by Abhishkha Moyal, 5th year law student at RGNUL, Patiala.
A non-banking financial company (“NBFC”) means, (i) a financial institution which is a company; (ii) a non-banking institution which is a company, with principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement or in any other manner, or of lending in any manner;; (iii) such other non-banking institution or class of such institutions, as the Reserve Bank of India may, with the previous approval of the central government and by notification in the official gazette, specify.
Every NBFC in India deals with substantial number of customers as well as with other NBFCs. NBFCs also partners with digital lenders who have restrictions on lending funds on their own accounts by reason of regulatory issues. Hence, the NBFCs form an important part of the financial system of India and enormously impact the economy as a whole. Any default made or any financial discrepancy caused by a single NBFC can create a substantial risk for the financial system of our country, thereby causing a ‘contagion effect’, that is, escalation of economic crisis in one market or region leading to economic downturn in other national or international markets or regions due to interconnectivity between them. . However, the regulatory framework for NBFCs is lenient in comparison to that for the banks due to which the financial system of India in recent times has suffered various jolts like the collapse of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services group in 2018, and bankruptcy of Dewan Housing Finance Corporation in 2019 and Reliance Capital in 2021.
The Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) introduced the Prompt Corrective Action (“PCA”) framework for NBFCs on December 14, 2021 in order to intervene at the appropriate time to initiate and implement remedial measures in a timely manner, so as to restore financial health of NBFCs which are at risk. The framework will be effective from October 1, 2022, on the basis of financial position of NBFCs on or after March 31, 2022.
Working of the PCA Framework
The applicability of PCA framework shall extend to all deposit taking NBFCs (except government companies), and all non-deposit taking NBFCs in middle, upper and top layers
(except- NBFCs not accepting or intending to accept public funds; government companies; primary dealers; and housing finance companies). The key areas for monitoring in PCA framework will be capital and asset quality, and indicators to be tracked would be Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (“CRAR”), tier I capital ratio and net non-performing assets (“NNPA”) ratio. The NBFCs will face restrictions when such indicators fall below the stipulated levels.
The PCA framework provides for three risk thresholds for NBFCs, violation of any of which by any NBFC may lead to invocation of PCA framework by the RBI against such NBFC. The norms which RBI may impose on such NBFC will get stricter as and when such NBFC moves from the first to the third threshold. First risk threshold will be invoked for the NBFCs when the CRAR of such NBFC falls 300 basis points (“bps”) below the regulatory minimum of 15% or when tier I capital ratio falls 200 bps below the regulatory minimum of 10% or in cases where NNPA ratio exceeds 6%. In such cases, it will be mandatory for the NBFC to restrict dividend distribution/remittance of profits. Further, it will be mandatory for promoters/shareholders of such NBFCs to infuse equity and reduce leverage.
Similarly, the second risk threshold will be invoked when CRAR falls up to 600 bps below regulatory minimum of 12% or when tier I capital ratio falls up to 400 bps below the regulatory minimum of 8% or in cases where NNPA ratio exceeds 9%. In such cases, it will be mandatory for the NBFCs to restrict their branch expansion, in addition to the restrictions imposed after breach of first risk thresholds.
Further, the third risk threshold will be invoked when CRAR falls more than 600 bps below regulatory minimum of 9% or when tier I capital ratio falls more than 400 bps below the regulatory minimum of 6% or in cases where NNPA ratio exceeds 12%. In such cases, it will be mandatory for the NBFCs to impose restrictions on their variable operating costs and capital expenditure, except capital expenditure on technological upgradation within limits approved by their board of directors. In addition to the above restrictions, the PCA framework gives discretionary powers to the RBI to take certain other actions against the defaulting NBFCs relating to governance, capital, credit risk, profitability etc.
NBFCs can exit from the PCA framework and the restrictions imposed against them and the PCA framework can be withdrawn under two conditions. Firstly, there should have been no violations of risk thresholds in any of the parameters for four continuous quarterly financial statements, one of which should be annual audited financial statement (subject to assessment by RBI); and secondly, on the basis of supervisory comfort of the RBI, including an assessment on sustainability of profitability of NBFCs.
The PCA framework was introduced for the banking companies in 2002. Eleven public sector unit banks and some private banks were put under the framework; restrictions were imposed on such banks to improve their financial health as a result of which their financial health improved over the years. At present only the Central Bank of India is governed by the PCA framework, however, it has also enhanced its financial position and no longer requires working under the framework.
As mentioned earlier, the PCA framework will come into effect from October 1, 2022, based on the financial position of NBFCs on or after March 31, 2022. This will give NBFCs sufficient time to strengthen their financial position, which may have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and avoid any other issues.
Imposition of the PCA framework will enable the RBI to (i) regulate NBFCs struggling with financial issues; and (ii) help such NBFCs to resolve such issues in a timely and effective manner. Moreover, empowering the RBI to intervene with the working of struggling NBFCs in order to strengthen their financial position will prevent such NBFCs from advancing risky loans and will encourage them to be more cautious in undertaking lending and other activities. However, this may have a negative impact on the growth of the NBFCs, as imposition of the PCA framework on the NBFCs will tighten their credit norms and their operational focus may shift towards collection activities.
The PCA framework for banks has already been in place since 2002 and has helped the RBI and many other banks to improve their financial health. As NBFCs have become closely integrated with the banking and financial system of India, hence, regulating them is the need of the hour in order to maintain a stable financial system.
Moreover, as the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected many businesses around the world, it would be rational for NBFCs to lend their funds discreetly in order to avoid financial difficulties at later stages. When remedial measures are implemented in a timely manner for NBFCs at financial risk, it will help in containing the contagion effect on the economy.