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Banking > Features on Banking> Universal Banking                     Click here for major policies

Approach to Universal Banking

[Excerpt from the Mid-term Review of the Monetary and Credit Policy of Reserve Bank of India for 1999-2000]

The Narsimham Committee II suggested that Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) should convert ultimately into either commercial banks or non-bank finance companies. The Khan Working Group held the view that DFIS should be allowed to become banks at the earliest. The RBI released a 'Discussion Paper' (DP) in January 1999 for wider public debate. The feedback on the discussion paper indicated that while the universal banking is desirable from the point of view of efficiency of resource use, there is need for caution in moving towards such a system by banks and DFIs. Major areas requiring attention are the status of financial sector reforms, the state of preparedness of the concerned institutions, the evolution of the regulatory regime and above all a viable transition path for institutions which are desirous of moving in the direction of universal banking. It is proposed to adopt the following broad approach for considering proposals in this area:

The principle of "Universal Banking" is a desirable goal and some progress has already been made by permitting banks to diversify into investments and long-term financing and the DFIs to lend for working capital, etc. However, banks have certain special characteristics and as such any dilution of RBI's prudential and supervisory norms for conduct of banking business would be inadvisable. Further, any conglomerate, in which a bank is present, should be subject to a consolidated approach to supervision and regulation.

Though the DFIs would continue to have a special role in the Indian financial System, until the debt market demonstrates substantial improvements in terms of liquidity and depth, any DFI, which wishes to do so, should have the option to transform into bank (which it can exercise), provided the prudential norms as applicable to banks are fully satisfied. To this end, a DFI would need to prepare a transition path in order to fully comply with the regulatory requirement of a bank. The DFI concerned may consult RBI for such transition arrangements. Reserve Bank will consider such requests on a case by case basis.

The regulatory framework of RBI in respect of DFIs would need to be strengthened if they are given greater access to short-term resources for meeting their financing requirements, which is necessary.

In due course, and in the light of evolution of the financial system, Narasimham Committee's recommendation that, ultimately there should be only banks and restructured NBFCs can be operationalised.


1. Click here to read: Universal Banking: An Overview
2. Click here to read: Salient operational and regulatory issues enumerated by RBI

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