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Don’t outsource loan processing tasks: RBI to bankers

New Delhi(PTI): Concerned over the rising number of loan default cases, the Reserve Bank today warned lenders against outsourcing their credit processing activities to third-party entities.

“We encourage the banks that whatever is the non-core activity it should be outsourced. Let me tell you credit processing is not a non-core activity. I would say it is most core activity of a banker,” RBI Deputy Governor S S Mundra said here at an Assocham event.

“If credit processing is also outsourced then I think it will lead to a kind of situation what we are witnessing now,” he said, hinting at the mounting bad loans in the banking system.

As per the data made available by the RBI, the gross NPAs (non-performing assets) of the PSU banks stood at Rs 2,60,531 crore, as on December 2014.

The total number of defaulting borrowers, having Rs 10 crore and above at the end of September 2014, stood at 2,897 with outstanding amount of Rs 1.60 lakh crore.

Talking about imprudent and non-cooperative borrowers, willful defaulters, Mundra said, “It is important that the errant borrowers are quickly brought to book and recovery proceedings be completed as early as possible.”

A non-performing account of whatever origin and pedigree is a drag on the banking system and increases the cost of intermediation, which pinches an honest borrower the most, he said.

It is important for the system to weed out the unethical elements at the earliest opportunity to ensure the credibility and the efficiency of the credit system in the country, he said.

“Several attempts are already underway, one of which is the establishment of a central fraud registry, which will enable quick sharing of information on entities found to be defrauding banks,” Mundra added.

The RBI and IBA (Indian Banking Association) together have also taken upon themselves the circulation of “caution advices” relating to all types of frauds, including those pertaining to loans and advances, he said.

And added, efforts also need to be made to alienate the willful defaulters and fraudsters and debar them from accessing the banking system for further finance.

Cautioning banks against a herd mentality in rushing to fund specific sectors, Mundra asked them to assess credit risks before giving loans to sunrise sectors.

“I have seen herd mentality in banks, (to fund) some so-called sunrise sectors, where everyone rushes to finance that sector,” he said.

On unseasonal rains and hailstorm in Northern India, Mundra said it is difficult to gauge its impact on inflation and no straight formula can be used to ascertain this.

Asked whether the RBI is contemplating to cut Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) to prompt banks to cut lending rate, Mundra said, these tools are used for better macroeconomic situation.

“As and when there is need RBI will cut CRR rate,” he said.

CRR is the portion of deposits which the banks are required to have in cash with the central bank.

Mundra also hinted at instances of borrowers diverting money to real estate or capital market for short term gains without deploying them for purposes borrowed.

“Rather than de-risking the balance sheet, such short-term misadventures often prove very costly,” he said.

Observing that the stress on loan accounts is a very common occurrence that strains the banker-borrower relationship, he said that banks should not leave them in lurch but handhold them if the borrower has some genuine problem.

He countered the general perception that once an account is classified as an NPA, the whole activity around that account is stopped.

“We, as regulators, have never prescribed that NPA account can’t be extended a supportive hand,” he said, adding banks need to conduct due diligence as far as defaulters are concerned.

“Recent spurt in instances of forensic audit which is being conducted by bankers and borrowers somewhere signifies that there is a breakdown in this implicit trust,” he said.

Referring to a rise in incidents of fight against willful defaulters, he said, “This problem could have their genesis in a failure to exercise right amount of prudence and due diligence on the part of banks.”

Banks face immense challenges regarding non-performing assets despite all the regulatory statutes and enactments, he pointed out.

“The level of stressed assets in the system underscores the need to improve the monitoring of performance of bankers,” he said.

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