For 2017-18, the members felt Bajaj Finance was the deserving candidate at a time when the sector has been going through severe stress.
Even in tough times, there are performers — those who are able to forge ahead taking the challenges in their stride and there is a lot to be learnt from these achievements. Indeed, despite the difficult environment, there’s plenty of innovation and value-addition; which is why choosing the toppers is never an easy task. Under the circumstances, the jury for FE Best Banks 2017-18 — led by former TCS chairman S Ramadorai and comprising Larsen & Toubro director R Shankar Raman, former UTI managing director Leo Puri, former RBI executive director B Mahapatra, and Ispirt founder Sharad Sharma — did a phenomenal job.
The members were unanimous in stressing the strength and soundness of the lender, pointing out it was important to have a strong balance sheet. While some lenders had managed to spruce up their books by stepping up provisioning, the jury gave more marks to state-owned lenders that had turned in a better performance despite less capital being infused into them by government.
Players with better return ratios — the return on average assets, for instance — were rewarded.
The team was helped in its task by knowledge partners EY who mined data from RBI.
Given how banking is rapidly going digital, the quality of a lender’s IT platform and technological capabilities is becoming very critical. As the jury members observed, it is important that both the front- and the back-ends are matched and work in sync, else, there could be problems. Again, it’s not enough to simply launch an app; the back-end needs to be re-engineered to be able to process the functions relating to the app, for instance, a loan appraisal. If there’s a mismatch between the front-end and back-end, it could create serious difficulties. For the second time in a row, Axis Bank has bagged the Best Digital Bank award for 2017-18.
For a few years now, FE Best Banks 2019 has been awarding top performers in the NBFCs and small finance bank spaces. These lenders have been doing well reaching out to customers who are unable to access organised funds. NBFCs have found several niches that banks were unable to operate in. For 2017-18, the members felt Bajaj Finance was the deserving candidate at a time when the sector has been going through severe stress.
FE Best Banks has also been recognising the rise of fintechs in recent years. Though it is hard to assess how robust their business models are, in the absence of detailed financial statements, the members were able to pool their insights to come up with the winning names.