Lenders’ piggybacking: NBFCs lending on Fintech platforms’ guarantees

-Vinod Kothari

(vinod@vinodkothari.com)

Among the disruptive Fintech practices, app-based lending is certainly notable. The scenario of an app-based lending is somewhat like this – a prospective borrower goes to an app platform, fills up some information. At the background, the app collects and collates the information including credit scores of the individual, may be the individual’s contact bases in social networks, etc. Finally, the loan is sanctioned in a jiffy, mostly within minutes.

The borrower interacts with the platform, but does the borrower know that the loan is actually not coming from the platform but from some NBFC? Whether the borrower knows or cares for who the lender is, the fact is that mostly, the technology provider (platform) and the funding provider (lender) are not the same. It may be two entities within the same group, but more often than not, the lender is an NBFC which is simply originating the loan based on the credit comfort provided by the platform.

The relation between the platform and the lender may take one of the following forms: (a) platform simply is procuring or referring the credit; the platform has no credit exposure at all; (b) the platform is acting as a sourcing agent, and is also providing a credit support, say in form of a first-loss guarantee for a certain proportion of the pool of loans originated through the platform; (c ) the platform provides full credit support for all the loans originated through the platform, and in return, the lender allows the platform to retain all the actual returns realised through the pool of loans, over an and above a certain “portfolio IRR”.

Option (a) is pure sourcing arrangement; however, it is quite unlikely that the lender will be willing to trust the platform’s credit scoring, unless there is significant skin-in-the-game on the part of the platform.

If it is a case of option (c ) [which, incidentally, seems quite common, the loan is actually put on the books of the lender, but the credit exposure is on the platform. The lender’s exposure is, in fact, on the platform, and not the borrower. The situation seems to be quite close to a “total rate of return swap”, a form of a credit derivative, whereby parties synthetically replace the exposure and the actual rate of return in a portfolio of loans by a pre-agreed “total rate of return”.

Our objective in this article is to examine whether there are any regulatory concerns on the practice as in case of option (c ) . Option c is an exaggeration; there may be a case such as option (b). But since option (b) is also a first loss guarantee with a substantial thickness, it is almost akin to the platform absorbing virtually all the risks of the credit pool originated through the platform.

Before we get into the regulatory concerns, it is important to understand what are the motivations of each of the parties in this bargain.

Platform’s motivations

The motivation on the part of the platform is clear – the platform makes the spreads between the agreed portfolio IRR with the lender, and the actual rate of return on the loan pool, after absorbing all the risk of defaults. Assume, the small-ticket personal loan is being given at an interest rate of 30%, and the agreed portfolio IRR with the lender is 14%, the platform is entitled to the spread of 16%. If some of the loans go bad, as they indeed do, the platform is still left with enough of juice to be a compensation for the risks taken by it.

The readiness on the part of the platform is also explained by the fact that the credibility of the platform’s scoring is best evidenced by the platform agreeing to take the risk – it is like walking the talk.

Lender’s motivations

The lender’s motivations are also easy to understand – the lender is able to disburse fast, and at a decent rate of return for itself, while taking the risk in the platform.  In fact, several NBFCs and banks have been motivated by the attractiveness of this structure.

Are there any regulatory concerns?

The potential regulatory concerns may be as follows:

  • De-facto, synthetic lending by an entity that is not a regulated NBFC
  • Undercapitalised entity taking credit risk
  • Skin-in-the-game issue
  • A CDS, but not regulated as a CDS
  • Financial reporting issues
  • Any issues of conflict of interest or misalignment of incentives
  • Good borrowers pay for bad borrowers
  • KYC or outsourcing related issues.

Each of these issues are examined below.

Synthetic lending by an unregulated entity

It is common knowledge that NBFCs in India require registration. The platform in the instant case is not giving a loan. The platform is facilitating a loan – right from origination to credit risk absorption. Correspondingly, the platform is earning a spread, but the activity is technically not a “financial activity”, and the spread not a “financial income”; hence, the platform does not require regulatory registration.

Per contra, it could be argued that the platform is essentially doing a synthetic lending. The position of the platform is economically similar to an entity that is lending money at 30% rate of interest, and refinancing itself at 14%. There will be a regulatory arbitrage being exploited, if such synthetic lending is not treated at par with formal lending.

But then, there are whole lot of equity-linked or property-linked swaps, where the returns of an investment in equities, properties or commodities, are swapped through a total rate of return swaps, and in regulatory parlance, the floating income recipient is not regarded as investor in equities, properties or commodities. Derivatives do transform one asset into another by using synthetic technology – in fact, insurance-linked securities allow capital market investors to participate in insurance risk, but it cannot be argued that such investors become insurance companies.

Undercapitalised entities taking credit risk

It may be argued that the platform is not a regulated entity; yet, that is where the actual credit risk is residing.  Unlike NBFCs, the platform does not require any minimum capitalisation norms or risk-weighted capital asset requirements. Therefore, there is a strong potential for risk accumulation at the platform’s level, with no relevant capital requirements. This may lead to a systemic stability issue, if the platforms become large.

There is a merit in the issue. If fintech-based lending becomes big, the exposure taken by fintech entities on the loans originated through them, on which they have exposure, may be treated at par with loans actually held on the balance sheet of the fintech. As in case of financial entities, there are norms for converting off-balance sheet assets into their on-balance sheet equivalents, the same system may be adopted in this case.

Skin-in-the game issue

Post the Global Financial Crisis, one of the regulatory concerns was skin-in-the-game. In light of this, the RBI has imposed minimum holding period, and minimum risk retention requirements in case of direct assignments as well as securitisation.

The transaction of guarantee discussed above may seem like the exposure being shifted by the platform to the NBFC. However, the transaction is not at all comparable with an assignment of a loan. Here, the lending itself is originated on the books of the NBFC/lender. The lender has the ultimate discretion to agree to lend or not. The credit decision is that of the lender; hence, the loan is originated by the lender, and not acquired. The lender is mitigating the risk by backing it up with the guarantee of the platform – but this is not a case of an assignment.

There is a skin-in-the-game on either side. For the platform, the guarantee is the skin-in-the-game; for the NBFC, the exposure in the platform becomes its stake.

A CDS, but not regulated as a CDS

The transaction has an elusive similarity to a credit default swap (CDS) contract. It may be argued that the guarantee construct is actually a way to execute a derivative contract, without following CDS guidelines provided by the RBI.

In response, it may be noted that a derivative is a synthetic trading in an exposure, and is not linked with an actual exposure. For example, a protection buyer in a CDS may not be having the exposure for which he is buying protection, in the same way as a person acquiring a put option on 100 gms of gold at a certain strike price may not be having 100 gms of gold at all. Both the persons above are trying to create a synthetic position on the underlying.

Unlike derivatives, in the example of the guarantee above, the platform is giving guarantee against an actual exposure. The losses of the guarantor are limited to actual losses suffered by the lender. Hence, the contract is one of indemnity (see discussion below), and cannot be construed or compared to a derivative contract. There is no intent of synthetic trading in credit exposure in the present case.

Financial reporting issues:

It may be argued that the platform is taking same exposure as that of an actual lender; whereas the exposure is not appearing on the balance sheet of the platform. On the other hand, the actual exposure of the lender is on the platform, whereas what is appearing on the balance sheet of the lender is the loan book.

The issue is one of financial reporting. IFRSs clearly address the issue, as a financial guarantee is an on-balance sheet item, at its fair value. If the platform is not covered by IFRSs/IndASes, then the platform will be reflecting the guarantee as a contingent liability on its balance sheet.

Conflicts of interest or misalignment of incentives:

During the prelude to the Global Financial Crisis, a commonly-noted regulatory concern was misalignment of incentives – for instance, a subprime mortgage lender might find it rewarding to lend to a weak credit and capture more excess spread, while keeping its exposure limited.

While that risk may, to some extent, remain in the present guarantee structure as well, but there are at least 2 important mitigants. First, the ultimate credit decision is that of the NBFC. Secondly, if the platform is taking full credit recourse, then there cannot be a misalignment of incentives.

Good borrowers pay for bad borrowers

It may be argued that eventually, the platform is compensating itself for the risk of expected losses by adding to the cost of the lending. Therefore, the good borrowers pay for the bad borrowers.

This is invariably the case in any form of unsecured lending. The mark-up earned by the lender is a compensation for risk of expected losses. The losses arise for the loans that don’t pay, and are compensated by those that do.

KYC or outsourcing related issues

Regulators may also be concerned with KYC or outsourcing related issues. As per RBI norms “NBFCs which choose to outsource financial services shall, however, not outsource core management functions including Internal Audit, Strategic and Compliance functions and decision-making functions such as determining compliance with KYC norms for opening deposit accounts, according sanction for loans (including retail loans) and management of investment portfolio.”

Usually the power to take credit decisions vests with the lender. However, in case the arrangement between the lender and the platform is such that the platform performs the decision-making function, the same shall amount to outsourcing of core management function of the NBFC, which is expressly disallowed by the RBI. The relevant extract from the KYC Master Directions is as follows:

“REs shall ensure that decision-making functions of determining compliance with KYC norms are not outsourced.”

Is it actually a guarantee?

Before closing, it may be relevant to raise a legal issue – is the so-called guarantee by the platform actually a guarantee?

In the absence of tripartite agreement between the parties, the arrangement cannot be said to be a contract of guarantee. Here the involvement is of only two parties in the arrangement i.e. the guarantor and the lender.

It was held in the case of K.V. Periyamianna Marakkayar and others vs Banians And Co.[1] that “Section 126 of the Indian Contract Act which defines a contract of guarantee though it does not say expressly that the debtor should be a party to the contract clearly implies, that there should be three parties to it namely the surety, the principal-debtor and the creditor ; otherwise it will only be a contract of indemnity. Section 145 which enacts that in every contract of guarantee there is an implied promise by the principal debtor to indemnify the surety clearly shows that the debtor and the surety are both parties to such a contract ; for it will be strange to imply in a contract a promise between persons who are not parties to it.”

Accordingly, the said arrangement maybe termed as a contract of indemnity wherein the platform agrees to indemnify the lender for the losses incurred on account of default by the borrower.

Conclusion

Fintech-based lending is here to stay, and grow. Therefore, risk participation by Fintech does not defeat the system – rather, it promotes lending and adds to the credibility of the Fintech’s risk assessment. Over period of time, the RBI may evolve appropriate guidelines for treating the credit exposure taken by the platforms as a part of their credit-equivalent assets.

 

 

[1] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1353940/

Draft guidelines for on tap licensing of SFBs: decoded

-Kanakprabha Jethani | Executive

(kanak@vinodkothari.com)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued draft guidelines for ‘on tap’ licensing of Small Finance Banks (SFBs). The guidelines are largely similar to the existing guidelines for licensing of SFBs. However, the major difference is that the licensing will be allowed ‘on tap’. Further, there are certain changes in the eligibility requirements as well. The following write-up intends to answer all the questions relating to licensing of SFBs under the new ‘on tap’ mechanism.

What is ‘on-tap’ licensing?

Under the existing framework, the RBI issues licences for SFBs in batches i.e. all the applications are reviewed in a decided time frame and approvals for a number of SFBs are issued at once. The RBI doesn’t give out approvals as and when applications are received. Rather, when sufficient number of applications are received, they are reviewed at once and the applications that satisfy RBI’s criteria are issued with licenses.

Under the ‘on-tap’ mechanism, RBI will initiate the review of applications as and when they are received. Individual applications will be reviewed and licenses will be issued accordingly.

Who is eligible to apply?

Eligible Promoters:
Resident individuals Atleast 10 years’ experience in banking and finance sector at senior level
Professionals who are Indian citizens Atleast 10 years’ experience in banking and finance sector at senior level
Companies/societies owned and controlled by residents Having successful track record of running their business for atleast 5 years
Conversion:
Existing NBFCs, Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), Local Area Banks (LABs) -in private sector + controlled by residents + successful track record of running the business for atleast 5 years
Primary Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) As per the scheme for voluntary transition.
Fit and Proper Criteria:
Promoters/ promoter group Past record of sound credentials and integrity, financial soundness and successful track record of professional experience or of running their business for atleast 5 years

Who cannot apply?

Joint ventures by different promoter groups for purpose of setting up SFB. Public sector entities, large industrial houses or business groups, bodies set up under state legislature, state financial corporations, etc. Group with assets of Rs. 5000 crores or more+ non financial business accounting for 40% or more

What will be the structure of SFB?

An SFB maybe floated either as a standalone entity or under a holding company, which shall act as the promoting entity of the bank. Such holding company shall be a Non-Operative Financial Holding Company (NOHFC) or be registered with the RBI as NBFC-CIC.

What activities can an SFB carry out?

Primarily, an SFB is allowed to carry out basic banking activities.

Apart from the primary functions, SFBs can also undertake non-risk sharing simple financial activities, not requiring commitment of their own funds, after obtaining approval of the RBI. Also, they are allowed to become Category II Authorised Dealer in foreign exchange business.

An activity that involves commitment of funds of the SFB, such as issue of credit cards, shall not be allowed.

What will be the capital structure in SFB?

Minimum paid-up equity capital:
All applicants Rs. 200 crores
For UCBs converting into SFB Initially Rs. 100 crores, which shall be required to be increased to Rs. 200 crores within 5 years
Capital Adequacy Ratio:
Tier I capital 7.5% of total risk-weighted assets
Tier II capital Maximum 100% of tier I capital
Capital 15% of total risk- weighted assets
Promoters Contribution:
Promoters’ holding Minimum 40% of paid-up voting equity capital

·         Bring down to 30% in 10 years

·         Bring down to 15% in 15 years

In case of conversion of NBFC/MFI to SFB, if promoters’ shareholding is maintained below 40% but above 26% due to regulatory requirements or otherwise, the same shall be acceptable. Provided that promoters’ shareholding doesn’t fall below 20%.
Lock-in on promoters’ minimum holding 5 years
If promoters’ shareholding > 40% Bring down to 40%

·         within 5 years from commencement of business (in case of other SFB)

·         within 5 years from the date paid-up capital of Rs. 200 crores is reached (in case of conversion from UCB)

No person other than promoters shall be allowed to hold more than 10% of the paid-up equity capital.
Foreign Shareholding:
Under automatic route Upto 49%
Government route Beyond 49% upto 74%
Atleast 26% of the paid-up equity capital should be held by resident shareholders.

Will the SFB be listed?

An application for listing of the SFB can be made voluntarily after obtaining approval of the RBI. However, on reaching a paid-up equity capital of Rs. 500 crores, listing shall be made mandatory.

What will be the compliance requirements for SFBs?

  • Have in place a robust risk management system.
  • Prudential norms as applicable to commercial banks shall be applicable.
  • 75% of Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) shall be extended to priority sectors.
  • The maximum loan size to a single person or group shall not be more than 10% of SFB’s capital funds.
  • The maximum investment exposure to a single person or group shall not be more than 15% of SFB’s capital funds.
  • Atleast 50% of loan portfolio should consist of small size loans (upto Rs. 25 lakhs per borrower).
  • There should be no exposure of the SFB to its promoters, shareholder holding 10% or more of the paid-up capital, and relatives of promoters.
  • Payments bank may make application to set up an SFB, provided that both the banks shall be under NOHFC structure.
  • SFB cannot be a Business Correspondent of other banks.

Are there any specific compliance requirements for NBFCs/MFIs/LABs converting into SFB?

Following are the specific requirements to be complied with in case of conversion from NBFC/MFI/LAB:

  • Have minimum paid-up capital of Rs. 200 crores. In case of deficiency, infuse the differential capital within 18 months.
  • Convert the branches of NBFC/MFI to branches of the SFB within 3 years from commencement of operations.
  • In case any floating charges stand in the balance sheet of the NBFC/MFI, the same shall be allowed to be carried until the related borrowings are matured.

How to make an application to set up an SFB?

An application shall be made to the RBI in Form III along with a business plan and detailed information of the existing as well as proposed structure, a project report regarding viability of the business of SFB and any other relevant information. The application shall be submitted to the RBI in physical form in an envelope superscripted “Application for Small Finance Bank” addressed to the Chief General Manager of the RBI.

In case, the application satisfies the RBI criteria, the fact of approval shall be placed on the RBI website. In case, the application is rejected, the applicant will be barred from making fresh application for a period of three years from such rejection.

 

Sharing of Credit Information to Fintech Companies: Implications of RBI Bar

-Financial Services Division | Vinod Kothari Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

(finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The RBI recently wrote a letter, dated 16th September, 2019, to banks and NBFCs, censuring them over what seems to have been a prevailing practice – sharing of credit information sourced by NBFCs from Credit Information Companies (CICs), to fintech companies. The RBI reiterated that such sharing of information was not permissible, citing several provisions of the law, and expected the banks/NBFCs to affirm steps taken to ensure compliance within 15 days of the RBI’s letter.

This write-up intends to discuss the provisions of the Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act, 2005 [CICRA], and related provisions, and the confidentiality of credit information of persons, and the implications of the RBI’s letter referred to above.

Fintech companies’ model

Much of the new-age lending is enabled by automated lending platforms of fintech companies. The typical model works with a partnership between a fintech company and an NBFC. The fintech company is the sourcing partner, and the NBFC is the funding partner. A borrower goes to the platform of the fintech company which provides a user-friendly application process, consisting of some basic steps such as providing the aadhaar card or PAN card details, and a photograph. Now, having got the individual’s basic details, the fintech company may either source the credit score of the individual from one of the CICs, or may use its own algorithm. If the fintech company wants to access the data stored with the CICs, it will have to rely on one of its partner NBFCs, since CIC access is currently allowed to financial sector entities only, who have to mandatorily register themselves as members of all four CICs.

It is here that the RBI sees an issue. If the NBFC allows the credit information sourced from the CIC to be transferred to a fintech company, there is an apparent question as to whether such sharing of information is permissible under the law or not.

We discuss below the provisions of the law relating to use of credit information.

Confidentiality of credit information

By virtue of the very relation between the customer and a banker, a banker gets access to the financial information of its customers. Very often, an individual may not even want to share his financial data even with close family members, but the banker any way has access to the same, all the time. If the banker was to share the financial details of a customer, it would be a clear intrusion into the individual’s privacy, and that too, arising out of a fiduciary relationship.

Therefore, the principle, which has since been reiterated by courts in numerous cases, was developed by UK courts in an old ruling in Tournier v National Provincial and Union Bank of England [1924] 1 KB 461. Halsbury’s Laws of England, Vol 1, 2nd edition, says: “It is an implied term of the contract between a banker and his customer that the banker will not divulge to third persons, without the consent of the customer, express or implied, either the state of the customer’s account, or any of his transactions with the bank or any information relating to the customer acquired through the keeping of his account, unless the banker is compelled to do so by order of a Court, or the circumstances give rise to a public duty of disclosure or the protection of the banker’s own interests requires it.

The above law is followed in India as well.

In Shankarlal Agarwalla v. State Bank of India and Anr. AIR 1987 Cal 29[1], it was held that compulsion to disclose must be confined to the regular exercise by the proper officer to actual legal power to compel disclosure.

In case any information is disclosed without a legal compulsion to disclose, the same is wrongful on the part of the lender.

Credit Information Companies and sharing of information

When an RBI Working Group set up in 1999 under the chairmanship of N. H. Siddiqui recommended the formation of CICs in India, the question of confidentiality of credit information was discussed. It was noted by the Working Group that all over the world, there are regulatory controls on sharing of information by credit bureaus:

The Credit Information Bureaus, all over the world, function under a well defined regulatory framework. Where the Bureaus have been set up as part of the Central Bank, the regulatory framework for collection of information, access to that information, privacy of the data, etc., is provided by the Central Bank. Where Bureaus have been set up in the private sector, existence of separate laws ensure protection to the privacy and access to the data collected by the Bureau. In the U.S.A. where Credit Information Bureaus have been set up in the private sector, collection and sharing of information is governed by the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 1971 (as amended by the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996). The Fair Credit Reporting Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, a Federal Agency of the U.S. Govt. In the U.K., Credit Bureaus are licensed by the Office of the Fair Trading under the Consumer Credit Act of 1974. The Bureaus are also registered with the Office of the Data Protection Registrar, appointed under the Data Protection Act, 1984 (replaced by the Data Protection Commissioner under the new Act of 1998). In Australia, neither the Reserve Bank of Australia nor the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) plays a role in promoting, developing, licensing or supporting Credit Bureaus. APRA holds annual meetings with the major Bureaus in Australia. The sharing of information relating to customers is regulated in Australia by the Privacy Act. This Act is administered by the Privacy Commissioner, who is vested with the responsibility of framing guidelines for protection of privacy principles and to ensure that Bureaus in Australia conform to these guidelines. In New Zealand, a situation similar to that of Australia exists. In Sri Lanka, the Bureau was formed by an Act of Parliament at the initiative of the Central Bank. A Deputy Governor of the Central Bank is the Chairman of the Bureau in Sri Lanka and the Bank is also represented on the Board of the Bureau by a senior officer. In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), though not being directly involved in the setting up of a credit referencing agency has issued directions to all the authorised institutions recommending their full participation in the sharing and using of credit information through credit referencing agencies within the limits laid down by the Code of Practice on Consumer Credit Data formulated by the Privacy Commissioner. HKMA also monitors the effectiveness of the credit referencing services in Hong Kong, in terms of the amount of credit information disclosed to such agencies, and the level of participating in sharing credit information by authorised institutions.[2]

The inherent safeguards in the CIC Law

CICRA provides the privacy principles which shall guide the CICs, credit institutions and Specified Users in their operations in relation to collection, processing, collating, recording, preservation, secrecy, sharing and usage of credit information. In this regard, the purpose of obtaining information, guidelines for access to credit information of customers, restriction on use of information, procedures and principles for networking of CICs, credit institutions and specified users, etc. must be clearly defined.

Further, no person other than authorised person is allowed to have access to credit information under CICRA. Persons authorised to access credit information are CICs, credit institutions registered with the CICs and other persons as maybe specified by the RBI through regulations.

The Credit Information Companies Regulations provide that other persons who maybe allowed to access credit information are insurance companies, IRDAI, cellular service providers, rating agencies and brokers registered with SEBI, SEBI itself and trading members registered with Commodity Exchange.

Clearly, fintech companies or technology service providers are not authorised to access credit information. Access of information by such companies is a clear violation of CICRA.

Secrecy of customer information: duty of the lender

Paget on the Law of Banking observed that out of the duties of the banker towards the customer among those duties may be reckoned the duty of secrecy. Such duty is a legal one arising out of the contract, not merely a moral one. Breach of it therefore gives a claim for nominal damages or for substantial damages if injury is resulted from the breach.

Further, in case of Kattabomman Transport Corporation Ltd. V. State Bank of India, the Calcutta High Court held that the banker was under a duty to maintain confidentiality. An appeal[3] was filed against this ruling, the outcome of which was the information maybe disclosed by the banks, only when there is a higher duty than the private duty.

NBFCs providing access to the fintech companies is undoubtedly a private duty and thus, is a breach of duty on the part of the lender.

The case of Fintech Companies and NBFC partnership:

The letter of the RBI under discussion, dated 17th September, 2019, has been seen as a challenge to the working of the fintech companies. However, to understand in what way does this affect the working of fintech companies, we need to understand several situations.

Before coming to the same, it must be noted that the RBI’s 17th September circular is not writing a new law. The law on sharing of credit information has always been there, and the inherent protection is very much a part of the CICRA itself. The RBI circular is, at best, a regulatory cognition of an existing issue, and is a note of caution to NBFCs, who, in their enthusiasm to generate business, may not disregard the provisions of the law.

The situations may be as follows:

  • Fintech company using its own algorithm: In this case, the fintech company is relying upon its own proprietary algorithm. It is not relying on any credit bureau information. Therefore, there is no question of any credit information being shared. In fact, even if the fintech uses the score developed by it, without relying on CIC data, with other entities, it is a proprietary information, which may be shared.
  • NBFC sharing credit information with Fintech company, which is sourcing partner for the NBFC: If the NBFC is sharing information with a fintech company, with the intent of using the information for its own lending, can it be argued that there is a breach of the provisions of the CICRA? It may be noted that regulation 9 of the CIC Regulations requires CICs to protect credit information from unauthorised access. As already discussed, access by such fintech companies is unauthorised.
  • NBFC sharing credit information with Fintech company, which is not partnering with the NBFC: In case, the NBFC is not partnering with the NBFC and is still sharing credit information, there seems to be no reason for such sharing other than information trading. Several NBFCs have at many instances, been reported to have engaged in information trading for additional income.
  • NBFC sharing credit information with another NBFC/bank, which is a co-lender: The NBFC may authorise its co-lender to obtain credit information from CICs and the same shall not be an unauthorised access of information, since the co-lender is also a credit institution and is registered with CICs.
  • Bank sharing credit information with another NBFC which is a sourcing partner and not a c0-lender: If the sourcing partner is a member of CICs, it may access the credit information directly from the CICs. If the sourcing partner is not a member of CICs, sharing of credit information is violation of customer privacy, and thus, shall not be allowed.

Conclusion

The credit bureau reports are actually being exchanged in the system without much respect to the privacy of the individual’s data. With the explosion of information over the net, it may even be difficult to establish as to where the information is coming from. Privacy and confidentiality of information is at stake. At the same time, the very claim-to-existence of fintech entities is their ability to process a credit application within no time. Whether there is an effective way to protect the sharing of information stored with CICs is a significant question, and the RBI’s attention to this is timely and significant.

 

[1] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1300997/

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?ID=76

[3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/908914/

 

Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme

A Business Conclave on  “Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme” was organised by Indian Securitisation Foundation jointly with Edelweiss on September 16,2019 in Mumbai.

On this occasion, the presentation used by Mr. Vinod Kothari is being given here:

http://vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/partial-credit-enhancement-scheme-.pdf

 

We have authored few articles on the topic that one might want to give a read. The links to such related articles are provided below:

The cult of easy borrowing: New age NBFCs ride high on tempting loan offers

-Rahul Maharshi and Kanakprabha Jethani

(finserv@vinodkothari.com)

 

“यावज्जीवेत्सुखं जीवेत् ऋणं कृत्वा घृतं पिबेत् |

भस्मीभूतस्य देहस्य पुनरागमनं कुतः ||”

The ancient couplet from the Charvak Darshan, in Indian mythology is popularly known as the philosophy of life. There are various interpretations of the above, in general, the meaning of the above couplet gives us a saying that “One should live luxuriously, as long as he is alive, and to attain the same, one may even live on credit and in debt. Because once you are dead and cremated, it is foolish to think about afterlife and rebirth.”

It is seen today that the financial services industry is taking the above couplet too seriously and making the borrowers flooded with opportunities and facilities to burden them with debt in one click. Even the person who is unwilling to enter into a debt trap is somewhat lured by the “instant loan” facilities given by numerous NBFCs these days.

Whilst the Indian economy facing a slowdown and banks in India showing significant falls in their lending volumes, the NBFCs engaged in e-lending are displaying an inverse relation to the trend. The NBFCs have been showing extravagant growth in their lending volumes. On one hand banks are tightening the lending norms considering the current state of the economy, NBFCs seem to be doing reckless lending and reporting exceptionally high lending volumes. The financial market seems to be showing a transition from secured lending to unsecured lending, from corporate finance to personal finance, from paperwork to digitisation. This transition is the reason behind such a drastic shift of lending volumes.

CURRENT STATE OF LENDING TRANSACTIONS

NBFCs are crossing milestones, making new records everyday. A leading NBFC reported disbursal of Rs. 550 crores in 3,50,000 loan transactions and has been consistently disbursing loans over Rs. 80 crores every month[1]. Another NBFC reported an existing customer base of 1.1 million. An app-based lender NBFC has 100 million downloads of its app and has disbursed around Rs. 700 crores in FY 19 with an expectation of increasing the amount of disbursals to Rs. 2,000 crores in FY 20[2].

On the contrary, banks are showing a completely opposite picture. Under the 59-minute loan scheme introduced by the Prime Minister for small entities (having turnover upto Rs. 25 crores) to avail loans of amount upto Rs. 5 crores from banks within an hour, only 50,706 loans were given approval in the FY 19. The growth rates in the banking sector are lowering. The growth in retail loans fell down to 15.7% in April 2019 as compared to 19.1% in April 2018. The growth rate in credit card loans has also shown a decline of 8.8%[3].

UNDERSTANDING THEIR BUSINESS MODEL

NBFCs do unsecured lending of small-ticket size loans, usually personal in nature. The market tends to be more inclined towards obtaining finance from such NBFCs. The basic features of loans provided by NBFCs can be understood through following points:

  • Unsecured: The loans provided by NBFCs doing e-lending are generally unsecure loans. The borrower or the customer is not required to provide any security for obtaining such loans. Thus, even if borrowers have no assets at all, they can still obtain loans.
  • Instant: These NBFCs process the loans within a very short period (‘superfast processing’ as they call it) and the disbursement is made within a period ranging from 5 minutes to 3 days depending on the size of the loan. There is no requirement of long procedures as required to be followed in case of bank loans.
  • Digital: Usually, these NBFCs have an app-based or website based platform through which they provide such loans. The KYC process is also carried out through the app or website itself.
  • High-interest rates: The interest rates on such loans are very high as compared to the interest rates on loans provided by banks. The rates usually range from 15% p.a. to 130% p.a.
  • Small-ticket size: The loan size is generally small ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs, 50,000
  • Short-term loans: The term of loan is also short. Repayment is required on weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.
  • Credit Score based decisions: The lending decisions made by NBFCS are largely dependent on the credit score of the borrower. A strong network of Credit Information Companies (CICs) stores the credit information of the borrowers and the borrower making default of even a single day would be barred from accessing any other e-lending platform as well. However, for first time borrowers, the only way to check credit standing is their bank statement.
  • Source of funds: NBFCs get their funds from banks as well as bigger size NFCs and Private Equity investors.
  • Purpose: These loans are provided mostly for personal purposes like marriage ceremonies, buying a car, medical issues, travel etc.
  • Innovation: Each of the e-lending platform has a different model. While some involve students in their marketing activities, some have tied-up with sellers and buyers to finance transactions between them and some tying up with different brands to finance their operations.

NBFCs BRUSHING OFF THE REGULATIONS: THEIR OWN SWEET WAYS

The operational structures of such loans are in defiance of many requirements of the RBI Directions. One can see disparity from the RBI Directions in many ways. Following are the areas where most of the NBFCs take their own sweet ways:

  • KYC process: As per the KYC Master Directions an authorised representative of the lender NBFC to physically visit and originally see and verify the KYC details of the borrower. There are further requirements of maintaining the KYC records and carrying out Customer Due Diligence (CDD) which the NBFCs fail (refuse) to comply with in the hurry of their “superfast processing”.
  • Fair Practice Code (FPC): The FPC requires lender NBFCs to display annualised interest rates in all their communications with the borrowers. However, most of the NBFCs show monthly interest rates in the name of their “marketing strategy”.
  • Risk Management: The Directions require the NBFCs to assess the risk before granting loans to borrowers, which is overlooked while providing speedy disbursals.
  • Recovery Process: NBFCs do not even have properly defined recovery process. They are just making rapid disbursals ignorant of whether these loans will be repaid.
  • Risk to personal information: Many NBFCs obtain access to the personal information such as text messages and social media profile of the borrower by way of incorporating clauses in this regard in the detailed terms and conditions of the loan agreement.

RISKS TO THE BORROWERS

The borrowers face several risks under such loan transactions, ranging from personal to financial such as:

  • Many borrowers usually don’t read the entire set of terms and conditions and end up granting the NBFCs access to their personal information. Privacy of the borrower is at stake as information trading is yet another business that the NBFCs may secretly engage into posing a threat to borrowers’ personal information.
  • The lucrative advertising strategies of these NBFCs might make a borrower take loans for purposes which otherwise would not have been a necessity or priority for the borrower. Hence, the borrower tends to borrow without any actual requirement because a demand has been created by the lender NBFCs.
  • The interest rates are very high on such loans. In case the amount of loan is high, the borrower is unable to pay the huge amount of interest and thus has to take another loan to repay the first.
  • The credit score of the borrower may get affected at the slightest delay in repayment, even if the amount of loan is as small as Rs. 500. Thus the credibility of borrower is at a risk of degradation.

THE BUBBLE OF ATTRACTION: PLAYING WITH THE PSYCHOLOGY

Even in existence of such high interest rates, why is a borrower more attracted to loans from NBFCs? The only answer one finds to this is the ease and the fact that they are instant. In an era where everyone wants everything in a jiffy, be it food or health solutions, being attracted to instant loans is a very natural thing.

For example you meet an accident and don’t have money for treatment to be done, take a loan. You are shopping and suddenly realise you forgot your purse, take a loan.

The most crucial thing is that these NBFCs do not monitor the end use of the loan amounts disbursed. So a borrower may specify any purpose for the loan, which he might not actually use the loan for. Moreover, the high interest rates are not noticed by the borrowers as most of the NBFCs show monthly interest rates rather than the yearly rates in their communications on the app or the website.

Many borrowers usually don’t read the entire set of terms and conditions and end up granting these NBFCs access to their personal information. Information trading is yet another business that the NBFCs may secretly engage into posing a threat to borrowers’ information.

The NBFCs are rightly playing the psychology game by becoming a friend in need for the borrowers. No matter how high the interest rates maybe or how risky the transaction maybe, it is a handy help whenever needed.

Furthermore, the advertisements made by these NBFCs are so catchy that they may lure a person who might not really be in need of finance. The catchy phrases like “make your dream wedding come true”, “let the wanderlust in you come alive” create a “need” for the customer to become a borrower. Marriage functions, travel and luxuries things are the Indian way of showing richness and the abovementioned philosophy wraps people in a comfortable blanket of justification to remain under debt-burden.

ALL OUR MONEY INTO THE BLACK HOLE

While lending to businesses results in more capital formation and growth of the economy. Personal lending mostly results in wasteful expenditure. Further, the interest rates being so high, many a times the borrowers obtain another loan to pay the previous loan and gets trapped into the vicious circle of obtaining and repaying loans. The increasing lending volumes are not an indication of overall growth of the economy. Most of the purposes for which such loans are availed are consumption-based and have no value-addition. All the money taken on loan is being used in consumption-based expenditure and not in value-addition activities and thus even after such high lending volumes, the growth of the economy is just disappearing into the black hole.

CONCLUSION

While on one hand, such loans are helping us in need, on the other hand they are luring us to take unnecessary debt burden. The lender NBFCs are under the risk of regulatory action by the regulators since many of them are in non-compliance with regulatory requirements. The borrowers are under the risk of pressing themselves under unnecessary debt burden and huge interest costs. The recovery procedures of these NBFCs are very lenient but due to the high interest costs, the cost of funds is readily recovered by the lender NBFC. Even when banks have tried to provide quick loans under 59-minutes loan scheme, they have failed to do away with the procedural requirements such as document submission and are still regarded as “slow-loans” considering the super-fast loans being provided by NBFCs within 5 minutes.

Though immensely helpful, these loans have a potential to impact the economy in such a manner that it seems to be beneficial while it’s actually not. The borrowers are happily floating in the bubble of “instant loans” which is definitely going to burst in no time.

 

[1] Source: Economic Times

[2] Source: CNBC

[3] Source: Business Standard

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

Government credit enhancement for NBFC pools: A Guide to Rating agencies

Vinod Kothari Consultants P Ltd (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

 

The partial credit enhancement (PCE) Scheme of the Government[1], for purchase by public sector banks (PSBs) of NBFC/HFC pools, has been discussed in our earlier write-ups, which can be viewed here and here.

This document briefly puts the potential approach of the rating agencies for rating of the pools for the purpose of qualifying for the Scheme.

Brief nature of the transaction:

  • The transaction may be summarised as transfer of a pool to a PSB, wherein the NBFC retains a subordinated piece, such that the senior piece held by the PSB gets a AA rating. Thus, within the common pool of assets, there is a senior/junior structure, with the NBFC retaining the junior tranche.
  • The transaction is a structured finance transaction, by way of credit-enhanced, bilateral assignment. It is quite similar to a securitisation transaction, minus the presence of SPVs or issuance of any “securities”.
  • The NBFC will continue to be servicer, and will continue to charge servicing fees as agreed.
  • The objective to reach a AA rating of the pool/portion of the pool that is sold to the PSB.
  • Hence, the principles for sizing of credit enhancement, counterparty (servicer) risk, etc. should be the same as in case of securitisation.
  • The coupon rate for the senior tranche may be mutually negotiated. Given the fact that after 2 years, the GoI guarantee will be removed, the parties may agree for a stepped-up rate if the pool continues after 2 years. Obviously, the extent of subordinated share held by the NBFC will have to be increased substantially, to provide increased comfort to the PSB. Excess spread, that is, the excess of actual interest earned over the servicing fees and the coupon may be released to the seller.
  • The payout of the principal/interest to the two tranches (senior and junior), and utilisation of the excess spread, etc. may be worked out so as to meet the rating objective, provide for stepped-up level of enhancement, and yet maintain the economic viability of the transaction.
  • Bankruptcy remoteness is easier in the present case, as pool is sold from the NBFC to the PSB, by way of a non-recourse transfer. Of course, there should be no retention of buyback option, etc., or other factors that vitiate a true sale.
  • Technically, there is no need for a trustee. However, whether the parties need to keep a third party for ensuring surveillance over the transaction, in form of a monitoring agency, may be decided between the parties.

Brief characteristics of the Pool

  • For any meaningful statistical analysis, the pool should be a homogenous pool.
  • Surely, the pool is a static pool.
  • The pool has attained seasoning, as the loans must have been originated by 31st March, 2019.
  • In our view, pools having short maturities (say personal loans, short-term loans, etc.) will not be suitable for the transaction, since the guarantee and the guarantee fee are on annually declining basis.

Data requirement

The data required for the analysis will be same as data required for securitisation of a static pool.

Documentation

  • Between the NBFC and the PSB, there will be standard assignment documentation.
  • Between the Bank and the GoI:
    • Declaration that requirements of Chapter 11 of the GFR have been satisfied.
    • Guarantee documentation as per format given by GOI

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

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Government Credit enhancement scheme for NBFC Pools: A win-win for all

Vinod Kothari (vinod@vinodkothari.com)

The so-called partial credit enhancement (PCE) for purchase of NBFC/HFC pools by public sector banks (PSBs) may, if meaningfully implemented, be a win-win for all. The three primary players in the PCE scheme are NBFCs/HFCs (let us collectively called them Originators), the purchasing PSBs, and the Government of India (GoI). The Scheme has the potential to infuse liquidity into NBFCs while at the same time giving them advantage in terms of financing costs, allow PSBs to earn spreads while enjoying the benefit of sovereign guarantee, and allow the GoI to earn a spread of 25 bps virtually carrying no risks at all. This brief write-ups seeks to make this point.

The details of the Scheme with our elaborate questions and answers have been provided elsewhere.

Modus operandi

Broadly, the way we envisage the Scheme working is as follows:

  1. An Originator assimilates a pool of loans, and does tranching/credit enhancements to bring a senior tranche to a level of AA rating. Usually, tranching is associated with securitisation, but there is no reason why tranching cannot be done in case of bilateral transactions such as the one envisaged here. The most common form of tranching is subordination. Other structured finance devices such as turbo amortisation, sequential payment structure, provisions for redirecting the excess spread to pay off the principal on senior tranche, etc., may be deployed as required.
  2. Thus, say, on a pool of Rs 100 crores, the NBFC does so much subordination by way of a junior tranche as to bring the senior tranche to a AA level. The size of subordination may be worked, crudely, by X (usually 3 to 4) multiples of expected losses, or by a proper probability distribution model so as to bring the confidence level of the size of subordination being enough to absorb losses to acceptable AA probability of default. For instance, let us think of this level amounting to 8% (this percentage, needless to say, will depend on the expected losses of respective pools).
  3. Thus, the NBFC sells the pool of Rs 100 crores to PSB, retaining a subordinated 8% share in the same. Bankruptcy remoteness is achieved by true sale of the entire Rs 100 crore pool, with a subordinated share of 8% therein. In bilateral transactions, there is no need to use a trustee; to the extent of the Originator’s subordinated share, the PSB is deemed to be holding the assets in trust for the Originator. Simultaneously, the Originator also retains excess spread over the agreed Coupon Rate with the bank (as discussed below).
  4. Assuming that the fair value (computation of fair value will largely a no-brainer, as the PSB retains principal, and interest only to the extent of its agreed coupon, with the excess spread flowing back to the Originator) comes to the same as the participation of the PSB – 92% or Rs 92 crores, the PSB pays the same to the Originator.
  5. PSB now goes to the GoI and gets the purchase guaranteed by the latter. So, the GoI has guaranteed a purchase of Rs 92 crores, taking a first loss risk of 10% therein, that is, upto Rs 9.20 crores. Notably, for the pool as a whole, the GoI’s share of Rs 9.20 crores becomes a second loss position. However, considering that the GoI is guaranteeing the PSB, the support may technically be called first loss support, with the Originator-level support of Rs 10 crores being separate and independent.
  6. However, it is clear that the sharing of risks between the 3 – the Originator, the GoI and the Bank will be as follows:
  • Losses upto first Rs 8 crores will be taken out of the NBFC’s first loss piece, thereby, implying no risk transfer at all.
  • Losses in excess of Rs 8 crores, but upto a total of Rs 17.20 crores (the GoI guarantee is limited to Rs 9.20 crores), will be taken by GoI.
  • It is only when the loss exceeds Rs 17.20 crores that there is a question of the PSB being hit by losses.
  1. Thus, during the period of the guarantee, the PSB is protected to the extent of 17.2%. Note that first loss piece at the Originator level has been sized up to attain a AA rating. That will mean, higher the risk of the pool, the first loss piece at Originator level will go up to protect the bank.
  2. The PSB, therefore, has dual protection – to the extent of AA rating, from the Originator (or a third party with/without the Originator, as we discuss below), and for the next 10%, from the sovereign.
  3. Now comes the critical question – what will be the coupon rates that the PSB may expect on the pool.
    1. The pool effectively has a sovereign protection. While the protection may seem partial, but it is a tranched protection, and for a AA-rated pool, a 10% thickness of first loss protection is actually far higher than required for the highest degree of safety. What makes the protection even stronger is that the size of the guarantee is fixed at the start of the transaction or start of the financial year, even though the pool continues to amortise, thereby increasing the effective thickness.
    2. Assume risk free rate is R, and the spreads for AAA rated ABS are R +100 bps. Assume that the spreads for AA-rated ABS is R+150 bps.
    3. Given the sovereign protection, the PSB should be able to price the transaction certainly at less than R +100 bps, because sovereign guarantee is certainly safer than AAA. In fact, it should effectively move close to R, but given the other pool risks (prepayment risks, irregular cashflows), one may expect pricing above R.
    4. For the NBFC, the actual cost is the coupon expected by the PSB, plus 25bps paid for the guarantee.
    5. So as long as the coupon rate of the pool for the NBFC is lower than R+75 bps, it is an advantage over a AAA ABS placement. It is to be noted that the NBFC is actually exposing regulatory and economic capital only for the upto-AA risk that it holds.

Win-win for all

If the structure works as above, it is a win-win for all:

  • For the GoI, it is a neat income of 25 bps while virtually taking no real risks. There are 2 strong reasons for this – first, there is a first loss protection by the Originator, to qualify the pool for a AA rating. Secondly, the guarantee is limited only for 2 years. For any pool, first of all, the probability of losses breaching a AA-barrier itself will be close to 1% (meaning, 99% of the cases, the credit support at AA level will be sufficient). This becomes even more emphatic, if we consider the fact that the guarantee will be removed after 2 years. The losses may pile up above the Originator’s protection, but very unlikely that this will happen over 2 years.
  • For the PSB, while getting the benefit of a sovereign guarantee, and therefore, effectively, investing in something which is better than AAA, the PSB may target a spread close to AAA.
  • For the NBFC, it is getting a net advantage in terms of funding cost. Even if the pricing moves close to AAA ABS spreads, the NBFC stands to gain as the regulatory capital eaten up is only what is required for a AA-support.

The overall benefits for the system are immense. There is release of liquidity from the banking system to the economy. Depending on the type of pools Originators will be selling, there may be asset creation in form of home loans, or working capital loans (LAP loans may effectively be that), or loans for transport vehicles. If the GoI objective of buying pools upto Rs 100000 crores gets materialised, as much funding moves from banks to NBFCs, which is obviously already deployed in form of assets. The GoI makes an income of Rs 250 crores for effectively no risk.

In fact, if the GoI gains experience with the Scheme, there may be very good reason for lowering the rating threshold to A level, particularly in case of home loans.

Capital treatment, rating methodologies and other preparations

To make the Scheme really achieve its objectives, there are several preparations that may have to come soon enough:

  • Rating agencies have to develop methodologies for rating this bilateral pool transfer. Effectively, this is nothing but a structured pool transfer, akin to securitisation. Hence, rating methodologies used for securitisation may either be applied as they are, or tweaked to apply to the transfers under the Scheme.
  • Very importantly, the RBI may have to clarify that the AA risk retention by Originators under the Scheme will lead to regulatory capital requirement only upto the risk retained by the NBFC. This should be quite easy for the RBI to do – because there are guidelines for securitisation already, and the Scheme has all features of securitisation, minus the fact that there is no SPV or issuance of “securities” as such.

Conclusion

Whoever takes the first transaction to market will have to obviously do a lot of educating – PSBs, rating agencies, law firms, SIDBI, and of course, DFS. However, the exercise is worth it, and it may not take 6 months as envisaged for the GoI to reach the target of Rs 1 lakh crores.


Other related articles:

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

[Updated as on 16th August, 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,  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.

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

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Is the guarantee for 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. .

  1. 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 AA ratings. 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 AA 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.

  1. 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 AA 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. .

  1. 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 

  1. 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 AA. See below for discussion as to why this is nearly impossible, particularly in case of retail pools. Therefore, it appears that the pool will have to be credit-enhanced by using one or more devices of credit enhancement, say, 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%.

  1. 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.

  1. 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, though impractically, that the loans in the pool are at least AA rated; therefore, the pool gets a AA 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 AA, 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 clear 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 

  1. 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.

  1. 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 selle₹ 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 –
    1. For NBFCs – 15%
    2. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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 – 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 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 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. The word 2018 seems to have come by error – it should have been 2019.

Eligible assets

  1. 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 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. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 for 6 months from the commencement.

Already 5 months have 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 11 months seasoning. Such high seasoning requirements might not be motivational enough for the originators to avail this Scheme.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

 

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. The Scheme requires that the pool must have a rating of AA 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.

  1. The Scheme requires the pool of assets to be highly rated, 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 “AA” or equivalent at fair value prior to the guarantee from the Government. Interestingly, technically, only a security can be rated based on the underlying risks and rewards, and not a pool of assets.  Therefore, how will rating of the pool of assets be carried out still remains a question.

There may be a question of expected loss assessment of a pool. However, unless there is a tranching of the pool done, the question of the pool getting a rating of AA or higher will arise only if all the loans in the pool are of AA or higher rating. This will make the Scheme completely counter-intuitive.

If one were to deduce that there must have been so much of tranching or over-collateralisation done, so as to bring the pool to a AA rating, then the following difficulties arise:

  1. In case of DA transaction, there is no question of any credit enhancement. If the transaction is taken as an independent modality, different from the DA mode, then, effectively, the first loss support comes from the originator in form of subordination or over-collateralisation, and the guarantee of the Government is actually the mezzanine or second-loss support.
  2. If 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 become questionable. The thickness of support required for moving a AA rated pool to a AAA level mostly will not be as high as 10%. Also, the cost of 25 bps for guaranteeing a AA-rated pool will imply that the credit spreads between AA and a AAA-rated pool are at least good enough to absorb a cost of 25 bps. It is notable that the 10% guarantee as well as the guarantee commission are both worked out on the outstanding pool value, first, at the time of the transaction, and thereafter, on 1st As the pool is an amortising one, the impact of amortisation that happens during the financial year will not be captured on the guarantee fee – that is, the fee remains fixed throughout the financial year.

Risk weight and capital requirements

  1. 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

  1. Can the Bank treat the guaranteed pool as having attained a AAA rating?

This seems fair, since, on the top of the presumptive AA rating before the guarantee, there is a guarantee of 10% on a first loss basis. This means there is an added 10% cushion to the bank. The bank;s own exposure may, therefore, certainly be taken to have attained a AAA level. Therefore, the risk weight may now be appropriate to the AAA risk weights (20%).

  1. 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, AA.

Guarantee commission

  1. 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.

  1. 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. Thereafter, on 1st April of the financial year, it is computed on the remaining pool value.

Invocation of guarantee and refund

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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 AA 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.
  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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

 

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