With just 40 per cent of India’s population having bank accounts, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee exhorted banks to do more for financial inclusion. Speaking at the FE (Financial Express) Best Banks awards ceremony here this evening, Mukherjee said he expected “the new banks which are going to come would be in a position to effectively compete with the existing players and attune themselves with national priorities”. This, the finance minister said, included government schemes for mandated lending, priority sector lending and on financial inclusion.
Coaxing banks to continue to strive for excellence, Mukherjee said the most important aspect of the FE Best Banks award, now in its 15th year, was that it set benchmarks for others to try and live up to. Recognising the role played by public sector banks, which account for nearly three-fourths of bank lending, the FM said in the last quarter there had been a 10-20 per cent growth in the topline of banks and a profit growth of more than 25 per cent.
Referring to the crisis in global banking, Mukherjee said this highlighted the need to take a serious look at the fragmented regulatory system in global financial markets. “The issues of financial stability and the banking system,” Mukherjee said, “have now become an integral part of policy discussions and macroeconomic objectives in the developed and the developing world.”
It is, he said, “a testimony to our consistent view that reforms in global standards have to be adapted to local conditions”.
All the FE Best Bank winners honoured on Saturday in a glittering function, attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, have exemplified one or the other of the qualities the finance minister highlighted.
Corporation Bank was honoured for the work it has done in the field of financial inclusion while HDFC, which won the Banker of the Year award, grew its balance sheet at a scorching pace while having amongst the lowest NPAs in the industry.
Receiving the award from the finance minister, HDFC vice-chairman and CEO Keki Mistry said, “This is truly an honour for HDFC and it would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of all our employees, and I dedicate this award to them”.
The award for Lifetime Achievement went to PJ Nayak who took Axis Bank to become the third largest private sector bank in the country in nine years. A