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Small Finance Banks Compete for Term Deposits as Interest Rates Fall

Banks across the country are flushed with currency since demonetization of two of the most popular currency notes – Rs.500 and Rs.1000 was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016. In lieu of this move, interest rates across deposits and banks have been falling ever since and SFBs or Small Finance Banks are competing with each other to offer the best possible rates on the table.

How are SFBs capitalizing on interest rates post demonetization?

The main reason for slashing the interest rates off deposits have been to keep in check with the offtake of slow credit as the aftermath of demonetization. Customers of SFBs are now being offered interest rates that are up to 200 bps or basis points higher than the current market rates. Take for instance, Suryoday Micro Finance – the bank is offering its term deposits at an interest rate of up to 9% p.a. depending on the tenure and senior citizens will receive an additional interest rate of 0.75% p.a. Even their savings accounts are being offered at an interest rate of 6.25% p.a. for up to Rs.1 lakh and for deposits between Rs.1 lakh and Rs.10 lakhs, an interest rate of 7.25% p.a. is being offered.

Utkarsh is another SFB that is offering their term deposits with interest rates of up to 8.5% p.a. and an additional interest rate of 0.50% p.a. for senior citizens. Utkarsh is also set to open 50 new bank branches over the span of 2 months and upgrade its present MFI or Micro-Finance Institutions into full-fledged banks this April, as communicated by the bank’s managing director, Govind Singh.

Ujjivan is another SFB that is prepared to offer interest rates on deposits that are higher than the prevailing market rates. Ujjivan’s focus so far has been only on wholesale deposits, but it is also preparing itself to raise interest rates for its retail deposits in the near future.

Equitas is offering interest rates up to 9% p.a. on their term deposits and between 6% p.a. and 7.5% p.a. on their savings account.

Capital Small Finance Bank is offering 4% p.a. interest rate on their savings account and 7% p.a. on their term deposits for a tenure between 5 years and 10 years. For senior citizens, the bank is offering an interest rate of 7.2% for a tenure of 400 days.

What does the future look like for SFBs?

The cost of funds for a majority of these Small Finance Banks have been 11% or more. However, as many SFBs are gearing themselves to convert their existing businesses into banks, their cost of funds will most definitely come down even if they are offering interest rates higher than the prevailing market rates.

However, most of the SFBs are said to initially focus on micro lending before transitioning into full-fledged retail banking. Due to this focus, most of the SFBs are proposing to keep their MCLR or Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending rate high.

According to the norms put forth by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India), SFBs have to start their operations latest by this April. RBI granted licenses to 10 SFBs in September 2015 and recently, 11 companies have been permitted to start payment banks. 

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