Cheaper loans? Banks promise RBI to look at lending rate cuts

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Updated: February 22, 2019 3:26:24 PM

Bankers told RBI governor that they would look at the possibilities of cutting lending rates at the next review meeting of MCLR.

Interest rate dilemma! Banks promise RBI to examine possibilites to cut lending ratesBankers are understood to have explained to the RBI how they price loans.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Shaktikanta Das on Thursday exhorted bankers to ensure better transmission of rate cuts by the central bank. The governor, in a meeting with bankers, is believed to have said that since monetary policy enunciations are based on specific calculations with respect to macroeconomic trends, he would expect better and quicker transmission.

Bankers, on their part, are understood to have assured the governor that they would look at cutting rates. “We told the governor we would re-look at the possibilities of cutting lending rates at the next review meeting of MCLR,” a banker present at the meeting, told FE.

Even as the question of pricing loans based on external benchmarks such as the repo rate or the T-Bills rates was discussed at the meeting, no conclusion was reached.

Bankers said a separate meeting was likely to be scheduled to deliberate on the issue. “We discussed the matter of the interest rate on loans being linked to an external benchmark, but not in too much detail,” a senior banker said.

Given that the discussion paper is in the public domain and the RBI is awaiting more feedback on the recommendations of the Janak Raj committee, the governor may want to wait before discussing it in detail, the head of a bank based in south India, said.

As of now, the April 1 deadline for banks to move to a pricing regime where interest rates for retail and MSME borrowers are priced based on an external benchmark stands, he added.

The meeting was attended by representatives of 10 public sector banks and a few private and foreign banks, including Kotak Mahindra Bank, ICICI Bank, IDFC Bank and Citi India.

Bankers are understood to have explained how they price loans and to what extent the repo rate and the central bank’s open market operations (OMOs) influence rates charged to consumers. “We explained how external benchmarking can be more robust and more acceptable to the banking system,” a banker said.

Since the RBI reduced the repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) on February 7, State Bank of India (SBI) has been the only major bank to lower rates for its home-loan customers by 5 bps. Thereafter, Das announced after a meeting of the RBI’s board on Monday that he would take up the issue of policy transmission with banks.

In its December 2018 policy meet, the RBI had proposed benchmarking of fresh floating-rate retail loans and loans to micro and small enterprises to an external benchmark, effective April 1, 2019.

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