Amidst the news that GE Capital, the JV partner of State Bank of India’s (SBI) credit card, may completely exit from the venture, chairperson of the Bank, Arundhati Bhattacharya, in an exclusive interview to Mitaan Express, has said that her bank at present is busy doing evaluation of SBI cards, before taking a call on what to do with it going forward. She spoke on many other issues like NPA scenario prevailing in the bank and the bank’s plans how to go ahead with its insurance ventures.

What is the progress on the media reports that as part of its plan to globally exit non-core operations, GE Capital may completely pull out of SBI Cards in which it owns 40% of stake? Are you buying out and looking for another foreign partner?
We are still working on various strategies on this to know whether we have to do it by our own or we should rope in some new partner for the same. There also valuation exercise is on and we are waiting for the outcome before we take a final call on the issue.

NPA has become a major concern for banks, PSBs in particular. What is your opinion?
I can only say that the stress is easing out at my bank now. We may see some improvements on the front going forward.

You are a member that will advise the Maha government how to develop international financial in Mumbai. What is the objective of the committee and when was it formed?
It was formed a few months back. It is more of a consultative committee which comprises bureaucrats, financial sector experts like ex-Deutsche Banker, Anshu Jain and others. Mumbai has always been called financial capital of the country. So, this was an attempt to build on that foundation.

Who are the other members? How many times the committee has met?
I can’t immediately recall because I have been to only one meeting. Probably you could get that from Govt of Maharashtra. First meeting was held 2-3 months back. Currently, the consultations are going on. We are working on things like how to find out and what should be the roadmap.

What are the problems in making Mumbai an IFSC? Would you take help of the earlier recommendations of Percy Mistry Committee?
There are a lot of requirements like infrastructure development and others. We are looking around Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) area for the same. However, it is still in the discussion stage. We would definitely take a cue from the Percy Mistry committee report. We will also take some cue from the IFSC being developed in Gujarat. We would like to see how it impacts the whole thing. We may also look at that can Mumbai financial centre be a complementary to GIFT city. It needs a lot of deliberations before settling the things.

Gujarat has already developed an International Finance Centre. Don’t you think not only it is too late but also it will be difficult for developing another centre, that too merely a few hundred kilometers away?

These things are yet to be discussed and resolved by the committee in due course of time. I can’t give you an opinion either way at this point of time. But these are the issues that need to discussed and resolved.

Have you decided how much FDI stake the foreign partners will be allowed to hike in your insurance ventures?
We have not yet decided anything on the issue as deliberations are still on.

It seems your board had earlier taken a decision to allow only 10% more FDI in SBI Life. Are you going to implement them?
Valuations are underway. Let the valuation take place before we take a call on this.

When the insurance subsidiaries will go public? Are the valuation reports ready?
We are to take a call on it once the valuation was complete. We would like to list, but I can’t give you any timeframe for this.

Is Bharatiya Mahila Bank merging with SBI?
We are not aware of anything officially as yet. You people in the media have only told us so.

You had recently said that your bank, which is already having four MDs, needs two more MDs. What is the status?

We have sought for two more MDs. But we are yet to hear from the government on the topic.

Do you see any pick up in credit off-take? You had earlier said that credit pick-up would take place in the fourth quarter only?
Pick up of credit is happening, but the only issue that it is happening at a very slow pace. We are still in the second quarter. Let us see if it picks up in the remaining quarters.

IRDAI has decided one bank can tie up with 9 insurers. Will SBI sell products of other insurers? Now it is selling only its insurance subsidiaries’ products.
We have got some contractual obligations with our foreign partners at the time of reaching a JV agreement with them. As it is not mandatory, we are not looking at it right now.

SBI has recently been given the status of DSIB by the RBI. Is there any special plan to handle this? Has RBI given any action plan for the same?
This was expected and this is how it happened. It happened on the basis of a draft guideline.

You have already met the new DFS secretary Anjuly Chib Duggal. What did you discus with her?
Yes, I have already interacted with her and made a presentation about my bank’s performance to her. But I can’t disclose anything further on the topic.
*Mitaan Express Mumbai Bureau