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Saturday, 09 December 2017 00:00
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Sunil Jain remarks:

 

Honourable, Shri Nitin Gadkariji, Uday Kotak, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Umesh Revankar, Rajnish Kumar, Paresh Sukthankar, other award winners, members of the jury, our knowledge partners EY and distinguished guests:

 

Thank you very much for being here, on a Saturday evening. I don’t need to tell you much about the awards, except to say that EY crunches RBI data for us, which is then put to our jury for their selection. And, this year, apart from the traditional banking stars, we’ve included the fintech space and, you’ve guessed right, apps and even banking products.

 

As in the past, former TCS chief S Ramadorai headed the jury this year, bringing perspective of decades of experience; Leo Puri, who heads UTI, as always, provided great insights into the functioning of various banks. R Shankar Raman, L&T’s CFO gave us a view from the point of view of a borrower and a CFO, B Mahapatra, former RBI ED, looked at banks from a regulator’s perspective and Sharad Sharma of iSpirt gave us invaluable perspective on fintech and apps.

 

You’ve seen from the coverage in FE over the past week that the quality of the winners is outstanding. I’d just like to point out, a year ago, we were quite despondent, with galloping NPAs and banks strapped for funds. Today, with the Insolvency Code and a bank recap plan, things look very different. Sure, there are niggling issues – should promoters be allowed to bid for their companies – but the big change is we’ve now got a firm recovery path.

 

So, we’re in very exciting territory, and I can promise you next year’s awards will throw up even more variety!

 

I’d like to now invite our chairman Viveck Goenka to put the awards in perspective.

 

Viveck Goenka remarks:

 

Honourable, Shri Nitin Gadkariji, Uday Kotak, Arundhati Bhattacharya, friends:

 

It is always a pleasure to welcome all of you to FE’s Best Banks Awards, and this year, we have come of age. We’re 21 years old and are at an exciting phase of India’s banking and corporate history. The large NPAs of the past have ensured there will be a shakeout in the banking sector and, indeed, even the government’s recapitalization plan is choosing winners since not all PSU banks will get the same access to funds. It is obviously a shakeout period for India Inc since a very large number of firms are in insolvency courts. How this will emerge is not clear, but what’s clear is that we will get a freshly energized banking and corporate sector.

 

That’s one kind of change, a change in the pecking order of banks. But that’s something we’ve been seeing anyway over several decades. What’s really different today is that banks are seeing a new kind of challenge, from non-banks. New fintech companies have come up and are looking at lending models we’d never even heard of before, ones that will simply look at transaction histories and use Artificial Intelligence, or AI, to see if they’re loan-worthy.

 

We’re seeing SMEs who had no access to formal finance selling on Flipkart and Amazon and using their transaction history to get bank loans! Obviously not all of this is going to work, and many of the brave fintech companies will shut down.

 

But the point is that there is a new kind of competition and a new energy I’m seeing as a result.

 

If you look at the way banks have tried to defend their turf against 3rd-party wallets by denying them access to their clients’ bank accounts, you know it’s a new world.

 

When you look at how top banks are tying up with marketplaces to attract customers and offering them the best discounts, you know it’s a new world.

 

When you look at the Deep Learning and AI banks are bringing to bear, you know it’s a new world – when you shop for a dress, the app will guide you to discounts on shoes … that’s just one part of what AI does

 

When you see Lakhsmi, a robot, guiding clients at Union Bank, you know it’s a new world

 

When you look at how Paytm is growing, you know it’s a new world.

 

When you look at telcos and payments banks, you know it’s a new world.

 

When a Google comes into the payments space, and when a WhatsApp is about to do the same, you know it’s a new world.

 

Which brings me to our big winners.

 

Arundhati Bhattacharya not only guided SBI out of some very troubled times, she steered SBI into this new digital age.

 

Uday Kotak, after creating an amazing bank in under 15 years, successfully absorbed ING Vysya Bank to give his bank a pan-Indian presence, and is now engaged in a third transformation – one he calls 811, after the day the prime minister announced Demonetisation on that fateful day in November. This is a transformation to a mainly digital bank. His NBFC’s market cap was Rs 81 crore in 1998, he became a bank in 2003, and its market cap is over Rs 2 lakh crore!!! If we’ve awarded him Lifetime Achievement, it’s hardly surprising though I know the first reaction of most has been: “Uday isn’t old enough to get a Lifetime Achievement … he has many good years ahead!” More power to you, Uday!!!

 

These are exceptionally challenging times and, apart from the strains of weak balance sheets and equally stressed corporates, our banks are now challenged by a totally new model, a model where, perhaps, their branch network matters little, where even the reputation may not matter as much as the quality of the app and what’s running under the hood.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the FE Best Banks Awards and venture to say the excitement has only begun.

 

 

 

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