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IT in Banking 2003 (Special)
  An Overview of: IT in Banking
In the five decades since independence, banking in India has evolved through four distinct phases. During Fourth phase, also called as Reform Phase, Recommendations of the Narasimham Committee (1991) paved the way for the reform phase in the banking. Important initiatives with regard to the reform of the banking system were taken in this phase. Important among these have been introduction of new accounting and prudential norms relating to income recognition, provisioning and capital adequacy, deregulation of interest rates & easing of norms for entry in the field of banking.

Entry of new banks resulted in a paradigm shift in the ways of banking in India. The growing competition, growing expectations led to increased awareness amongst banks on the role and importance of technology in banking. The arrival of foreign and private banks with their superior state-of-the-art technology-based services pushed Indian Banks also to follow suit by going in for the latest technologies so as to meet the threat of competition and retain their customer base.

Indian banking industry, today is in the midst of an IT revolution. A combination of regulatory and competitive reasons have led to increasing importance of total banking automation in the Indian Banking Industry.

Information Technology has basically been used under two different avenues in Banking. One is Communication and Connectivity and other is Business Process Reengineering. Information technology enables sophisticated product development, better market infrastructure, implementation of reliable techniques for control of risks and helps the financial intermediaries to reach geographically distant and diversified markets.

In view of this, technology has changed the contours of three major functions performed by banks, i.e., access to liquidity, transformation of assets and monitoring of risks. Further, Information technology and the communication networking systems have a crucial bearing on the efficiency of money, capital and foreign exchange markets.

The Software Packages for Banking Applications in India had their beginnings in the middle of 80s, when the Banks started computerising the branches in a limited manner. The early 90s saw the plummeting hardware prices and advent of cheap and inexpensive but high-powered PCs and servers and banks went in for what was called Total Branch Automation (TBA) Packages. The middle and late 90s witnessed the tornado of financial reforms, deregulation, globalisation etc coupled with rapid revolution in communication technologies and evolution of novel concept of 'convergence' of computer and communication technologies, like Internet, mobile / cell phones etc.



MILESTONES

In India, banks as well as other financial entities entered the world of information technology and with Indian Financial Net (INFINET). INFINET, a wide area satellite based network (WAN) using VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) technology, was jointly set up by the Reserve Bank and Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) in June 1999.

The Indian Financial Network (INFINET) which initially comprised only the public sector banks was opened up for participation by other categories of members.

The first set of applications that could benefit greatly from the use of technological advances in the computer and communications area relate to the Payment systems which form the lifeline of any banking activity. The process of reforms in payment and settlement systems has gained momentum with the implementation of projects such as NDS ((Negotiated Dealing System), CFMS (Centralised Funds Management System) for better funds management by banks and SFMS (Structured Financial Messaging Solution) for secure message transfer. This would result in funds transfers and funds-related message transfer to be routed electronically across banks using the medium of the INFINET. Negotiated dealing system (NDS), which has become operational since February 2002 and RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement system) scheduled towards the end of 2003 are other major developments in the area.

Internet has significantly influenced delivery channels of the banks. Internet has emerged as an important medium for delivery of banking products & services. Detailed guidelines of RBI for Internet Banking has prepared the necessary ground for growth of Internet Banking in India.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 has given legal recognition to creation, trans-mission and retention of an electronic (or magnetic) data to be treated as valid proof in a court of law, except in those areas, which continue to be governed by the provisions of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

As stated in RBI's Annual Monetary and Credit Policy 2002-2003: "To reap the full benefits of such electronic message transfers, it is necessary that banks bestow sufficient attention on the computerisation and networking of the branches situated at commercially important centres on a time-bound basis. Intra-city and intra-bank networking would facilitate in addressing the "last mile" problem which would in turn result in quick and efficient funds transfers across the country".

Excerpt from "Developments in Banking & Banking Technology" an article by Anurag Khanna, MD & CEO, Banknet India.

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