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Sec 29A in the Post-COVID World- To stay or not to stay

-Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

If the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘Code’) is the car driving the ailing companies on road to revival, resolution plans are the wheels- Essentially designed to explore revival opportunities for an ailing entity, the Code invites potential resolution applicants to come forward and submit resolution plans.

Generally perceived as an alluring investment opportunity, resolution plans enable interested parties to acquire businesses at considerably reduced values. An indispensable aspect of these Resolution Plans, however, is the applicability of section 29A, which restricts several classes of entities, including ex-promoters of the corporate debtor, from becoming resolution applicants- for the very simple purpose of preventing re-possession of the corporate debtor at discounted rates. Hence, section 29A is seen as a crucial safeguard in revival of the corporate debtor, in its true sense.

In the present times, however, we cannot overlook the fact that the unprecedented COVID disruption, has compelled regulators around the globe, to reconsider the applicability and continuity of several laws, including those considered as significant; and one such provision is section 29A of the Code.

In a recent paper “Indian Banks: A Time to Reform? dated 21st September,2020, the authors, Viral V Archarya and Raghuram G. Rajan, the former Deputy Governor and Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, have discussed banking sector reforms in view of the COVID disruption, calling for privatisation of Public Sector Banks, setting up of a ‘Bad Bank’[1] amongst other suggested reforms.  In the said Paper, they also suggest that “for post-COVID NCLT cases to allow the original borrower to retain control, with the restructuring agreed with all creditors further blessed by the court. Another alternative might be to allow the original borrower to also bid in the NCLT-run auction”- thereby setting a stage for holding back applicability of section 29A in the post COVID world.

In this article, the author makes a humble attempt to analyse the feasibility and viability of doing-away with section 29A in the post-COVID world.

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RBI refines the role of the Compliance-Man of a Bank

Notifies new provisions relating to Compliance Functions in Banks and lays down Role of CCO.

By:

Shaivi Bhamaria | Associate

Aanchal Kaur Nagpal | Executive

Introduction

The recent debacles in banking/shadow banking sector have led to regulatory concerns, which are reflected in recent moves of the RBI. While development of a robust “compliance culture” has always been a point of emphasis, RBI in its Discussion Paper on “Governance in Commercial Banks in India’[1] [‘Governance Paper’] dated 11th June 2020 has dealt extensively with the essentials of compliance function in banks.  The Governance Paper, while referring to extant norms pertaining to the compliance function in banks, viz. RBI circulars on compliance function issued in 2007[2] [‘2007 circular’] and 2015[3] [‘2015 circular’], placed certain improvement points.

In furtherance of the above, RBI has come up with a circular on ‘Compliance functions in banks and Role of Chief Compliance Officer’ [‘2020 Circular’] dated 11th September, 2020[4], these new guidelines are supplementary to the 2007 and 2015 circulars and have to be read in conformity with the same. However, in case of or any common areas of guidance, the new circular must be followed.  Along with defining the role of the Chief Compliance Officer [‘CCO’], they also introduce additional provisions to be included in the compliance policy of the Bank in an effort to broaden and streamline the processes used in the compliance function.

Generally, in compliance function is seen as being limited to laying down statutory norms, however, the importance of an effective compliance function is not unknown. The same becomes all-the-more paramount in case of banks considering the critical role they play in public interest and in the economy at large. For a robust compliance system in Banks, an independent and efficient compliance function becomes almost indispensable. The effectiveness of such a compliance function is directly attributable to the CCO of the Bank.

Need for the circular

The compliance function in banks is monitored by guidelines specified by the 2007 and 2015 circular. These guidelines are consistent with the report issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS Report)[5] in April, 2005.

While these guidelines specify a number of functions to be performed by the CCO, no specific instructions for his appointment have been specified. This led to banks following varied practices according to their own tailor-made standards thus defeating the entire purpose of a CCO. Owing to this, RBI has vide the 2020 circular issued guidelines on the role of a CCO, in order to bring uniformity and to do justice to the appointment of a CCO in a bank.

Background of CCOs

The designation of a CCO was first introduced by RBI in August, 1992 in accordance with the recommendations of the Ghosh Committee on Frauds and Malpractices in Banks. After almost 15 years, RBI introduced elaborate guidelines on compliance function and compliance officer in the form of the 2007 circular which was in line with the BCBS report.

According to the BCBS report:

‘Each bank should have an executive or senior staff member with overall responsibility for co-ordinating the identification and management of the bank’s compliance risk and for supervising the activities of other compliance function staff. This paper uses the title “head of compliance” to describe this position’.

Who is a CCO and how is he different from other compliance officials?

The requirement of an individual overseeing regulatory compliance is not unique to the banking sector. There are various other laws that the provide for the appointment of a compliance officer. However, there is a significant difference in the role which a CCO is expected to play. The domain of CCO is not limited to any particular law or its ancillaries, rather, it is all pervasive. He is not only responsible for heading the compliance function, but also overseeing the entire compliance risk[6] in banks.

Role of a CCO in a Bank:

The predominant role of a CCO is to head the compliance function in a Bank. The 2007 circular lays down the following mandate of a CCO:

  1. overall responsibility for coordinating the identification and management of the bank’s compliance risk and supervising the activities of other compliance function staff.
  2. assisting the top management in managing effectively the compliance risks faced by the bank.
  3. nodal point of contact between the bank and the RBI
  4. approving compliance manuals for various functions in a bank
  5. report findings of investigation of various departments of the bank such as at frequent intervals,
  6. participate in the quarterly informal discussions held with RBI.
  7. putting up a monthly report on the position of compliance risk to the senior management/CEO.
  8. the audit function should keep the Head of compliance informed of audit findings related to compliance.

The 2020 circular adds additional the following responsibilities on the CCO:

  1. Design and maintenance of compliance framework,
  2. Training on regulatory and conduct risks,
  3. Effective communication of compliance expectations

Selection and Appointment of CCO:

The 2007 circular is ambiguous on the qualifications, roles and responsibilities of the CCO. In certain places the CCO was referred to as the Chief Compliance officer and some places where the words compliance officer is used. This led to difficulty in the interpretation of aspects revolving around a CCO. However, the new circular gives a clear picture of the expectation of RBI from banks in respect of a CCO. The same has been listed below:

Basis 2020 circular 2007 circular
Tenure Minimum fixed tenure of not less than 3 years The Compliance Officer should be appointed for a fixed tenure
Eligibility Criteria for appointment as CCO The CCO should be the senior executive of the bank, preferably in the rank of a General Manager or an equivalent position (not below two levels from the CEO). The compliance department should have an executive or senior staff member of the cadre not less than in the rank of DGM or equivalent designated as Group Compliance Officer or Head of Compliance.
Age 55 years No provision
Experience Overall experience of at least 15 years in the banking or financial services, out of which minimum 5 years shall be in the Audit / Finance / Compliance / Legal / Risk Management functions. No provision

 

Skills Good understanding of industry and risk management, knowledge of regulations, legal framework and sensitivity to supervisors’ expectations No provision
Stature The CCO shall have the ability to independently exercise judgement. He should have the freedom and sufficient authority to interact with regulators/supervisors directly and ensure compliance No provision
Additional condition No vigilance case or adverse observation from RBI, shall be pending against the candidate identified for appointment as the CCO. No provision
Selection* 1.      A well-defined selection process to be established

2.      The Board must be required to constitute a selection committee consisting of senior executives

3.      The CCO shall be appointed based on the recommendations of the selection committee.

4.      The selection committee must recommend the names of candidates suitable for the post as per the rank in order of merit.

5.      Board to take final decision in the appointment of the CCO.

No provision
Review of performance appraisal The performance appraisal of the CCO should be reviewed by the Board/ACB No provision
Reporting lines The CCO will have direct reporting lines to the following:

1.      MD & CEO and/or

2.      Board or Audit Committee

No provision
Additional reporting In case the CCO reports to the MD & CEO, the Audit Committee of the Board is required to meet the CCO quarterly on one-to-one basis, without the presence of the senior management including MD & CEO. No provision
Reporting to RBI 1.      Prior intimation is to be given to the RBI in case of appointment, premature transfer/removal of the CCO.

2.      A detailed profile of the candidate along with the fit and proper certification by the MD & CEO of the bank to be submitted along with the intimation, confirming that the person meets the supervisory requirements, and detailed rationale for changes.

No provision
Prohibitions on the CCO 1.      Prohibition on having reporting relationship with business verticals

2.      Prohibition on giving business targets to CCO

3.      Prohibition to become a member of any committee which brings the role of a CCO in conflict with responsibility as member of the committee. Further, the CCO cannot be a member of any committee dealing with purchases / sanctions. In case the CCO is member of such committees, he may play only an advisory role.

No provision

*The Governance paper had proposed that the Risk Management Committee of the Board will be responsible for selection, oversight of performance including performance appraisals and dismissal of a CCO. Further, any premature removal of the CCO will require with prior board approval. [Para 9(6)] However, the 2020 circular goes one step further by requiring a selection committee for selection of a CCO.

Dual Hatting

Prohibition of dual hatting is already applicable on the Chief Risk Officer (‘CRO’) of a bank. The same has also been implemented in case the of a CCO.

Hence, the CCO cannot be given any responsibility which gives rise to any conflict of interest, especially the role relating to business. However, roles where there is no direct conflict of interest for instance, anti-money laundering officer, etc. can be performed by the CCO. In such cases, the principle of proportionality in terms of bank’s size, complexity, risk management strategy and structures should justify such dual role. [para 2.11 of the 2020 circular] 

Role of the Board in the Compliance function

Role of the Board

The bank’s Board of Directors are overall responsible for overseeing the effective management of the bank’s compliance function and compliance risk.

Role of MD & CEO

The MD & CEO is required to ensure the presence of independent compliance function and adherence to the compliance policy of the bank.

Authority:

The CCO and compliance function shall have the authority to communicate with any staff member and have access to all records or files that are necessary to enable him/her to carry out entrusted responsibilities in respect of compliance issues.

Compliance policy and its contents

The 2007 circular required banks to formulate a Compliance Policy, outlining the role and set up of the Compliance Department.

The 2020 circular has laid down additional points that must be covered by the Compliance Policy. In some aspects, the 2020 circular provides further measures to be taken by banks whereas in some aspects, fresh points have been introduced to be covered in the compliance policy, these have been highlighted below:

1. Compliance philosophy: The policy must highlight the compliance philosophy and expectations on compliance culture covering:

  • tone from the top,
  • accountability,
  • incentive structure
  • Effective communication and Challenges thereof

2. Structure of the compliance function: The structure and role of the compliance function and the role of CCO must be laid down in the policy

3. Management of compliance risk: The policy should lay down the processes for identifying, assessing, monitoring, managing and reporting on compliance risk throughout the bank.

The same should adequately reflect the size, complexity and compliance risk profile of the bank, expectations on ensuring compliance to all applicable statutory provisions, rules and regulations, various codes of conducts and the bank’s own internal rules, policies and procedures and must create a disincentive structure for compliance breaches.

4. Focus Areas: The policy should lay special thrust on:

  • building up compliance culture;
  • vetting of the quality of supervisory / regulatory compliance reports to RBI by the top executives, non-executive Chairman / Chairman and ACB of the bank, as the case may be.

5. Review of the policy: The policy should be reviewed at least once a year

Quality assurance of compliance function

Vide the 2020 circular, RBI has introduced the concept of quality assurance of the compliance function Banks are required to develop and maintain a quality assurance and improvement program covering all aspects of the compliance function.

The quality assurance and improvement program should be subject to independent external review at least once in 3 years. Banks must include in their Compliance Policy provisions relating to quality assurance.

Thus, this would ensure that the compliance function of a bank is not just a bunch of mundane and outdated systems but is improved and updated according to the dynamic nature of the regulatory environment of a bank.

Responsibilities of the compliance function

In addition to the role of the compliance function under the compliance process and procedure as laid down in the 2007 the 2020 circular has laid down the below mentioned duties and responsibilities of the compliance function:

  1. To apprise the Board and senior management on regulations, rules and standards and any further developments.
  2. To provide clarification on any compliance related issues.
  3. To conduct assessment of the compliance risk (at least once a year) and to develop a risk-oriented activity plan for compliance assessment. The activity plan should be submitted to the ACB for approval and be made available to the internal audit.
  4. To report promptly to the Board/ Audit Committee/ MD & CEO about any major changes / observations relating to the compliance risk.
  5. To periodically report on compliance failures/breaches to the Board/ACB and circulating to the concerned functional heads.
  6. To monitor and periodically test compliance by performing sufficient and representative compliance testing. The results of the compliance testing should be placed before the Board/Audit Committee/MD & CEO.
  7. To examine sustenance of compliance as an integral part of compliance testing and annual compliance assessment exercise.
  8. To ensure compliance of Supervisory observations made by RBI and/or any other directions in both letter and spirit in a time bound and sustainable manner.

 Actionables by Banks:

Links to related write ups –

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=49937

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=3433&Mode=0

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=9598&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11962&Mode=0

[5] https://www.bis.org/publ/bcbs113.pdf

[6]  According to BCBS report, compliance risk is the risk of legal or regulatory sanctions, material financial loss, or loss to reputation a bank may suffer as a result of its failure to comply with laws, regulations, rules, related self-regulatory organization standards, and codes of conduct applicable to its banking activities”

The new PSL Master Direction and its Impact on NBFCs

-Siddharth Goel (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Introduction

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued Master Directions-Priority Sector Lending (PSL) Targets and Classification on September 4, 2020 (‘Master Directions’).[1] The Master Directions consolidates various circulars and guidelines issued by RBI with respect to PSL.

The changes made in the Master Directions primarily deal with targets and sub-targets for classification of loans as priority sector loans. Further there are some addition of new sectors in Eligible categories, along with increase in lending limit of some of the existing eligible categories for priority sector lending.

Our detailed write-up on the topic can be viewed here.

Changes in priority sector norms do not have a direct impact on the NBFCs, but they have an indirect impact. Banks are allowed to acquire loans under Direct Assignment arrangements or invest in pass through certificates backed by loans which qualify the definition of PSL, in order to meet the prescribed targets. Mostly, the banks acquire these receivables from NBFCs who does the origination of the loans. Additionally, banks also engage in co-lending arrangements with NBFCs to originate PSLs. Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine the impact of these changes on NBFCs.

Co-origination of loans by Banks for lending to Priority Sector

RBI through its vide notification RBI/2018-19/49 dated September 21, 2018 issued guidelines on Co-origination of loans by Commercial Banks and NBFC-ND-SI (“Co-origination Guidelines”).[2] These guidelines excluded Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and Small Finance Banks (SFBs). Essentially, the banks could claim priority sector status in respect of its share of credit while engaging in the co-origination arrangement with NBFC under the Co-origination Guidelines. Provided, the priority sector assets on the bank’s books should at all times be without recourse to the NBFC.

It is pertinent to note that the PSL Master Directions under its para 25 covers Co-origination of loans by Banks and NBFC-ND-SI. The Master Direction specifically excludes, RRBs SFBs and Urban Co-Operative Banks (UCBs) and Local Area Banks (LABs) under the above para. Moreover, the Master Directions under the said para, specifically stipulates that detailed guidelines in this regard are to be governed as provided under Co-origination Guidelines dated September 21, 2018. Hence there are no changes intended to be introduced vis-a-vis Master Direction, to the co-origination of loans by banks and NBFCs.

PSL- Lending by Banks to NBFCs for On-Lending

In the earlier regime, after the review of Priority sector lending by banks to NBFC for On-Lending notification dated August 13, 2019[3], RBI through its notification dated March 23, 2020,[4] extend the priority sector classification for bank loans to NBFCs for on-lending for the FY 2020-21. Further, existing loans disbursed under the on-lending model continued to be classified under Priority Sector till the date of repayment/maturity. The extension notification also stipulated an overall capping limit for calculating bank’s total priority sector lending as produced herein below;

“3. Bank credit to registered NBFCs (other than MFIs) and HFCs for on-lending will be allowed up to an overall limit of five percent of individual bank’s total priority sector lending. Further, banks shall compute the eligible portfolio under on-lending mechanism by averaging across four quarters, to determine adherence to the prescribed cap.”

Para 22 of the Master Directions governs Bank loans to registered NBFCs (other than MFIs). It is highlighted that there is no change in sub-category for On-lending by NBFC, and limits also remain unchanged. The above para in the Master Direction, clearly stipulates that on-lending will be eligible for classification as priority sector under respective categories which is subject to the following conditions:

(i) Agriculture: On-lending by NBFCs for ‘Term lending’ component under Agriculture will be allowed up to ₹ 10 lakh per borrower.

(ii) Micro & Small enterprises: On-lending by NBFC will be allowed up to ₹ 20 lakh per borrower.

The above dispensation is valid up to March 31, 2021 and will be reviewed thereafter. However, loans disbursed under the on-lending model will continue to be classified under Priority Sector till the date of repayment/maturity. Caping of overall limit of Bank Credit to 5 percent has been prescribed under para 24 of the Master Directions.

Investments by Banks in Securitised Assets & Direct Assignment

Investments by banks in securitised assets or assignment/outright purchase of a pool of assets, representing loans by banks and financial institutions to various categories of priority sector, except ‘others’ category, are eligible for classification under respective categories of priority sector depending on the underlying assets. However, earlier the requirement was that the interest rate charged to the ultimate borrower in securitised assets and in case of transfer of assets through direct assignment, shall be capped at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 8 percent per annum.

Therefore, investments by banks, in securitised assets and purchase of assets originated by NBFCs in eligible sectors had to comply with above capping in order to qualify as eligible for PSL. To encourage MSME lending in smaller areas where cost of intermediation is high for the smaller NBFCs, the UK Sinha committee in its report has proposed the cap at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 12% per annum initially and periodical review thereafter. The intent of the recommendation stood on the grounds that price caps are not applicable to banks when they originate directly through branches.

Accordingly, such capping limit has been relaxed and as per the as per the revised requirement the all-inclusive interest charged to the ultimate borrower by the originating entity should not exceed the External Benchmark Lending Rate (EBLR)/ MCLR of the investing bank plus appropriate spread which will be communicated separately. It is expected that the RBI shall be separately communicating the limits to the banks.

The aforesaid relaxation in the interest rate capping would widen the eligibility of loans originated by the NBFCs for securitisation and direct assignment to banks, for meeting the PSL requirement.

Adjustments for weights in PSL Achievement

To address the regional disparities in flow of credit at the district level, currently districts have been ranked on the basis of per capita credit flow. Higher weight (125%) is assigned to the incremental priority sector credit in districts with low per capita credit flow. Similarly, lower weight (90%) has been assigned to incremental PSL in districts with comparatively higher credit flow. The higher PSL credit (125 %) districts are specified in ANNEX-I A and districts with comparatively low PSL credit (90%) are specified in ANNEX-IB of the Master direction. Districts not mentioned in either of the Annex will be having weightage of 100%. PSL incremental credit shall be applicable from F.Y. 2021-2022 onwards.

Thus, for the purpose of above incentives, banks will get incremental PSL credit, if they invest as following:

  • Investment in securitsed assets/direct assignment/outright purchase, of loans originated by NBFCs from high priority districts. The entire investment in PTCs made by the banks, the proportion which is represented by those as priority districts will be weighted at 125% and low priority districts at 90% and others at 100%.
  • On-lending by Banks to NBFCs, wherein NBFCs are further lending in districts with high priority.
  • Incremental credit incentive will be available to Banks, on proportion of their share of loans, to district with high priority under Co-Origination model.

Impact of new Master Directions on NBFCs

The new Master Direction does not seem to impact legal relationship between banks and NBFCs in respect to co-origination of loans and co-lending materially, since all the regulations are similar to the earlier PSL regime. However, the incentives introduced by way of incremental PSL credit to Banks will channel the credit to districts with low credit penetration. Therefore, banks will be benefitted by dealing with NBFCs having portfolio of loans (eligible for PSL) and presence in districts with lower credit penetration.

Further, change in capping, of investments by Banks in securitised assets and direct assignment/ outright purchase of loans, originated by NBFCs is intended to cover loans originated with higher spreads. Further lending to new sub sectors introduced through Master Direction, would also qualify towards PSL target investments by Banks.

The indicative list of new sub-sectors and sub-sectors with enhanced credit limit is reproduced herein below for ready reference.

Agriculture Lending Including Farm Credit (Allied Activities), lending for Agriculture Infrastructure and Ancillary Activities. ·        Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of stand-alone Solar Agriculture Pumps and for solarisation of grid connected Agriculture Pumps.

·        Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of solar power plants on barren/fallow land or in stilt fashion on agriculture land owned by farmer

·        Inclusion of loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that are engaged in agriculture and allied services.

·        Inclusion of loans up to ₹2 lakh to individuals solely engaged in Allied activities without any accompanying land holding criteria. This change is in line with recommendation by M.K. Jain Committee7.

·        Inclusion of loans for construction of oil extraction/ processing units for production of bio-fuels, their storage and distribution infrastructure along with loans to entrepreneurs for setting up Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) plants.

·        Laying of Indicative list conveying permissible activities under Food Processing Sector as recommended by Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

·        A credit limit of ₹5 crore per borrowing entity has been specified for Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs)/Farmers Producers Companies (FPCs) undertaking farming with assured marketing of their produce at a pre-determined price. This inclusion is as per the M.K Jain Committee Recommendations8.

 

Other Finance to MSMEs In line with the series of benefits being extended to MSMEs, loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that confirm to the definition of MSME has been included under the PSL catergory. (On the basis of recommendations by UK Sinha Committee, to financially incentivise the startups in India)

 

 

Housing Loans

 

·        Increase in Loans up to ₹ 10 lakh (earlier ₹ 5 lakh) in metropolitan centres and up to ₹6 lakh (earlier 2 ₹ Lakh) in other centres for repairs to damaged dwelling units.

·        Bank loans to governmental agency for construction of dwelling units or for slum clearance and rehabilitation of slum dwellers subject to dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 square meters. Under the earlier regime, it was based on cost of dwelling unit which was ₹ 10 lakh per unit.

·        Inclusion of bank loans for affordable housing projects using at least 50% of FAR/FSI (Floor Area Ratio/ Floor Space Index) for dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 sq.m.

 

Social Infrastructure

 

Inclusion of loans up to a limit of ₹ 10 crore per borrower for building health care facilities including under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ in Tier II to Tier VI centres. This is in addition to the existing limit of ₹5 crore per borrower for setting up schools, drinking water facilities and sanitation facilities including construction/ refurbishment of household toilets and water improvements at household level, etc.

 

Renewable Energy Increase in loan limit to ₹ 30 Crore for purposes like solar based power generators, biomass-based power generators, wind mills, micro-hydel plants and for non-conventional energy based public utilities etc. This is to boost renewable energy sector, the earlier limit was up to ₹ 15 Crore.

 

 

[1]https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/MDPSL803EE903174E4C85AFA14C335A5B0909.PDF

[2] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/NT49BAA4688D36A64EAF8DB0BFD99C6FC54C.PDF

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11659&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/FS_Notification.aspx?Id=11828&fn=2754&Mode=0

 

Our related write-ups

 

 

PSL guidelines reviewed for wider credit penetration

By Siddarth Goel (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Introduction

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued Master Directions-Priority Sector Lending (PSL) Targets and Classification on September 4, 2020 (‘Master Directions’)[1]. The Master Directions are in the nature of a consolidating piece, of various circulars and guidelines issued by RBI in regard to PSL. The objective of Master Directions is to harmonise instructions guidelines for Commercial Banks[2], Small Finance Banks (“SFB”)[3], Regional Rural Banks (“RRBs”)[4], Urban Co-Operative Banks (“UCBs”)[5] and Local Area Banks (“LABs”) for PSL targets and classification under single universe.

The objective of Master Directions is to consolidate all the concerning circulars to PSL under one master direction. However, certain changes have been introduced under the Master Directions in line with the recommendations of Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Chairman: Shri U.K. Sinha) and the ‘Internal Working Group to Review Agriculture Credit’ (Chairman: Shri M. K. Jain).

This write up endeavors to highlight major changes which has been implemented through the said Master Direction that were not forming part of the erstwhile notifications or guidelines in this regard.

Changes in Targets / Sub-targets Classification for Priority Sector

The targets and sub-targets set under priority sector lending is computed on the percentage basis of Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC)/ Credit Equivalent of Off-Balance Sheet Exposures (CEOBE). The Master Directions, has increased the total priority sector lending target for Urban Co-Operative Banks, which is to be achieved through milestones-based targets in a phased manner. Further there has been increase in targets for advances to weaker sections and Small Farmer Margins (SMF) in the agriculture sector. The table below summarises the changes along with timelines for complying with Targets/Sub-targets for PSL.

Categories Domestic Commercial Banks Small Finance Banks RRB Urban Co-Operative Bank#
Total Priority Sector No change No Change No Change Increased in total priority sector target from 40 % to 75% of ANBC or CEOBE whichever is higher.
Advances to Weaker Sections Target * Increased to 12% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier target was 10%]

Increased to 12% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier target was 10%]

No Change Increased to 12% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier target was 10%] 

Agriculture Target * -No Change Small Marginal Farmers (SMF) target increased to 10% of the 18% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier it was 8 % of 18%] 

Small Marginal Farmers (SMF) target Increased to 10% of 18% of ANBC or CEOBE, whichever is higher.

[earlier it was 8% of 18%]

No Target
Micro Enterprises No Change No Change No Change No Change

# Target of total priority sector to be achieved in phased manner by Co-operative Banks as below.

Existing Target March 31, 2021 March 31, 2022 March 31, 2023 March 31, 2024
40% 45% 50% 60% 75%

 

* Phased manner for achieving Small Marginal Farmers and Weaker Section Targets as below.

Financial Year SMF Weaker Section Target
2020-2021 8% 10%
2021-2022 9% 11%
2022-2023 9.5% 11.5%
2023-2024 10% 12%

Inclusion of Weights in PSL Achievement

From the UK Sinha committee recommendations,[6] in order to address regional disparities in flow of credit to district levels. Adjusted Priority Sector Lending mechanism has been implemented under the new regime, to incentivise flow of credit to underserved districts. There will be no change in the underlying sectors eligible for PSL, however an additional weightage has been given to lending to the more underserved districts. From financial year 2021-2022 onwards weights would be assigned to incremental priority sector credit as follows:

  • Higher weight (125%) would be assigned to the districts where credit flow is comparatively lower, that is per capita PSL less than ₹ 6,000.
  • Lower weight (90%) would be assigned to the districts where credit flow is comparatively higher, that is per capita PSL is greater than ₹ 25,000.

RRBS, Urban Co-operative Banks and Local Area Banks and Foreign Banks have been kept out for the purpose of calculation of PSL weights, due to their limited presence.

Inclusions in Eligible Categories

Along with the inclusion of fresh categories eligible for finance under priority sector there has been some enhancement in the credit limit of the existing categories as well. Some of the changes are as follows-

Agriculture Lending Including Farm Credit (Allied Activities), lending for Agriculture Infrastructure and Ancillary Activities.
  • Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of stand-alone Solar Agriculture Pumps and for solarisation of grid connected Agriculture Pumps.
  • Inclusion of loans to farmers for installation of solar power plants on barren/fallow land or in stilt fashion on agriculture land owned by farmer
  • Inclusion of loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that are engaged in agriculture and allied services.
  • Inclusion of loans up to ₹2 lakh to individuals solely engaged in Allied activities without any accompanying land holding criteria. This change is in line with recommendation by M.K. Jain Committee[7].
  • Inclusion of loans for construction of oil extraction/ processing units for production of bio-fuels, their storage and distribution infrastructure along with loans to entrepreneurs for setting up Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) plants.
  • Laying of Indicative list conveying permissible activities under Food Processing Sector as recommended by Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
  • A credit limit of ₹5 crore per borrowing entity has been specified for Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs)/Farmers Producers Companies (FPCs) undertaking farming with assured marketing of their produce at a pre-determined price. This inclusion is as per the M.K Jain Committee Recommendations[8].
Other Finance to MSMEs In line with the series of benefits being extended to MSMEs, loans up to ₹50 crore to Start-ups, as per definition of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India that confirm to the definition of MSME has been included under the PSL catergory. (On the basis of recommendations by UK Sinha Committee, to financially incentivise the startups in India)
Housing Loans

 

  • Increase in Loans up to ₹ 10 lakh (earlier ₹ 5 lakh) in metropolitan centres and up to ₹6 lakh (earlier 2 ₹ Lakh) in other centres for repairs to damaged dwelling units.
  • Bank loans to governmental agency for construction of dwelling units or for slum clearance and rehabilitation of slum dwellers subject to dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 square meters. Under the earlier regime, it was based on cost of dwelling unit which was ₹ 10 lakh per unit.
  • Inclusion of bank loans for affordable housing projects using at least 50% of FAR/FSI (Floor Area Ratio/ Floor Space Index) for dwelling units with carpet area of not more than 60 sq.m.
Social Infrastructure

 

Inclusion of loans up to a limit of ₹ 10 crore per borrower for building health care facilities including under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ in Tier II to Tier VI centres. This is in addition to the existing limit of ₹5 crore per borrower for setting up schools, drinking water facilities and sanitation facilities including construction/ refurbishment of household toilets and water improvements at household level, etc.
Renewable Energy Increase in loan limit to ₹ 30 Crore for purposes like solar based power generators, biomass-based power generators, wind mills, micro-hydel plants and for non-conventional energy based public utilities etc. This is to boost renewable energy sector, the earlier limit was up to ₹ 15 Crore.
Others

 

Inclusion of loans for meeting local needs such as construction or repair of house, construction of toilets not exceeding ₹2 lakh provided directly by banks to SHG/JLG for activities other than agriculture or MSME.

Investments by Banks in Securitised Assets & Direct Assignment

Earlier the interest rate charged to the ultimate borrower was capped at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 8 percent per annum. Post UK Sinha Committee recommendation,[9] the all-inclusive interest charged to the ultimate borrower by the originating entity should not exceed the External Benchmark Lending Rate (EBLR)/ MCLR of the investing bank plus appropriate spread which will be communicated separately.

The intent of the recommendation stood on the grounds that price caps are not applicable to banks when they originate directly through branches. Therefore, to encourage MSME lending in smaller areas where cost of intermediation is high by the smaller NBFCs, the committee proposed the cap at Base Rate of the investing bank plus 12% per annum initially and periodical review thereafter.

Conclusion

The Master Direction aids in compilation and provides easy understandability of all the guidelines at one place. The two committee reports recommendations have aided in recognising important sub-sectors of economy which were not covered under earlier regimes. Loans to starts-ups in agriculture and allied activities, loans to healthcare, sanitation along with impetus on renewable energy will not only bolster flow of credit in these sectors but also aimed at improving socio-economic conditions in the country. The introduction of incentive on incremental PSL by ranking of districts on basis of per capita credit flow could be an enabler for the deeper penetration of credit in rural economy. Therefore, the new Master Direction is a welcome move and will help in achieving better channeling of credit in the desired sectors of the economy.

[1] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/MDPSL803EE903174E4C85AFA14C335A5B0909.PDF

[2] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/33MD08B3F0CC0F8C4CE6B844B87F7F990FB6.PDF

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11644&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11604&Mode=0

[5] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11274&Mode=0

[6] Para 9.24, Report of the Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, (UK Sinha Committee) https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=924

[7] Para 1.7.6, Report of the Internal Working Group to Review Agricultural Credit, ( M. K Jain Committee) https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=942#CP28

[8] Para 2.7.5, Report of the Internal Working Group to Review Agricultural Credit, ( M. K Jain Committee) https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=942#CP28

[9] Para 9.24, Report of the Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, (UK Sinha Committee) https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=924

Additional relief from COVID-19 disruptions

Based on the recommendations of the Monetary Policy Committee

-Financial Services Division (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Extension of the restructuring norms for MSME debt

The RBI via a notification on 1st January 2019[1] had allowed NBFCs and banks to restructure their advances to MSMEs, classified as ‘standard’, without any asset classification downgrade and the same was extended further on 11th February 2020.[2]

Through the notification dated August 6, 2020[3], the RBI has again extended the timeline for restructuring till March 31, 2021.

Further, the notification dated August 6, 2020 provides that the accounts which may have slipped into NPA category between March 2, 2020 and date of implementation i.e. from August 6, 2020 to March 31, 2021, may be upgraded as ‘standard asset’, as on the date of implementation of the restructuring plan.

For accounts restructured under these guidelines, the lenders are required to maintain an additional provision of 5% over and above the provision already held by them with respect to standard assets. Though, the extension notification does not specifically provide such provisioning requirements for NBFCs, however, reading in consonance with the January 2019 notification, it can be said that the requirement is for both banks and NBFCs.

The extension of relaxation would chiefly benefit the MSME borrowers who are having sound businesses as well as repayment capabilities however, are unable to meet their obligations post 1st March 2020, due to widespread disruption caused by the pandemic. The move would ensure that MSMEs that are having a viable business standing are not hit by negative classification just because of short term volatilities.

Advances against Gold Ornaments and Jewellery

The existing RBI guidelines[4] require that for the loan granted by banks against the security of gold jewelry i.e. gold loans a Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio of maximum upto 75% has to be maintained. Through notification dated August 6, 2020[5], LTV requirement has been relaxed temporarily. Accordingly, banks may now lend up to 90% of the amount of gold jewellery pledged until March 31, 2021.

Banks may, while sanctioning new loans, grant relatively more amount of loan. Further, using the advantage of extended LTV, banks may also consider providing top-up loans to the existing borrowers, on existing security of gold jewellery.

After March 31, 2021, the LTV requirement shall be restored back to 75%. While the notification mentions that fresh loans granted after such date shall have an LTV of 75%, it is silent about the treatment of existing loans. Clarification in this regard is expected from the RBI.

In the absence of any clarification, the loans given before March 31, 2021 shall also be bound by the LTV of 75% after such date. Accordingly, the banks should either structure the loan in such a manner that the LTV comes down to 75% after receiving repayments up to March 31, 2021 or the banks may have to call back a certain portion of loan so as to meet the LTV requirement after such date.

It may also be noted that despite the high amount of market penetration of NBFCs in gold loan sector[6], no such relaxation has been provided to NBFCs.

Priority Sector Lending by Banks

The RBI has revised the existing guidelines on priority sector lending (PSL) by banks[7]. While the detailed PSL guidelines are yet to be released, following are a few major changes that will be introduced:

  • Start-ups would be a new sector to come under the ambit of priority sectors
  • The limits for renewable energy, including solar power and compressed bio-gas plants, small and marginal farmers and weaker sections are proposed to be increased.
  • An incentive-based system shall be introduced, which shall address the regional disparities in the flow of priority sector credit. Under this system, higher weight will be assigned for incremental priority sector credit in the identified districts where credit flow is comparatively lower and vice versa.

 

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11445&Mode=0

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11808&Mode=0

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11942&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_CircularIndexDisplay.aspx?Id=9124 and https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=8701&Mode=0

[5] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11944&Mode=0

[6] https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/in/pdf/2020/01/return-of-gold-financiers-in-organised-lending-market.pdf

[7] https://m.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasDirections.aspx?id=10497

RBI guidelines on governance in commercial banks

Vinita Nair | Senior Partner

Vinod Kothari & Company

vinita@vinodkothari.com

Webinar on RBI discussion paper on Governance in Commercial Banks in India

Date: 22nd June, 2020 at 05:00 pm, India time. Will run for about 90 mins.

Speaker: FCS Vinita Nair, Senior Partner, Vinod Kothari & Company

Background:

Effective Corporate Governance practices at banks plays a significant role in the banking sector and the economy as a whole. The banking industry in India witnessed governance failures in the past which seems to have triggered the need for the regulator to re-look at the governance guidelines for commercial banks in India.

RBI on 11th June, 2020 issued a discussion paper on the guidelines for Governance in Commercial Banks in India.

Scope of the webinar:

We intend to discuss the proposals put forth in the discussion paper in this webinar (expected duration around 90 mins) and comparing the proposed requirements with the existing ones.

  • Scope and applicability;
  • Overall responsibilities of the Board of Directors;
  • Duties of director;
  • Understanding and managing Conflict of Interest for banks;
  • Structure, composition and role of Board Committees;
  • Risk Governance Framework – The three lines of defence;
  • Separation of ownership from Management;
  • Whistle-blower mechanism.

Where:

On the internet, via Google Meet / Zoom Meeting

Please note that the webinar has a maximum capacity of 50, including the host, and entry is on first-come-first-enter basis.

Whether interactive:

Yes. Participants may post queries, either in advance or at the time of webinar. Participants may, based on feasibility, also be allowed to speak.

For registration:

Kindly mail with relevant details on – shaifali@vinodkothari.com.

Knowledge Resources:

  1. RBI Discussion paper on Governance in Commercial Banks in India
  2. Report of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
  3. RBI circular on Calendar of Reviews – Audit Committee of the Board of Directors
  4. Recommendations of the Banks Board Bureau

Presentation on Draft Directions on Sale of Loans

Our related research on similar topics can be viewed here –

  1. New regime for securitisation and sale of financial assets;
  2. Originated to transfer- new RBI regime on loan sales permits risk transfers
  3. Comparison of the Draft Securitisation Framework with existing guidelines and committee recommendations;
  4. Comparison of the Draft Framework for sale of loans with existing guidelines and task force recommendations;
  5. Inherent inconsistencies in quantitative conditions for capital relief;
  6. Presentation on Draft Directions on Securitisation of Standard Assets;
  7. YouTube video of the webinar held on June 12, 2020.