Month: April 2017

Benefit of being in DIFC


DIFC allows Indian firms 100% ownership, guaranteed 0% tax on income or profits for 50 years, free flow of capital and profit repatriation and no exchange controls, he explains further.ndian firms setting up their offices in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) are crucial to the federal financial free zone, says Arif Amiri, deputy CEO of DIFC authority. Amiri, who recently led a high-level DIFC delegation to India, says with 20 companies represented, India has the largest presence at DIFC after the United States and the United Kingdom. “India also has the most banks – State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, IDBI Bank, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank. Besides, several Indian financial services firms – Aditya Birla Sun Life Asset Management, IL&FS Global Financial Services, IIFL Private Wealth Management and Kotak Mahindra Financial Services – are also based at DIFC and these firms have benefitted from the Centre’s fixed-income portfolios, as well as rental yields on real estate holdings, an asset class favoured by the majority of Indian investors,” says Amiri.

Amiri maintains that the UAE and India had recently pledged to increase bilateral trade by 60% over the next five years, so the potential for Indian firms is enormous. “As part of our long-term growth strategy, we aim to host a total of 100 Indian firms by 2024. During our recent visit to Mumbai, we conducted 40 meetings with government authorities, private and public sector banks, law firms, wealth and fund management experts, insurance and reinsurance firms, and our existing clients. We also held discussions with 10 banks interested to set up operations at DIFC. A major Indian private
Arif Amiri points out that DIFC hosts 21 of the world’s top 25 banks, and 11 of the world’s top 20 money managers

sector insurance company has also shown an interest to establish a base at DIFC; it would be the first international private sector insurance company to expand out of India,” he adds.


He explains that as a diverse commercial hub, DIFC can help Indian financial and non-financial institutions to fully realize their growth potential. With 382 financial services firms and 750 non-financial services firms having established their presence, DIFC has attracted leading organizations from a variety of sectors, including wealth management, asset and fund management, and property. It offers 0% tax, 100% foreign ownership and no restriction on capital repatriation. It also offers an independent judicial system based
on English common law and a transparent regulatory environment inspired by leading international reporting regimes.

Amiri says DIFC has signed MoUs with more than 75 jurisdictions around the world, offering businesses the flexibility to model their corporate structure, opening a representative office, for example, or in some cases operating with a full banking licence. “With the ever increasing global connectivity of Dubai, DIFC is positioned as a gateway for Indian business to access the wider Middle East, Africa & South Asia (MEASA) region, representing a combined GDP of $7-9 trillion,” says he about the potential of the Centre.


Amiri says DIFC’s regulatory framework, overseen by an independent risk-based body – the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) – offers a secure environment for banks to grow in sectors such as commercial banking, investment banking, trade and export finance, project and infrastructure funding, treasury services and correspondent banking. Its regulatory regime supports region-wide banking services – including securitization and asset-backed financing – without imposing multi-jurisdictional risks or regional restrictions on foreign financial institutions.

“The DFSA aspires to offer licensing standards that match or exceed those of competing international financial centres. Foreign financial institutions can choose from five distinct licence categories, allowing them to receive deposits, provide credit, conduct asset management, or operate a collective investment fund. The breadth of options helps banks to expand their reach locally and regionally. Although licence approval depends on the scale and complexity of the business concerned,


issuing licences generally takes between 50 and 90 days. The DFSA has a strong relationship with India’s Reserve Bank and Securities and Exchange Board of India, which has helped the integration of Indian firms into DIFC and improved the efficiency of application and approval procedures. Full hanking licences have been issued to more banks from India, a total of eight, than to any other country,” says Amiri.


Dubai’s position as a global trading hub is, of course, a key advantage, explains Amiri. “Its air and seaports connect with more than 280 destinations around the world and the city’s integration with the global economy is improving all the time, with ongoing investment in transport links and infrastructure. Given the close proximity of India and the UAE, Indian firms are in an ideal position to access trade flows in the MEASAregion via Dubai and the increasing economy activity within MENA itself, which is widely expected to more than double over the next decade,” he adds.

He also points out that DIFC is a secure location for wealth and asset management firms to access trade and investment networks in emerging markets, private equity and Islamic funds, adding there is the vibrant business cluster itself that makes up DIFC: 1,327 active registered firms and a combined workforce of18,250.

“DIFC,” he says, “hosts 21 of the world’s top 25 banks, 11 of the world’s top 20 money managers, seven of the 10 largest insurance companies, and nine of the top 10 law firms.”


What is unique about DIFC’s legal framework?

“As an independent free zone, DIFC enjoys judicial independence, offering businesses the protection of English Common law, and issues judgements enforceable across the Arab world through the DIFC courts,” says Amiri. “In addition, with the creation of the Wills & Probate Registry in 2015, DIFC has become the first jurisdiction in the Middle East to
allow non-Muslims to register a will under English Common Law Principles.

DIFC’s regulatory and judicial environment is benchmarked against international standards and meets or exceeds the safeguards in place at other leading international financial centers, such as New York and London. The DFSA grants licences and regulates business activity, while our corporate governance body, Hawkamah, monitors ethics and standards. Both these institutions help to minimize legal and corporate risk.

At the same time, the DFSA and the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (ESCA) are working closely to increase operational efficiency, facilitating the ‘passporting’ of funds into the DIFC. For example, DFSA has amended its Collective Investment Fund Law to implement a new class of fund called the Qualified Investor Fund (QIF), streamlining the fund registration process and reducing costs.


Amiri recounts some of the unique experiences of financial services institutions setting up their units in DIFC.

“One example is Gulf Petrochem, which recently launched India’s first real estate fund under DIFC’s Exempt Fund regime, a fund that provides professional inevestors with ready access to a diversified portfolio of ‘Grade A’ real estate assets. Another is BankMed, one of Lebanon’s fastest growing banks, the first MENA-based financial institution to receive a Category-1 licence when it opened at DIFC. Similarly, Bae, Kim & Lee (BKL) and BDO Unibank became the first Korean law firm and the first Philippine bank, respectively, to set up at DIFC when they opened offices with us earlier this year. ”


He says as part of the Centre’s 10-year growth strategy, it plans to allocate more resources to emerging markets such as India and China, complementing its existing relationships with developed economies in the West. The objective,
according to him, is to strengthen its position as a bridge between the East and West and to stimulate trade and investment flows in the South-South economic corridor, a geographical region encompassing MEASA, southern Africa and Latin America.

“Family business and SMEs in particular will be a major focus for us, representing as they do around 80% of companies in the Middle East and $500 billion in value terms. We are eager to play a full part in the UAE’s success story and to establish itself as one of the world’s foremost financial centers, increasing the financial services sector’s share of UAE GDP to 18% from around 12% today. In addition, we are also playing a major role in Dubai’s ‘Smart City’ initiative and are continuously working towards developing an integrated DIFC Client Portal, for example, and introducing smart-phone applications, such as one to help track client applications,” says Amiri.

The soon to be launched Client Portal will offer a range of administrative services including online payments, registration and licensing, certification, an option to amend company profiles and various employee services such as visa applications. This will reduce the amount of client time spent on administration by nearly 80%.

DIFC has also extended wi-fi access to its residents, tenants and visitors, and it has consolidated its digital services into a single, self-contained network to offer more cost-effective solutions for the trading desks of financial firms.

[email protected]


Month: April 2017

State Bank of India is a behemoth. So, any internal changes in the bank too would have enormous implications. For example, the digitization effort in the bank. CTO of the bank Shiv Kumar Bhasin outlines the effort:


There is a massive digital transformation that is happening in State Bank of India, chiefly to be in concert with the Digital India initiative, which the government is driving. An array of products and services will in the near future make the bank a pioneer in digital transactions and mobile device- enabled banking.

“In this transformation, our thrust is on three core areas – Mobility, Self-service and Ensuring availability and robustness of services. We believe mobile is going to be at the center of the transformation and this will help us strengthen our proposition,” says Shiv Kumar Bhasin, CTO, of the bank, who has been tasked with hastening this transformation.


“Being a public sector bank has in no way impacted our efforts to take up digitization in a big way,” says Bhasin. “I can quote two major initiatives in the mobility
applications realm – State Bank Anywhere and State Bank Freedom. State Bank Anywhere is our retail internet banking application offered on mobile. A customer can do a whole lot of financial transactions – balance enquiry, funds transfer, credit card payments, RTGS funds transfer, bill payments, mCash (mobile to mobile funds transfer), instant term deposits, mobile top-up etc, while they can also do non- financial transactions like m-Passbook, ATM cum debit card hot listing and cheque book request. This service is available on SmartPhones.

“Similarly, State Bank Freedom is the branch on your mobile – you can make balance enquiries, do remittances and make bill payments, mobile top-ups, DTH recharge etc. The service is available on feature phones supporting multi-protocol application clients eg Java application, client app with encrypted SMS, SMS banking client and USSD Client.”

Bhasin says these two apps have
been quite successful and have earned the bank quite a bit of appreciation from its customers.

Another aspect that has indeed helped the bank in improving its customer service is SMS Banking and Missed Call Banking. SBI Quick – Missed Call Banking is a service which involves banking by giving a missed call or sending an SMS with pre-defined keywords to a customer’s registered mobile number. Once SBI Quick is downloaded, the customer need not have to remember the various keywords and destination mobile numbers.

“SBI Quick has been appreciated more by our rural customers than those in urban areas mainly because SMS/Missed Call for these customers is a sure shot way of making sure that a transaction has indeed taken place. Besides, through SMS Banking customers can get services such as enquiry of balance in the account, mini statement, mobile to mobile money transfer through IMPS, mobile top-up and DTH top-up/
recharge. Once installed, an internet connection is not needed to use the app as the communication would happen over SMS or Missed Call,” adds Bhasin.

Month: April 2017

ATMscape India 4th largest ATM market worldwide

A recent RBR study forecasts substantial growth in the installed base of ATMs the world over:

The worldwide ATM installed base grew 7% in 2014, to reach 3 million units, according to research agency RBR. Its Global ATM Market and Forecasts to 2020 report said this comes just five years after the 2 million mark was passed, and forecast that the four million mark will be passed by 2020.


The report said driven by strong economic growth, increasing disposable income and huge numbers of people entering the banking system, China’s ATM installed base has almost tripled in size since 2009. “Having surpassed the USA in 2013, China is forecast to pull further ahead of the rest of the world over the next few years, as banks deploy ATMs to meet customer demand in branches,” the study said.

It also noted that India has seen rapid growth over the last decade, and by the end of 2014 it was the fourth largest ATM market worldwide, behind only China, the USA and Japan. “By 2020, growth from both banks and IADs is expected to have pushed India’s installed base to roughly the same size as that ofthe USA, with only China forecast to be larger. There are currently a huge number of rural communities in India without access to electronic banking facilities, but this is slowly changing, and continued growth in the banked population will be a major driver of further ATM de-ployment,” the report added.

According to the report, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region will grow almost as rapidly as Asia-Pacific. Iran and Nigeria will add the largest numbers of new ATMs outside Asia-Pacific, with increased levels of cardholding and ATM usage encouraging banks to expand into rural areas in both of these markets.


The report mentions that 2014 marked




only the second time the installed base of an entire region has contracted, as regional powerhouse Russia and several other countries in central and eastern Europe (CEE) saw their ATM numbers decline. “The Russian economy has taken a hit from falling oil prices, and has been impacted by western sanc-tions imposed after the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014. Ongoing unrest has also had economic consequences for Ukraine, home to CEE’s second largest ATM installed base, which has seen an 18% decline in its number of ATMs over the past year,” the study said.


As many as 10 of the 17 major markets in western Europe witnessed falls in ATM numbers in 2014, found the study. It said the biggest drop was seen in Spain, where many banks continue to streamline their branch networks and ATM fleets in the wake of recent mergers in the financial sector. While in some markets these falls are temporary, the study suggests that the number of ATMs in six of these markets will continue to fall, for at least the next five years.

In other regions too, mature markets




will see little, if any, growth. In Asia-Pacific, five countries will experience annual ATM growth of just 1% over the next few years, while Australia – the region’s second oldest ATM market after Japan – will see its installed base contract, as cash usage is challenged by contactless payments and non-cash ATM facilities face stiff competition from other delivery channels.

The study forecasts that despite the fall in ATM numbers in several mature markets, the overall number of ATMs will increase in all six world regions between now and 2020. “Asia-Pacific and MEA will be the main engines of growth, while the other regions will witness more modest rates of expansion. From young markets with large unbanked populations, to the most sophisticated where consumers can choose from an increasingly wide array of banking channels, the ATM remains a vital touchpoint between banks and their customers. Banks continueto rely on ATMs to expand their reach while managing infrastructure costs, and this, combined with a growing requirement for banking services, ensures demand for ATMs will remain strong for the foreseeable future,” says the study

[email protected]

Month: April 2017

Union Bank to have EFRM

Union Bank of India is intending to implement an enterprise fraud risk management solution with the real time/ near real time/ offline capability. The solution should be capable of fraud prevention, early fraud detection, anti­fraud strategy, periodic assessment of fraud risk, fraud risk training and awareness and fraud alerts, internal fraud risk management and forensic support. The bank wants the selected solution to cover the risks associated branch banking (domestic), branch banking (overseas), various other banking products, e-channels and employee-initaited/involved internal frauds. Besides, it would be required to be an integrated EFRM solution for all banking channels (including CBS), other banking applications and all e-channels. The proposed EFRM solution has to be integrated with core banking, Internet banking, ATM switch, Debit Cards, Credit Card, POS switch, e-commerce and other channels, if any, required in future without hampering the routine operations of the bank.

Syndicate Bank to undertake BPR

Syndicate Bank is evolving a strategy for business process transformation and it intends to appoint management consultants in chosen areas – distinctly in business process re-engineering, digital banking, sales and CRM and human resources development. The selected consultants will assist the bank in designing and implementing changes in the business process framework and human resources development. The work will include understanding the existing framework and also the working of the bank. The objective is to achieve efficiency in business operations, higher employee productivity and improve TAT in key product and service offerings. The project is expected to be compleed in two parts with the second part being taken up after completion of the pilot phase. The part 1 will cover the aspects of BPR and digital banking, including establishment of shared service centers like centralized back office, national call center, and loan factories. The part 2 shall cover the aspects of sales, CRM and HR development. The tenure of the project is approximately 24 months.

Andhra Bank wants MADP

Andhra Bank is proposing to have a mobile application development platform (MADP) for the development of mobile apps. The bank is finding it difficult to deploy and maintain various apps for diverse platforms in the ever changing mobility environment and hence wants to have the MADP developed by an experienced service provider. The assignment for the service provider would cover required licenses (enterprise/perpetual), mobility platform future upgrades etc. The bank wants the proposed solution to be able to develop apps which can integrate with existing Finacle, online banking application, IVR, or other bank system for customer convenience, integration with third party service provider /software /middleware i.e. National Payment Corporation of India(NPCI), Unique Identification Authority of India, payment gateway service/ aggregator, integration with any other specified regulatory /statutory bodies for data submission and monitoring and it should be supported on all major mobile platforms, Android, IOS etc., including new future mobile OS.


Month: April 2017

BANKING FRONTIERS Joining the blockchain

Joining the blockchain

While Bitcoin was intended to free the currency system from the shackles of regulatory framework, R3 appears to be giving the concept sort of a regulatory approval. The progress will be watched with all seriousness and extreme interest for there could be a time not in the distant future when there will be no physical bank branches, where transactions can happen based on a video call and where the current alternate channels would become redundant. Blockchain-enabled solutions can possibly ensure total decentraliztion, can empower the end-users and make the technology razor-sharp and more powerful. Some observers feel banks would face the risk of being left out in case they overlook the new world of virtual currencies. Remember there were safety and security warnings from banks themselves during the initial days of internet banking and e-commerce. Similarly, banks have been stating cryptocurrencies are high-risk. It can only be said that those who profess these views do not understand the concept in its true worth. And, the way the technology is developing is so amazing that someone compared it to the days when websites were created using HTML code to creating sites using WordPress.ust about a year ago, when Bitcoin started making waves, global banks were rather frightened. They described the cryptocurrencies as unreliable, prone to frauds and difficult to be administered. But the fact was that these banks were hesitant to innovate to match the comprehensiveness of the blockchain, often described as distributed ledger. There were charges that the system could lead to money laundering and frauds could happen more frequently. Things seem to have changed. Banks today are readying to embrace blockchain and the concept of cryptocurrency, for they have realized the advantages of the quicker and decentralized transaction verification system offered by the technology which can have applications not just in money transactions but even in areas like stock trades, property transfers, etc. Eight global banks have recently launched a project called R3, which intends to develop blockchain commercial applications and standards for the financial world. And, 13 more banks have joined this founding team giving a clear indication that there is immense value in the technology. R3 is mandated to ‘define, design and deliver the next generation of financial technology’. This is a major development in the financial services domain as the project brings together not only the experts, but also the considerable resources of 21 large banks for purposes of research, experimentation and design of an efficient ledger system, which they believe can not just meet the banking requirements but can also ensure security, reliability, performance, scalability and audit in the domain.


Project Pipeline

BoB to have new mPassbook system

BankofBarodawillbe implementing an upgraded mPassbook on mobile and has sought proposals from service providers in this regard. The solution should be compatible with iOS, Windows, Blackberry and Java and should be similar to design and integration of the existing mPassbook solution of the bank offered on Android platform. Besides the platforms, the bank wants the new system to be available for not only for the bank, but for its RRBs as well as its international branches.

SBI Group to have CRM solution

State Bank of India Group is preparing to implement a CRM solution and it has invited proposals from service providers to provide such a system, install it and offer customization integration and other related work. The bank expects the solution to be implemented to be meeting the current as well as future business requirements and enable any authorized employee, business partner, agent or associate of any of the SBI Group entities to cross-sell any product of the Group and cross-service any query/request/complaint from any customer of any group entity. The cross-selling and cross-servicing would be carried out through the contact centre, branch, ATM, kiosk, mobiles, internet, emails, SMSs and tablets or any other channels and the proposed solution should enable the same capabilities on the selfservice customer modules such as internet banking, ATM, kiosks, mobile banking etc. The bank is expecting to have a solution that has seamless integration capabilities with the systems (services, data, etc.) of the Group entities along with various other applications/ systems and a robust architecture with accessibility via the Group entities website, the product’s own User Interface and from various channels protected by the necessary security protocols and encryption requirements.

LIC to implement RM system

Life Insurance Corporation of India is setting up an enterprise risk management system and associated processes across the organization and it has sought the help of a consultant to identify a suitable system. With the system, LOC wants to have solutions to consistently identify, measure, aggregate and manage risk exposures and mitigating measures within predetermined tolerance guidelines. LIC wants the consultant to bring in required domain knowledge and appropriate Indian and global data to perform the associated tasks so as to come out with a best in class ERM system that will set apart LIC from its peers in the industry. The consultant should be able to map every risk that may arise in any of its offices and identify a system that can take care of these risks. The work would largely involve historical analysis of damages/losses in LIC and other relevant and comparable companies to undertake a risk visualizaton, risk identification (articulation) of material and potential risks for LIC at the corporate level, functional department level, product level, zonal, divisional and branch level and a detailed analysis as well as identification of gaps in risk identification process and risk mitigation measures currently being used in business and business specific risks, investment risk, market risk, credit risk, liquidity risk, operational risk, underwriting risk, actuarial valuation risk.