Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Payments bank licence imminent for India Post If approved, it will be consistent with PM’s plan to use post offices to deliver financial services to remote areas

New Delhi: The grant of a payments bank licence to the India Post is imminent, according to a senior finance ministry official who did not wish to be identified.

If approved, it will be consistent with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to utilize the existing network of post offices to deliver, in addition to the existing bouquet of postal services, financial services to the remotest parts of the country through digital connectivity and innovations.

India Post has 155,015 post offices across the country, of which 139,144 are in rural areas.

To give a fillip to these existing branches, the department of posts has tied up with e-commerce firms such as Snapdeal and Amazon to deliver parcels—parcel revenue for fiscal year 2014-15 rose 37% compared to a decline of 2% in financial year 2013-14, as reported by the Press Trust of India on 12 July.

“India Post will most likely get payments bank licence as they have a good case,” said the finance ministry official.

On 9 July, communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to grant payments bank licence for the operation of Post Bank of India.

The finance ministry official cited earlier also said that post offices as payments banks may also be allowed to accept transactions for others who may be awarded payments bank licences.

The committee on payments banks headed by Nachiket Mor submitted its report last week and the licences are expected to be awarded by the end of August. However, the number of licences that will be issued is still not known.

Mor declined to comment, saying that as the head of the committee he cannot disclose details.

A payments bank can take deposits, allow remittances and offer simple financial products, but will not be allowed to lend. It will have to invest 75% of its funds in government securities and the minimum capital required to set up a payments bank is set at Rs.100 crore.
The central bank, in November, had invited applications for payments bank and small finance bank licences.

In total, 41 applications were received by RBI for payments bank licences, including from Reliance Industries Ltd, Tech Mahindra Ltd, Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd and Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd, among others.

Shailendra Kumar Dwivedi, director, Post Bank of India, India Post, said that he cannot confirm the development and that he can only talk after the licence is awarded.

“Like everybody else, the minister (Prasad) must have also heard it from some quarters. But given the credentials and readiness of the postal department, it must get the licence,” he said, adding that right now, it is uncertain.

However, Dwivedi added that the department has started the process of engaging with consultants who will help implement and set up the bank as it anticipates the licence.

A representative of a consulting firm with which the department is in talks confirmed that the department is preparing to ensure a quick roll-out once the licence is granted.

The consultant declined to be identified because the firm has signed a client confidentiality clause.

“Since the basic idea is to cover the unserved or underserved to make them included, it should be somebody who has a large distribution network, reach, infrastructure and has prior experience is similar business (financial services), maybe someone like India Post or microfinance institutions,” the consultant said.

India Post already offers financial services under the heads of post office savings scheme, postal life insurance, money remittance service, mutual funds and forex services.

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