2nd October – Urban Cooperative Banks

The Reserve Bank of India’s sudden direction last week capping withdrawals from Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank has dealt a severe shock to many folks. RBI has directed the bank to stop all lending, investment and business operations for six months.

Urban Cooperative Banks

What is a Cooperative Bank?

  • Co-operative banks, which are distinct from commercial banks, were born out of the concept of co-operative credit societies where members from a community band together to extend loans to each other, at favourable terms.
  • Credit co-operatives (or co-operative banks) are broadly classified into urban or rural co-operative banks based on their region of operation. Urban co-op banks are classified into scheduled and non-scheduled banks.

Background –

  • After initially encouraging UCBs to spring up all over India for financial inclusion, the RBI began to wake up to their poor governance from 2005 when it stopped issuing new UCB licences.
  • With many of these banks failing, and the RBI encouraging weak ones to merge, the number of UCBs operating in India has shrunk from 1,926 in 2005 to 1,551 by 2018.
  • The RBI has also been trying to improve governance at these banks by putting up a Board of Management to oversee them. But the PMC Bank case reveals that a lot of shenanigans still escape RBI’s oversight.

Difference between scheduled commercial banks and cooperative banks –

There are three key points of difference between scheduled commercial banks and co-operative banks.

  • One, unlike commercial banks, UCBs are only partly regulated by the RBI. While their banking operations are regulated by the RBI, which lays down their capital adequacy, risk control and lending norms, their management and resolution in the case of distress is regulated by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies either under the State or Central government.
  • Two, unlike commercial banks which are structured as joint stock companies, UCBs are structured as co-operatives, with their members carrying unlimited liability.
  • Three, while there is a clear distinction between a commercial bank’s shareholders and its borrowers, in a UCB borrowers can double up as shareholders.

Are they safe?

In the event UCBs fail, deposits with them are covered by the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation of India up to a sum of ₹1 lakh per depositor, the same as for a commercial bank.

Significance –

  • While they may be unpopular with the RBI, UCBs remain quite a hit with retail savers and small businesses because they offer attractive interest rates on deposits, far higher than commercial banks.
  • By end of FY18, UCBs managed ₹4.56 lakh crore in deposits, had advances of ₹2.80 lakh crore and managed total assets of ₹5.63 lakh crore. PMC Bank had ₹11,600 crore of deposits, with branches across seven States.

The PMC Case –

Details leaking out about PMC Bank suggest that the bank lent over 70 per cent of its book, violating RBI limits, to distressed realty group HDIL and also had top management that was connected to HDIL.

SourceThe Hindu Business Line

Also read: 1st October – Right to be forgotten

QUESTIONWhat are cooperative banks? Examine the potential of cooperative banks in terms of securing financial inclusion and imparting credit culture to boost the economy.