Terming whistleblower allegations on loan evergreening as “grossly inaccurate and baseless”, Indusind Bank on Saturday admitted to have disbursed 84,000 loans without customer consent in May owing to a “technical glitch”.
Lending without consent was reported by the field staff in two days, and the glitch was also rectified expeditiously, the private sector lender said in a clarification.
On Friday, there was a media report about anonymous whistleblowers writing to the bank management and the RBI about BFIL, the microlending-focused subsidiary of the bank, allegedly resorting to evergreening of loans, wherein existing borrowers unable to pay dues were given new loans to present the books as clean.
“The bank strongly denies the allegations of ‘evergreening’. All the loans originated and managed by BFIL, including during the COVID period which saw the first and second waves ravaging the countryside, are fully compliant with the regulatory guidelines,” an official statement said.
“Due to a technical glitch in May 2021, nearly 84,000 loans were disbursed without the customer consent getting recorded at the time of loan disbursement,” it added.
“Operational issues” due to the pandemic’s second wave like lockdowns, containment zones, and restrictions at the village/panchayat level had necessitated disbursement of some loans in cash, it said.
At the end of September, 26,073 of these 84,000 clients were active with the loan outstanding at ₹34 crore, which is 0.12 per cent of the September-end portfolio, the bank said, adding that it carries necessary provisions against the loans.
It also said that the Standard Operating Procedure has since been revised to make biometric authorization compulsory, and that in October 2021, nearly 100 per cent of the loan disbursements were in the bank accounts of the customers, as in pre-COVID time.
During the pandemic, customers faced operational difficulties and some have turned to intermittent payers, though a large part of them demonstrated a strong intent to repay on many occasions, the bank statement said.
The bank added that help was rendered to such clients, including through additional liquidity support to the extent of 20 per cent of the outstanding as on February 29, 2020 as applicable under the ECLGS (Emergency credit line guarantee Scheme), restructuring, and additional loan with a longer tenor and lower EWI (equated weekly instalments) for customers, after they cleared of their arrears and with their due consent.
It can be noted that nearly all the lenders have reported reverses on the microloans front since the beginning of the pandemic. The activity is concentrated in rural areas, where field agents of a lender go deep to disburse loans and also collect dues in cash on a weekly basis.
With the easing of the lockdown measures, all lenders are reporting an improvement in collections and also disbursements.
Indusind Bank management had reported an increase in stress in the microfinance loans portfolio, with the gross non-performing assets ratio moving up to 3.01 per cent as of September, up from 1.69 per cent in June.
The fresh slippages in the book had stood at ₹1,070 crore in the September quarter, while the net after-recoveries and upgrades stood at ₹460 crore.
As per the media report on Friday, communication from the whistleblowers to the bank’s chief executive Sumant Kathpalia, independent directors and RBI officials had happened between October 17 and October 24. Additionally, there was also an “outsider” who had written to RBI on October 14, it said.
The report had highlighted that a month prior to the October 14 complaint, BFIL’s non-executive chairman M R Rao had stepped down and also flagged RBI’s concerns on the loans given without customer consent in his resignation letter, calling it a deliberate act to shore up repayment rates.
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