Axis Bank MD and CEO Shikha Sharma today welcomed changes in NPA resolution as moves that will “force” decisions by cutting layers, and also said the bank is looking for one more life insurance distribution tie-up. “There are layers of process (in resolution). What the ordinance is doing is that it is cutting that layer off then having to go back to the board. It is forcing a decision mechanism because it is saying that if 60 per cent agree, rest have to fall in line,” she told reporters here. She said the government’s last week ordinance has been a “great boost” and the bankers were seeking similar measures for a long time.
Sharma, while speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by industry lobby CII here, said the trouble with Joint Lenders Forum at present is that decisions do not get taken for want of having adequate ratio of bankers on board, or the boards do not approve decisions taken by the bankers. The government’s ordinance, followed by notifications by the RBI creates a “forcing mechanism” to take decisions, she said. The CEO of country’s third largest private sector lender, saddled with high proportion of dud assets, said all bad assets will not turn good, and banks will have to take haircuts because of this mechanism.
She, however, underlined that getting the mechanism is important. When asked specifically about how this will help her bank’s Rs 9,436 crore watch-list of potentially stressed assets, she said, “Difficult to predict if our watch-list will get upgraded. It depends on how soon we are able to come with solutions and what is the solution.” Meanwhile, Sharma also said that Axis Bank is looking to tie-up with one more life insurance player for distributing policies.
She also added that it is not interested in entering the segment itself because of big opportunities in core banking business. “In the case of life insurance, we currently partner with Max Life and LIC. Now, the regulation allows for open architecture with up to three insurers, we will at some point look at adding a third partner as well,” she said. She declined to give a timeline for a tie-up and added that the tie-up will not be influenced by geographical considerations.
Sharma said even though the digital transactions have gone down with the inflow of cash into the system, there has been a 50-60 per cent jump because of demonetisation, which would have otherwise taken 12-18 months for system.
“Cash is not going to go away from the system anytime soon and the move is only aimed at making us a ‘less cash’ economy, rather than a ‘cashless’ one,” she said. On concerns surrounding a jump in retail lending, Sharma said the growth is good till the banks are prudent. She was all praise for Bengaluru, where her bank has set up an innovation centre, saying it is only the second place after the US’ Silicon Valley, which she admires, and it even dwarfs the financial capital now.