Limit to lowering interest rates, says SBI chief

Last Updated: Sun, Dec 22, 2019 17:04 hrs
Newly appointed chairman of SBI, Rajnish Kumar attends a news conference in Mumbai

New Delhi: SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar on Saturday said that banks cannot lower interest rates beyond a threshold due to asset-liability mismatch issues.

"We can't lower the interest rates without lowering the interest rate for depositors and there is a threshold below which we cannot reduce the interest rate for deposits," he said at the FICCI's 92nd Annual Convention, titled "India: Roadmap to a $5 Trillion Economy".

On transmission of monetary policy, there has been constant nudging from the Reserve Bank of India to pass the reduction in repo rates by the whole amount to make the retail loans cheaper for consumers in a big push for consumption. This theory is not bought by the commercial banks who argue if they do 100 per cent transmission, then they will have no margin and will have to lower the deposit rates.

This may see flight of depositors from banks and also small savings rates are higher than the bank deposit rates which will make PSU bank deposit rates further unattractive.

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das has been aggressively pushing for transmission of rates and has held multiple meetings with banks on the issue.

After the introduction of the external benchmark system, most banks have linked their lending rates to the policy repo rate of the central bank. As against the cumulative reduction in the policy repo rate by 135 bps during February-October 2019, transmission to various money and corporate debt market segments ranged from 137 bps (overnight call money market) to 218 bps (3-month commercial papers of non-banking finance companies).

Transmission to the government securities market, the MPC said, has been partial at 113 bps (5-year government securities) and 89 bps (10-year government securities).

The SBI chief also said that there is enough cash available in the banking system and it is now for the industry to take advantage of this.

On NPAs, Kumar said that banks will be in a good position with respect to stressed assets by March and there is no dearth of liquidity in the system for lending. He added that there are opportunities to lend in sectors such as infrastructure and consumer lending as there is not much of a decline in demand from consumers.

"By March 31, most of the banks will be in a good position with respect to stressed assets," he said.

On lending to the telecom sector for the next round of spectrum auctions, the SBI chief said: "For us, lending to the telecom sector for spectrum is completely unsecured. On paper, it is secured as the auction is to be done by government but practically, it is totally unsecured."