Mumbai: In the wake of the Cobrapost expose on violation of KYC norms by almost all banks, State Bank of India Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri has said his bank has been "put to a loss" by the non-compliance of guidelines by private sector peers.
    
"Our bank has been put to a loss because of the relatively lax implementation of the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) norms, particularly in private banks," Chaudhuri told in an exclusive interview.
     
The country's top three private sector lenders –ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank -- which were the targets of news portal Cobrapost in February, have already been penalized by Reserve Bank for KYC violations.
    
Chaudhuri asserted that not a single KYC anomaly has been found against his executives either in the RBI probe or in its own probe (overseen by a deputy managing director who is not part of the national banking team) following the release of the second installment of sting operation by the portal, which also showed SBI officials erring on norms.
     
He said the sting operation had found one executive offering hawala services like depositing money in the country and withdrawing in London, while another asked the undercover reporter to split up the amount and deposit.
     
"We ordered an enquiry into all these cases. We have done a thorough investigation and have not found a single case (of wrongdoing).... The RBI has also not faulted us and has not found any mistake in any of our branches so far," Chaudhuri said.
     
Cobrapost, in February, came out with a video showing executives at the top three private banks offering services like accepting large amount of unaccounted cash, which is against anti-money laundering norms and also against the KYC norms. However, the subsequent RBI probe did not find any anti-money laundering violations.

In May, the portal came out with another video showing executives at 20 financial institutions, including SBI, LIC and a clutch of private and foreign lenders apart from NBFCs, allegedly offering similar services.
     
Welcoming the expose, Chaudhuri said the regulatory bodies, including the Reserve Bank, should conduct such clandestine stock-taking themselves. "This is a good thing and it would be extremely helpful if the RBI or some other agency goes and does spot-checks of this kind incognito," he said.
     
Aggressive business targets set by private banks and the system of incentives are the main reasons cited for the non-adherence of set norms. When pointed out that SBI too incentivizes its staff for deposit collection, Chaudhuri said it is a very normal practice and other public sector undertakings too incentivize employees in this way.
    
About the impact of the expose on SBI's fee income, the chairman said the bank does not sell much of third-party products, except the offerings of its subsidiaries such as credit cards, general insurance and life insurance. Even for these, he said, a lot of diligence is carried out.
     
The biggest fee income comes from the treasury operations which stood at Rs 1,098 crore in FY13, he said. The State Bank runs the second largest treasury in the country after LIC.

(Agencies)

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