Banking revolution on the cards: RBI gives nod to Reliance, 10 others for payment banks

Chennai/New Delhi, Aug 19: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday granted 'in principle' approval to 11 applicants, including Reliance Industries Ltd., Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd., Department of Posts and Cholamandalam Distribution Services Ltd., to set up payment banks.

The others who got the approval are Airtel M Commerce Services Limited, Fino PayTech Limited, National Securities Depository Limited, Dilip Shantilal Shanghvi, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Tech Mahindra Limited and Vodafone m-pesa Limited.

RBI gives nod to 11 payment banks

Indian corporate giant Reliance Industries has roped in banking giant State Bank of India (SBI) as an active equity partner with 30 percent stake in the payment bank venture.

According to RBI, the in-principle approval will be valid for 18 months, during which the applicants have to comply with guidelines and fulfil other conditions as may be stipulated by it.

The RBI, on being satisfied that the conditions laid down have been met by the applicants, would then consider granting them a licence for commencement of banking business.

Until regular licences are issued, the applicants cannot undertake any banking business.

Those applicants who have not got the approval this time around need not lose heart.

Earlier, the RBI said it had received applications for payment bank from 41 applicants.

The central bank said it would use the learning from this licensing round to appropriately revise the guidelines and move to giving licences more regularly, that is, virtually "on tap".

The RBI believes that some of the entities who did not qualify in this round could be successful in future rounds.

Reacting to the news, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "I am very happy to learn that the postal department has been given a payment banking permission by the RBI. I thank the RBI governor and his team. This is a very proud moment for the Postal Department."

"I have been trying since I became the minister to energise and make the vast network of postal department for financial digital inclusion and e-commerce activity. I would expect the department to prepare itself properly and effectively for this," he added.

Vodafone India's managing director and CEO Sunil Sood said: "With over 90,000 'M-Pesa' agents, we are already providing people in remote areas a convenient way to transfer money and make payments in a safe and secure manner."

In a statement, he said Vodafone India had partnered several government bodies to run pilots for enabling direct transfer of wages/subsidies.

The payment banks will cater to the needs of small savings accounts, remittance services, low income households, small businesses and other unorganised sector entities.

The Reserve Bank of India had invited individuals, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), corporate business correspondents (BCs), mobile phone companies, supermarket chains and real sector cooperatives to apply for licences to set up payments banks.

The RBI said those with existing joint venture (JV) with a scheduled commercial banks can set up payment bank.

The guidelines said the objective of setting up the small finance banks will be for further financial inclusion by providing savings facilities and supply of credit to small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries, and other unorganised sector entities, through 'high technology, low cost' operations.

"We are confident that this move will play a pivotal role in bringing millions of unbanked Indians into the folds of banking," said a spokesperson for Airtel.

According to RBI the applications were screened for financial soundness - five-year track record of the promoter and the key entities of the promoter group.

The assessment also included governance issues with a focus on 'fit and proper' criteria for promoters based on due diligence reports; significant incremental contribution in terms of existing and demonstrated physical rural reach; business model innovation; technological and operational capability indicating a model that can handle the required volumes of transactions and money with a high degree of demonstrated fidelity and safety; proposed business plan in terms of product mix; innovative technological solutions; geographic access; and viable financial plan.


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