from various principles from the DA guidelines and is, accordingly, intended to be an independent scheme by itself.

The basic use of the Scheme is to be able to conduct assignment of pools, without having to get into the complexity of involving special purpose vehicles, setting enhancement levels only so as to reach the desired ratings as per the Scheme. The effective cost of the Financial Entities doing assignments under the Scheme will be (a) the return expected by the Bank for a GoI-guaranteed pool; plus (b) 25 bps. If this effectively works cheaper than opting for a similar rated pool on standalone basis, the Scheme may be economically effective.

A major immediate benefit of the Scheme may be to nudge PSBs to start buying NBFC pools. While the guarantee is effective only for 2 years that does not mean, after 2 years, the PSBs will either sell or sell-back the pools. Therefore, in ultimate analysis, PSBs will get comfortable with buying NBFC pools on direct assignment basis.

The Scheme may go to encourage loan pool transfers outside the existing DA discipline.

8. Is the Scheme an alternative to direct assignment covered by Part B of the 2012 Guidelines, or is it by itself an independent option?

While intuitively one would have thought that the Scheme is a just a method of risk mitigation/facilitation of the DA transactions which commonly happen between banks and Financial Entities, there are several reasons based on which it appears that this Scheme should be construed as an independent option to banks/ Financial Entities:

  1. This Scheme is limited to acquisition of pools by PSBs only whereas direct assignment is not limited to either PSBs or banks.
  2. This Scheme envisages that the pool sold to the banks has attained a BBB+ rating at the least. As discussed below, that is not possible without a pool-level credit enhancement. In case of direct assignments, credit enhancement is not permissible.
  3. Investments in direct assignment are to be done by the acquirer based on the acquirer’s own credit evaluation. In case of the Scheme, the acquisition is obviously based on the guarantee given by the GoI.
  4. There is no question of an agreement or option to acquire the pool back after its transfer by the originator. The Scheme talks about the right of first refusal by the NBFC if the purchasing bank decides to further sell down the assets at any point of time.

Therefore, it should be construed that the Scheme is completed carved out from the DA Guidelines, and is an alternative to DA or securitisation. The issue was clarified by the Reserve Bank of India vide its FAQs on the issue[3].

9. Is this Scheme applicable to Securitisation transactions as well?

Assignment of pool of assets can be happen in case of both direct assignment as well as securitisation transaction. However, the intention of the present scheme is to provide credit enhancements to direct assignment transactions only. The Scheme does not intend to apply to securitisation transactions; however, the credit enhancement methodology to be deployed to make the Scheme work may involve several structured finance principles akin to securitisation.

Risk transfer 

10. The essence of a guarantee is risk transfer. So how exactly is the process of risk transfer happening in the present case?

The risk is originated at the time of loan origination by the Financial Entities. The risk is integrated into a pool. Since the transaction is presumably a direct assignment (see discussion below), the risk transfer from the NBFC to the bank may happen either based on a pari passu risk sharing, or based on a tranched risk transfer.

The question of a pari passu risk transfer will arise only if the pool itself, without any credit enhancement, can be rated BBB+. Again, there could be a requirement of a certain level of credit enhancements as well, say through over-collateralisation or subordination.

Based on whether the share of the bank is pari passu or senior, there may be a risk transfer to the bank. Once there is a risk transfer on account of a default to the bank, the bank now transfers the risk on a first-loss basis to the GoI within the pool-based limit of 10%.

11. What is the maximum amount of exposure, the Government of India is willing to take through this Scheme?

Under this Scheme, the Government has agreed to provide 10% first loss guarantee to assets, amounting to total of ₹ 1 lakh crore. Here it is important to note that the limit of ₹ 1 lakh crore refers to the total amount of assets against which guarantee will be extended and not the total amount of guarantee. The maximum exposure that the Government will take under the Scheme is ₹ 10,000 crores (10% of ₹ 1 lakh crore). Both the amounts, Rs 1 lakh crore, as also Rs 10,000 crores, are the aggregate for the banking system as a whole.

12. What does 10% first loss guarantee signify?

Let us first understand the meaning for first loss guarantee. As the name suggests, the guarantor promises to replenish the first losses of the financier upto a certain level. Therefore, a 10% first loss guarantee would signify that any loss upto 10% of the total exposure of the acquirer in a particular pool will be compensated by the guarantor.

Say for example, if the size of pool originated by NBFC N is Rs. 1000 crores, consisting of 1000 borrowers of Rs. 1 crore each. Assume further that each of the loans in the pool are such that if a default occurs, the crystallised loss is 100% (that is, there is nil recovery estimated at the time of recognising the loan as a bad loan). We are also assuming that the loans in the pool are at least BBB+ rated; therefore, the pool gets a BBB+ rating.

Let us say this pool is sold by N to bank B. N retains a 10%  pari passu share of the pool – thereby, the amount of the assets transferred to the B is Rs 900 crores. Assume that the fair value is also Rs 900 crores – that means, B buys the pool at par by paying Rs 900 crores. Assume B gets the acquisition guaranteed under the Scheme.

After its acquisition by B, assume a loan goes bad (see discussion below), and therefore, N allocates a loss of Rs 90 lacs (assuming there is pari passu sharing of losses) to B. B will claim this money by way of a guarantee compensation from GoI. B will keep getting such indemnification from GoI until the total amount paid by GoI reaches Rs. 90 crores (10% of the guaranteed amount). This, based on our hypothetical assumption of each loan having the same size, will mean loss of 100 loans out of the 1000 loans in the pool.

On the other hand, if it was to be understood that the pool will have to be first credit enhanced at the level of N, to attain a credit rating of BBB+, then N itself may have to provide a first-loss support at the transaction level. This may be, say, by providing a subordination, such that the share of N in the transaction is subordinated, and not pari passu. In that case, the question of any risk transfer to B, and therefore, an indemnification by GoI, will arise only if the amount of losses on account of default exceed the level of first loss support provided by N.

13. When is a loan taken to have defaulted for the purpose of the Scheme?

Para D of the Scheme suggests that the loan will be taken as defaulted when the interest and/or principal is overdue by more than 90 days. It further goes to refer to crystallisation of liability on the underlying borrower. The meaning of “crystallisation of liability” is not at all clear, and is, regrettably, inappropriate. The word “crystallisation” is commonly used in context of floating charges, where the charge gets crystallised on account of default. It is also sometimes used in context of guarantees where the liability is said to crystallise on the guarantor following the debtor’s default. The word “underlying borrower” should obviously mean the borrower included in the pool of loans, who always had a crystallised liability. In context, however, this may mean declaration of an event of default, recall of the loan, and thereby, requiring the borrower to repay the entire defaulted loan.

14. On occurrence of “default” as above, will be the Bank be able to claim the entire outstanding from the underlying borrower, or the amount of defaulted interest/principal?

The general principle in such cases is that the liability of the guarantor should crystallise on declaration of an event of default on the underlying loan. Hence, the whole of the outstandings from the borrower should be claimed form the guarantor, so as to indemnify the bank fully. As regards subsequent recoveries from the borrower, see later.

15. Does the recognition of loss by the bank on a defaulted loan have anything to do with the excess spreads/interest on the other performing loans? That is to say, is the loss with respect to a defaulted loan to be computed on pool basis, or loan-by-loan basis?

A reading of para D would suggest that the claiming of compensation is on default of a loan. Hence, the compensation to be claimed by the bank is not to be computed on pool basis.

16. Can the guarantee be applicable to a revolving purchase of loans by the bank from the NBFC, that is, purchase of loans on a continuing basis?

No. The intent seems clearly to apply the Scheme only to a static pool.

17. If a bank buys several pools from the same NBFC, is the extent of first loss cover, that is, 10%, fungible across all pools?

No. The very meaning of a first loss cover is that the protection is limited to a single, static pool.

18. From the viewpoint of maximising the benefit of the guarantee, should a bank try and achieve maximum diversification in a pool, or keep the pool concentric?

The time-tested rule of tranching of risks in static pools is that in case of concentric, that is, correlated pools, the limit of first loss will be reached very soon. Hence, the benefit of the guarantee is maximised when the pool is diversified. This will mean both granularity of the pool, as also diversification by all the underlying risk variables – geography, industry or occupation type, type of property, etc.

19. Can or should the Scheme be deployed for buying a single loan, or a few corporate loans?

First, the reference to pools obviously means diversified pools. As regards pools consisting of a few corporate loans, as mentioned above, the first loss cover will get exhausted very soon. The principle of tranching is that as correlation/concentricity in a pool increases, the risk shifts from lower tranches to senior tranches. Hence, one must not target using the Scheme for concentric or correlated pools.

20. On what amount should the first loss guarantee be calculated – on the total pool size or the total amount of assets assigned?

While, as we discussed earlier, there is no applicability of the DA Guidelines in the present case, there needs to be a minimum skin in the game for the selling Financial Entity. Whether that skin in the game is by way of a pari passu vertical tranche, or a subordinated horizontal tranche, is a question of the rating required for attaining the benefit of the guarantee. Therefore, if we are considering a pool of say ₹ 1000 crores, the originator should retain at least ₹ 100 crores (applying a 10% rule – which, of course, will depend on the rating considerations) of the total assets in the pool and only to the extent the ₹ 900 crores can be assigned to the purchasing bank.

The question here is whether the first loss guarantee will be calculated on the entire ₹ 1000 crores or ₹ 900 crores. The intention is guarantee the purchasing banks’ share of cash flows and not that retained by the originator. Therefore, the first loss guarantee will be calculated on ₹ 900 crores in the present case.

Scope of the GoI Guarantee

21. Does the guarantee cover both principal and interest on the underlying loan?

The guarantee is supposed to indemnify the losses of the beneficiary, in this case, the bank. Hence, the guarantee should presumably cover both interest and principal.

22. Does the guarantee cove additional interest, penalties, etc.?

Going by Rule 277 (vi) of the GFR, the benefit of the guarantee will be limited to normal interest only. All other charges – additional interest, penal interest, etc., will not be covered by the guarantee.

23. How do the General Financial Rules of the Government of India affect/limit the scope of the guarantee?

Para 281 of the GFR provides for annual review of the guarantees extended by the Government. The concerned department, DFS in the present case, will conduct review of the guarantees extended and forward the report to the Budget Division. However, if the Government can take any actions based on the outcome of the review is unclear.

Bankruptcy remoteness 

24. Does the transaction of assignment of pool from the Financial Entity to the bank have to adhere to any true sale/bankruptcy remoteness conditions?

The transaction must be a proper assignment, and should achieve bankruptcy remoteness in relation to the Financial Entity. Therefore, all regular true sale conditions should be satisfied.

25. Can a Financial Entity sell the pool to the bank with the understanding that after 2 years, that is, at the end of the guarantee period, the pool will be sold back to the NBFCs?

Any sale with either an obligation to buyback, or an option to buy back, generally conflicts with the true sale requirement. Therefore, the sale should be a sale without recourse. However, retention of a right of first refusal, or right of pre-emption, is not equivalent to option to buy back. For instance, if, after 2 years, the bank is desirous of selling the pool at its fair value, the NBFC may have the first right of buying the same. This is regarded as consistent with true sale conditions.

26. If off-balance sheet treatment from IFRS/Ind-AS viewpoint at all relevant for the purpose of this transaction?

No. Off balance sheet treatment is not relevant for bankruptcy remoteness.

Buyers and sellers 

27. Who are eligible buyers under this Scheme?

As is evident from the title of the Scheme, only Public Sector Banks are eligible buyers of assets under this Scheme. Therefore, even if a Private Sector Bank acquires eligible assets from eligible sellers, guarantee under this Scheme will still not be available.

This may be keeping in view two points – first, the intent of the Scheme, that is, to nudge PSBs to buy pools from Financial Entities. It is a well-known fact that private sector banks are, as it is, actively engaged in buying pools. Secondly, in terms of GFR of the GoI, the benefit of Government guarantee cannot go to the private sector. [Rule 277 (vii)] Hence, the Scheme is restricted to PSBs only.

28. Who are eligible sellers under this Scheme?

The intention of the Scheme is to provide relief from the stress caused due to the ongoing liquidity crisis, to sound HFCs/ NBFCs who are otherwise financially stable. The Scheme has very clearly laid screening parameters to decide the eligibility of the seller The qualifying criteria laid down therein are:

  1. NBFCs registered with the RBI, except Micro Financial Institutions or Core Investment Companies.
  2. HFCs registered with the NHB.
  3. The NBFC/ HFC must have been able to maintain the minimum regulatory capital as on 31st March, 2019, that is –
    • For NBFCs – 15%
    • For HFCs – 12%
  4. The net NPA of the NBFC/HFC must not have exceeded 6% as on 31st March, 2019
  5. The NBFC/ HFC must have reported net profit in at least one out of the last two preceding financial years, that is, FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19.
  6. The Original Scheme stated that the NBFC/ HFC must not have been reported as a Special Mention Account (SMA) by any bank during year prior to 1st August, 2018. However, the Amendment even allows NBFC/HFC which may have slipped during one year prior to 1st August, 2018 shall also be allowed to sell their portfolios under the Scheme.

29. Can NBFCs of any asset size avail this benefit?

Apparently, the Scheme does not provide for any asset size requirement for an NBFC to be qualified for this Scheme, however, one of the requirement is that the financial institution must have maintained the minimum regulatory capital requirement as on 31st March, 2019. Here it is important to note that requirement to maintain regulatory capital, that is capital risk adequacy ratio (CRAR), applies only to systemically important NBFCs.

Only those NBFCs whose asset size exceeds ₹ 500 crores singly or jointly with assets of other NBFCs in the group are treated as systemically important NBFCs. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the benefits under this Scheme can be availed only by those NBFCs which – a) are required to maintained CRAR, and b) have maintained the required amount of capital as on 31st March, 2019, subject to the fulfilment of other conditions.

30. The eligibility criteria for sellers state that the financial institution must not have been reported as SMA-1 or SMA-2 by any bank any time during 1 year prior to 1st August, 2018 – what does this signify?

As per the prudential norms for banks, an account has to be declared as SMA, if it shows signs of distress without slipping into the category of an NPA. The requirement states that the originator must not have been reported as an SMA-1 or SMA-2 any time during 1 year prior to 1st August, 2018, and nothing has been mentioned regarding the period thereafter.

Therefore, if a financial institution satisfies the condition before 1st August, 2018 but becomes SMA-1 or SMA-2 thereafter, it will still be eligible as per the Scheme. The whole intention of the Scheme is eliminate the liquidity squeeze due to the ILFS crisis. Therefore, if a financial institution turns SMA after the said date, it will be presumed the financial institution has fallen into a distressed situation as a fallout of the ILFS crisis.

Eligible assets

31. What are the eligible assets for the Scheme?

The Scheme has explicitly laid down qualifying criteria for eligible assets and they are:

  1. The asset must have been originated on or before 31st March, 2019.
  2. The asset must be classified as standard in the books of the NBFC/ HFC as on the date of the sale.
  3. The original Scheme stated that the pool of assets should have a minimum rating of “AA” or equivalent at fair value without the credit guarantee from the Government. However, through the Amendment, the rating requirement has been brought down to BBB+.
  4. Each account under the pooled assets should have been fully disbursed and security charge should have been created in favour of the originating NBFCs/ HFCs.
  5. The individual asset size in the pool must not exceed ₹ 5 crore.
  6. The following types of loans are not eligible for assignment for the purposes of this Scheme:
    1. Revolving credit facilities;
    2. Assets purchased from other entities; and
    3. Assets with bullet repayment of both principal and interest

Pools consisting of assets satisfying the above criteria qualify for the benefit of the guarantee. Hence, the pool may consist of retail loans, wholesale loans, corporate loans, loans against property, or any other loans, as long as the qualifying conditions above are satisfied.

32. Should the Scheme be deployed for assets for longer maturity or shorter maturity?

Utilising the Scheme for pools of lower weighted average maturity will result into very high costs – as the cost of the guarantee is computed on the original purchase price.

Using the Scheme for pools of longer maturity – for example, LAP loans or corporate loans, may be lucrative because the amortisation of the pool is slower. However, it is notable that the benefit of the guarantee is available only for 2 years. After 2 years, the bank will not have the protection of the Government’s guarantee.

33. If there are corporate loans in the pool, where there is payment of interest on regular basis, but the principal is paid by way of a bullet repayment, will such loans qualify for the benefit of the Scheme?

The reference to bullet repaying loans in the Scheme seems similar to those in DA guidelines. In our view, if there is evidence/track record of servicing, in form of interest, such that the principal comes by way of a bullet repayment (commonly called IO loans), the loan should still qualify for the Scheme. However, negatively amortising loans should not qualify.

34. Is there any implication of keeping the cut-off date for originations of loans to be 31st March, 2019?

As per the RBI Guidelines on Securitisation and Direct Assignment, the originators have to comply with minimum holding requirements. The said requirement suggests that an asset can be sold off only if it has remained in the books of the originator for at least 6 months. This Scheme has come into force with effect from 10th August, 2019 and will remain open till 30th June, 2020.

Already substantial amount of time has passed since the cut-off date, and even if we were to assume that the loan is originated on the cut-off date itself, it would mean that closer to the end of the tenure of the Scheme, the loan will be at least months seasoning as on the date of passing the Amendments. Such high seasoning requirements might not be motivational enough for the originators to avail this Scheme.

35. Is there is any maximum limit on the amount of loans that can be assigned under this Scheme?

Yes, the Scheme has put a maximum cap on the amount of assets that can be assigned and that is an amount equal to 20% of the outstanding standard assets as on 31st March, 2019, however, the same is capped to ₹ 5000 crores.

36. Is there a scope for assigning assets beyond the maximum limits prescribed in the Scheme?

Yes, the Scheme states that any additional amount above the cap of ₹ 5,000 crore will be considered on pro rata basis, subject to availability of headroom. However, from the language, it seems that there is a scope for sell down beyond the prescribed limit, only if the eligible maximum permissible limit gets capped to ₹ 5,000 crores and not if the maximum permissible limit is less than ₹ 5000 crores.

The following numerical examples will help us to understand this better:

Total outstanding standard assets as on 31st March, 2019 ₹ 20,000 crores ₹ 25,000 crores ₹ 30,000 crores
Maximum permissible limit @ 20% ₹ 4,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 6,000 crores
Maximum cap for assignment under this Scheme ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores
Amount that can be assigned under this Scheme ₹ 4,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores ₹ 5,000 crores
Scope for further sell down? No No Yes, upto a maximum of ₹ 1,000 crores

37. When will it be decided whether the Financial Entity can sell down receivables beyond the maximum cap?

Nothing has been mentioned regarding when and how will it be decided whether a financial institution can sell down receivables beyond the maximum cap, under this Scheme. However, logically, the decision should be taken by the Government of India of whether to allow further sell down and closer towards the end of the Scheme. However, we will have to wait and see how this unfolds practically.

38. What are the permissible terms of transfer under this Scheme?

The Scheme allows the assignment agreement to contain the following:

  1. Servicing rights – It allows the originator to retain the servicing function, including administrative function, in the transaction.
  2. Buy back right – It allows the originator to retain an option to buy back its assets after a specified period of 12 months as a repurchase transaction, on a right of first refusal basis. Actually, this is not a right to buy back, it is a right of first refusal which the NBFC/ HFC may exercise if the purchasing bank further sells down the assets. See elsewhere for detailed discussion

Rating of the Pool

39. The Scheme requires that the pool must have a rating of BBB+ before its transfer to the bank. Does that mean there be a formal rating agency opinion on the rating of the pool?

Yes. It will be logical to assume that SIDBI or DFS will expect a formal rating agency opinion before agreeing to extend the guarantee.

40. The Scheme requires the pool of assets to be rated at least BBB+, what does this signify?

As per the conditions for eligible assets, the pool of assets to be assigned under this Scheme must have a minimum rating of “BBB+” or equivalent at fair value prior to the guarantee from the Government.

There may be a question of expected loss assessment of a pool. Initially, the rating requirement was pegged at “AA” or higher and there was an apprehension that the originators might have to provide a substantial amount of credit enhancement in order to the make the assets eligible for assignment under the Scheme. Subsequently, vide the Amendments, the rating has been brought down to BBB+. The originators may also be required to provide some level of credit enhancements in order to achieve the BBB+ rating.

Unlike under the original Scheme, where the rating requirement was as high as AA, the intent is to provide guarantee only at AA level, then the thickness of the guarantee, that is, 10%, and the cost of the guarantee, viz., 25 bps, both became questionable. The thickness of support required for moving a AA rated pool to a AAA level mostly is not as high as 10%. Also, the cost of 25 bps for guaranteeing a AA-rated pool implied that the credit spreads between AA and a AAA-rated pool were at least good enough to absorb a cost of 25 bps. All these did not seemed and hence, there was not even a single transaction so far.

But now that the rating requirement has been brought down to BBB+, it makes a lot of sense. The credit enhancement level required to achieve BBB+ will be at least 4%-5% lower than what would have been required for AA pool. Further, the spread between a BBB+ and AAA rated pool would be sufficient to cover up the guarantee commission of 25 bps to be incurred by the seller in the transaction.

Here it is important to note that though the rating required is as low as BBB+, but there is nothing which stops the originator in providing a better quality pool. In fact, by providing a better quality pool, the originator will be able to fetch a much lower cost. Further, since, the guarantee on the pool will be available for only first two years of the transaction, the buyers will be more interested in acquiring higher quality pools, as there could be possibilities of default after the first two years, which is usually the case – the defaults increase towards the end of the tenure.

Risk weight and capital requirements

41. Can the bank, having got the Pool guaranteed by the GoI, treat the Pool has zero% risk weighted, or risk-weighted at par with sovereign risk weights?

No. for two reasons –one the guarantee is only partial and not full. Number two, the guarantee is only for losses upto first 2 years. So it is not that the credit exposure of the bank is fully guaranteed

42. What will be the risk weight once the guarantee is removed, after expiry of 2 years?

The risk weight should be based on the rating of the tranche/pool, say, BBB+ or better.

Guarantee commission

43. Is there a guarantee commission? If yes, who will bear the liability to pay the commission?

As already discussed in one of the questions above, the Scheme requires the originators to pay guarantee commission of 25 basis points on the amount of guarantee extended by the Government. Though the originator will pay the fee, but the same will be routed through purchasing bank.

44. The pool is amortising pool. Is the cost of 25 bps to be paid on the original purchase price?

From the operational details, it is clear that the cost of 25 bps is, in the first instance, payable on the original fair value, that is, the purchase price.

Invocation of guarantee and refund

45. When can the guarantee be invoked?

The guarantee can be invoked any time during the first 24 months from the date of assignment, if the interest/ principal has remained overdue for a period of more than 90 days.

46. Can the purchasing bank invoke the guarantee as and when the default occurs in each account?

Yes. The purchasing bank can invoke the guarantee as and when any instalment of interest/ principal/ both remains overdue for a period of more than 90 days.

47. To what extent can the purchasing bank recover its losses through invocation of guarantee?

When a loan goes bad, the purchasing bank can invoke the guarantee and recover its entire exposure from the Government. It can continue to recover its losses from the Government, until the upper cap of 10% of the total portfolio is reached. However, the purchasing bank will not be able to recover the losses if – (a) the pooled assets are bought back by the concerned NBFCs/HFCs or (b) sold by the purchasing bank to other entities.

48. Within how many days will the purchasing bank be able to recover its losses from the Government?

As stated in the Scheme, the claims will be settled within 5 working days.

49. What will happen if the purchasing bank recovers the amount lost, subsequent to the invocation of guarantee?

If the purchasing bank, by any means, recovers the amount subsequent to the invocation of the guarantee, it will have to refund the amount recovered or the amount received against the guarantee to the Government within 5 working days from the date of recovery. However, if the amount recovered is more than amount of received as guarantee, the excess collection will be retained by the purchasing bank.

Modus operandi

50. What will be the process for a bank to obtain the benefit of the guarantee?

While the Department of Financial Services (DFS) is made the administrative ministry for the purpose of the guarantee under the Scheme, the Scheme involves the role of SIDBI as the interface between the banks and the GoI. Therefore, any bank intending to avail of the guarantee has to approach SIDBI.

51. Can you elaborate on the various procedural steps to be taken to take the benefit of the guarantee?

The modus operandi of the Scheme is likely to be as follows:

  1. An NBFC approaches a bank with a static pool, which, based on credit enhancements, or otherwise, has already been uplifted to a rating of BBB+ or above level.
  2. The NBFC negotiates and finalises its commercials with the bank.
  3. The bank then approaches SIDBI with a proposal to obtain the guarantee of the GOI. At this stage, the bank provides (a) details of the transaction; and (b) a certificate that the requirements of Chapter 11 of General Financial Rules, and in particular, those of para 280, have been complied with.
  4. SIDBI does its own evaluation of the proposal, from the viewpoint of adherence to Chapter 11 of GFR and para 280 in particular, and whether the proposal is in compliance with the provisions of the Scheme. SIDBI shall accordingly forward the proposal to DFS along with a specific recommendation to either provide the guarantee, or otherwise.
  5. DFS shall then make its decision. Once the decision of DFS is made, it shall be communicated to SIDBI and PSB.
  6. At this stage, PSB may consummate its transaction with the NBFC, after collecting the guarantee fees of 25 bps.
  7. PSB shall then execute its guarantee documentation with DFS and pay the money by way of guarantee commission.

52. Para 280(i)(a) of the GFR states that there should be back-to-back agreements between the Government and Borrower to effect to the transaction – will this rule be applicable in case of this Scheme?

Para 280 has been drawn up based on the understanding that guarantee extended is for a loan where the borrower is known by the Government. In the present case, the guarantee is extended in order to partially support a sale of assets and not for a specific loan, therefore, this will not apply.

Miscellaneous

53. Is there any reporting requirement?

The Scheme does provide for a real-time reporting mechanism for the purchasing banks to understand the remaining headroom for purchase of such pooled assets. The Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance would obtain the requisite information in a prescribed format from the PSBs and send a copy to the budget division of DEA, however, the manner and format of reporting has not been notified yet.

54. What are to-do activities for the sellers to avail benefits under this Scheme?

Besides conforming to the eligibility criteria laid down in the Scheme, the sellers will also have to carry out the following in order to avail the benefits:

  1. The Asset Liability structure should restructured within three months to have positive ALM in each bucket for the first three months and on cumulative basis for the remaining period;
  2. At no time during the period for exercise of the option to buy back the assets, should the CRAR go below the regulatory minimum. The promoters shall have to ensure this by infusing equity, where required.

 

[1] http://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=192618

Other related articles-

 

[1] Including Indian Securitisation Foundation

[2] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1595952

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/FAQView.aspx?Id=131

Union Budget 2019-20: Impact on Corporate and Financial sector

Prudential Framework for Resolution of Stressed Assets: New Dispensation for dealing with NPAs

By Vinod Kothari [vinod@vinodkothari.com]; Abhirup Ghosh [abhirup@vinodkothari.com]

With the 12th Feb., 2018 having been struck down by the Supreme Court, the RBI has come with a new framework, in form of Directions[1], with enhanced applicability covering banks, financial institutions, small finance banks, and systematically important NBFCs. The Directions apply with immediate effect, that is, 7th June, 2019.

The revised framework [FRESA – Framework for Resolution of Stressed Accounts] has much larger room for discretion to lenders, and unlike the 12th Feb., 2018 circular, does not mandate referral of the borrowers en masse to insolvency resolution. While the RBI has reserved the rights, under sec.  35AA of the BR Act, to refer specific borrowers to the IBC, the FRESA gives liberty to the members of the joint lenders forum consisting of banks, financial institutions, small finance banks and systemically important NBFCs, to decide the resolution plan. The resolution plan may involve restructuring, sale of the exposures to other entities, change of management or ownership of the borrower, as also reference to the IBC. Read more

Large Exposures Framework: New RBI rules to deter banks’ concentric lending

-Kanakprabha Jethani |Executive
Vinod Kothari Consultants

Background

The RBI has made some crucial amendments to the Large Exposures Framework (LEF) by notification dated June 03, 2019. These changes are intended to align with global practices, such as look through approach for identifying exposures, determination of the group of “connected” counterparties, to name a few.

The LEF, announced by the RBI vide its notification dated December 01, 2016[1] and amended through notification dated June 03, 2019[2], is applicable with effect from April 1, 2019. However, the provisions relating to Introduction of economic interdependence criteria in definition of connected counterparties and non-centrally cleared derivatives exposures shall become applicable from April 1, 2020. This framework is likely to widen the scope of the definition of group of connected counterparties on one hand, and narrowing down the same by expanding the scope of exempted counterparties. Further, look-through approach demarcates between direct or indirect exposure of banks in various counterparties.

More about the LEF

A bank may have exposure to various large borrowers, and of group of entities that are related to each other. This exposure in large borrowers, whether singularly or by way of different related entities, results in concentration of bank’s exposure in the same group, thus increasing the credit risk of the bank. There have been examples of large banking failures throughout the world. In the words of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision-

“Throughout history there have been instances of banks failing due to concentrated exposures to individual counterparties (eg Johnson Matthey Bankers in the United Kingdom in 1984, the Korean banking crisis in the late 1990s). Large exposures regulation has been developed as a tool for limiting the maximum loss a bank could face in the event of a sudden counterparty failure to a level that does not endanger the bank’s solvency.”

To deal with the risk arising out of such concentration, there has to be in place limits on concentration in a single borrower or a borrower group. Accordingly, after considering various frameworks being included in local laws and banking regulations and recommendations of committees such as Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, ‘Supervisory framework for measuring and controlling large exposures’[3] was issued by the said committee. The same was adopted by the RBI in respect of banks in India.

The Large Exposure Framework (LEF) shall be applied by banks at group level (considering assets and liabilities of borrower and its subsidiaries, joint ventures and associates) as well as at solo level (considering the capital strength and risk profile of borrower only).

Reporting of large exposure: As per the LEF, large exposure shall mean exposure of 10% or more of the eligible capital base of the bank in a single counterparty or a group of counterparties. The same shall be reported to Department of Banking Supervision, Central Office, Reserve Bank of India.

Limit on large exposure: the maximum exposure of a bank in a single counterparty shall not be more than 20% of its eligible capital base at any time. This limit shall be raised to 25% of bank’s eligible capital base in case of a group of counterparties.

Eligible capital base, in this reference shall mean the aggregate of Tier 1 capital as defined in Basel III – Capital Regulation[4] as per the latest balance sheet of the company, infusion of capital under Tier I after the published balance sheet date and profits accrued during the year which are not in deviation of more than 25% from the average profit of four quarters.

Applicability

The LEF shall be applicable on all scheduled commercial banks in India, with respect to their counterparties only.

The LEF has become applicable with effect from April 1, 2019. The revised guidelines on LEF shall also become applicable from the same date with retrospective effect except for the provisions of economic interdependence and non-centrally cleared derivative exposures.

What sort of borrowers are affected?

The revised guidelines have an impact on the borrowers who used to take advantage of different entities and hide behind the corporate veil to avail funding. The introduction of economic interdependence as a criteria for determining connected counterparties ensures that no same persons, whether promoters or management avail facilities through other entity.

Further, borrowers who operate as special purposes vehicles, securitisation structures or other structures having investments in underlying assets would also be affected as the banks will now look-through the structure to identify the counterparty corresponding the underlying asset.

However, the LEF does not address issues relating to lending to any specific sector or such other exposures.

What happens to affected borrowers?

The borrowers taking advantage of corporate veil will no more be able to avail funds in the covers of veil. The entities having same or related parties in their management shall not be able to avail funds exceeding the exposure limit. This would result in shrinkage of the availability of borrowed funds that would have otherwise been available to the entities. Also, entities operating as aforementioned structures, are likely to face contraction of borrowed fund availability.

Global framework

The global framework on large exposures called the Supervisory framework for measuring and controlling large exposures became applicable from 1st Jan 2019. The key features of the global framework are as follows:

  • Norms for determining scope of counterparties and exemptions thereto.
  • Specification of limits of large exposures and reporting requirements.
  • The sum of exposure to a single borrower or a group of connected borrowers shall not exceed 25% of bank’s available capital base.
  • If a G-SIB (Global systemically Important Banks) shall not exceed exposure limit of 15% of its available capital base in another G-SIB.
  • Principles for measurement of value of exposures.
  • Techniques for mitigation of credit risk.
  • Treatment of sovereign exposures, interbank exposures, exposures on covered bonds collective investment schemes, securitisation vehicles or other structures having underlying assets and in central counterparties been specified.

“Connected” borrowers

A bank shall lend within concentration limits prescribed in the LEF. For this purpose, the aggregate of concentration in all the connected counterparties shall be considered. Basically, connected counterparties are those parties which have such a relationship among themselves, either by way of control or interdependence, that failure of one of them would result in failure of the other too. The LEF provides the following criteria for determining the “connected” relationship between counterparties.

  • Control- where one of the counterparties has direct or indirect control over the other, ‘Control maybe determined considering the following:
    • holding 50% or more of total voting rights
    • having significant influence in appointment of managers, supervisors etc.
    • significant influence on senior management
    • where both the counterparties are controlled by a third party
    • Qualitative guidance on determining control as provided in accounting standards.
    • Common owners, shareholders, management etc.
  • Economic interdependence- where if one of the counterparties is facing problems in funding or repayment, the other party would also be likely to face similar difficulties. Following criteria has to be considered for determining economic interdependence between entities:
    • Where 50% or more of gross receipts or expenditures is derived from the counterparty
    • Where one counterparty has guaranteed exposure of the other either fully or partly
    • Significant part of one counterparty’s output is purchased by the other
    • When the counterparties share the source of funds to repay their loans
    • When the counterparties rely on same source of funding

Look through approach

In case of investing vehicles such as collective investment vehicles, securitisation SPVs and other cases such as mutual funds, venture capital funds, alternative investment funds, investment in security receipts, real estate investment trusts, infrastructure investment trusts etc., the recognition of exposures will be done on a see-through or look-through approach. The meaning of look-through approach is the underlying exposures will be recognised in constituents of the pool or the fund, rather than the fund.

When banks invest in structures which themselves have exposures to underlying assets, the bank shall determine if it is able to look-through the structure. If the bank is able to look-through and the exposure of bank in each of the underlying asset of the structure is equal to or above 0.25% of its eligible capital base, the bank must identify specific counterparties corresponding to the underlying asset. The exposure of bank in each of such underlying assets shall be added to the bank’s overall exposure in the corresponding counterparty.

Further, if the exposure in each of the underlying assets is less than 0.25% of bank’s eligible capital base, the exposure maybe assigned to the structure itself.

However, if a bank is unable to identify underlying counterparties in a structure:

  • bank’s exposure in that structure is 0.25% or more of its eligible capital base, the bank shall assign such exposure in the name of “unknown client”.
  • bank’s exposure in that structure is less than 0.25% of its eligible capital base, the exposure shall be assigned to the structure itself.

However, if the exposure of bank in the structure is less than 0.25% of the eligible capital base of the bank, the total exposure maybe assigned to the structure itself, as a distinct counterparty, rather than looking through the structure and assigning it to corresponding counterparties.

Overall impact of the LEF

The primary objective of LEF is to limit the concentration of bank in a single group of borrowers. By specifying criteria for large exposures, determination of “connected” relationship, reporting to RBI, ways to mitigate risk etc. the LEF intends to reduce credit risk of banks caused due to concentration in a single borrower or a group of borrowers.

The application of provisions of LEF will reduce the concentration risk of banks which in turn would result in reduction of credit risk of the bank. It would also result in increased monitoring by the RBI on the lending practices of banks. It is likely to reduce the instances of default in repayments, which have become a routine practice nowadays.

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10757&Mode=0

[2] https://rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11573&Mode=0

[3] https://www.bis.org/publ/bcbs283.pdf

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=9859&Mode=0

RBI’s 12th February circular: The Last Word Becomes the Lost World

RBI’s 12th February circular:

The Last Word Becomes the Lost World

Abhirup Ghosh (abhirup@vinodkothari.com)

The 12th February 2018 circular of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)[1] (Circular), arguably one of the sternest of measures requiring banks to stop ever-greening bad loans, and resolve them once for all, with a hard timeline of 6 months, or mandatorily push the matter into insolvency resolution, was aimed at being the last word, overriding several of the previous measures such as CDR, JLF, SSSS-A, etc. However, with the Supreme Court striking it down, in the case of Dharani Sugars and Chemicals Limited vs Union of India and Ors.[2], the mandate of the RBI in directing banks with how to deal with stressed loans has fallen apart. While the SCI has used very technical grounds to quash the 12th Feb circular, the major question for the RBI is whether it should continue to micro-manage banks’ handling of bad loans, and the major question for the banks is when will they grow up into big boys and stop expecting RBI to tell them how to clean up the mess on their balance sheet. Read more

Indefinite deferral of IFRS for banks: needed reprieve or deferring the pain?

Vinod Kothari (vinod@vinodkothari.com); Abhirup Ghosh (abhirup@vinodkothari.com)

On 22 March, 2019, just days before the onset of the new financial year, when banks were supposed to be moving into IFRS, the RBI issued a notification[1], giving Indian banks indefinite time for moving into IFRS. Most global banks have moved into IFRS; a survey of implementation for financial institutions shows that there are few countries, especially which are less developed, where banks are still adopting traditional GAAPs. However, whether the Notification of the RBI is giving the banks a break that they badly needed, or is just giving them today’s gain for tomorrow’s pain, remains to be analysed.

The RBI notifications lays it on the legislative changes which, as it says, are required to implement IFRS. It refers to the First Bi-monthly Monetary Policy 2018-19[2], wherein there was reference to legislative changes, and preparedness. There is no mention in the present  notification for preparedness – it merely points to the required legislative changes. The legislative change in the BR Act would have mostly been to the format of financial statements – which is something that may be brought by way of notification. That is how it has been done in case of the Companies Act.

This article analyses the major ways in which IFRS would have affected Indian banks, and what does the notification mean to the banking sector.

Major changes that IFRS would have affected bank accounting:

  • Expected Credit Loss – Currently, financial institutions in India follow an incurred credit loss model for providing for financial assets originated by them. Under the ECL model, financial assets will have to be classified into three different stages depending on credit risk in the asset and they are:
    • Stage 1: Where the credit risk in the asset has not changed significantly as compared to the credit risk at the time of origination of the asset.
    • Stage 2: Where the credit risk in the asset has increased significantly as compared to the credit risk at the time of origination of the asset.
    • Stage 3: Where the asset is credit impaired.

While for stage 1 financial assets, ECL has to be provided for based on 12 months’ expected losses, for the remaining stages, ECL has to be provided for based on lifetime expected losses.

The ECL methodology prescribed is very subjective in nature, this implies that the model will vary based on the management estimates of each entity; this is in sharp contrast to the existing provisioning methodology where regulators prescribed for uniform provisioning requirements.

Also, since the provisioning requirements are pegged with the credit risk in the asset, this could give rise to a situation where the one single borrower can be classified into different stages in books of two different financial institutions. In fact, this could also lead to a situation where two different accounts of one single borrower can be classified into two different stages in the books of one financial entity.

  • De-recognition rules – Like ECL provisioning requirements, another change that will hurt banks dearly is the criteria for derecognition of financial assets.

Currently, a significant amount of NPAs are currently been sold to ARCs. Normally, transactions are executed in a 15:85 structure, where 15% of sale consideration is discharged in cash and the remaining 85% is discharged by issuing SRs. Since, the originators continue to hold 85% of the SRs issued against the receivables even after the sell-off, there is a chance that the trusts floated by the ARCs can be deemed to be under the control of the originator. This will lead to the NPAs coming back on the balance sheet of banks by way of consolidation.

  • Fair value accounting – Fair value accounting of financial assets is yet another change in the accounting treatment of financial assets in the books of the banks. Earlier, the unquoted investments were valued at carrying value, however, as per the new standards, all financial assets will have to be fair valued at the time of transitioning and an on-going basis.

It is expected that the new requirements will lead to capital erosion for most of the banks and for some the hit can be one-half or more, considering the current quality of assets the banks are holding. This deferment allows the banks to clean up their balance sheet before transitioning which will lead to less of an impact on the capital, as it is expected that the majority of the impact will be caused due to ECL provisioning.

World over most of the jurisdictions have already implemented IFRS in the banking sector. In fact, a study[3] shows that major banks in Europe have been able to escape the transitory effects with small impact on their capital. The table below shows the impact of first time adoption of IFRS on some of the leading banking corporations in Europe:

Impact of this deferment on NBFCs

While RBI has been deferring its plan to implement IFRS in the banking sector for quite some time, this deferral was not considered for NBFCs at all, despite the same being admittedly less regulated than banks. The first phase of implementation among NBFCs was already done with effect from 1st April, 2018.

This early implementation of IFRS among NBFCs and deferral for banks leads to another issue especially for the NBFCs which are associates/ subsidiaries of banking companies and are having to follow Ind AS. While these NBFCs will have to prepare their own financials as per Ind AS, however, they will have to maintain separate financials as per IGAAP for the purpose of consolidation by banks.

What does this deferment mean for banks which have global listing?

As already stated, IFRS have been implemented in most of the jurisdictions worldwide, this would create issues for banks which are listed on global stock exchanges. This could lead to these banks maintaining two separate accounts – first, as per IGAAP for regulatory reporting requirements in India and second, as per IFRS for regulatory reporting requirements in the foreign jurisdictions.

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11506&Mode=0

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=43574

[3] https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/research/european-banks-capital-survives-new-ifrs-9-accounting-impact-but-concerns-remain