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Savings Bank Interest finally deregulated

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Savings Bank Interest finally deregulated

Saving bank account interest rate deregulation has finally arrived. The first banks to lead the way with higher rates were the ones with nothing much to lose namely Yes Bank, IndusInd Bank and Kotak Bank. Low saving deposit balance meant that these banks have a greater scope as the gap between SA and term deposits remains a 400-450 bps gap.  The mammoths of the banking system have yet to budge. I understand the insistence that saving accounts are transaction related products. However, with standardization across transaction banking services and the small banks named above no less technologically savvy my guess is the argument won’t last too long.  So should we expect a rush at branches for account opening applications? Unfortunately the answer is NO. The reason being, large banks continue to enjoy huge network, yes it does matter even in the days of internet banking and cross linkages of ATMs, and not to mention transaction related tie ups and linkages. Savings account products are convenience related and with real interest rates negative on most retail deposits, it is hard to imagine savings accounts as the next investment vehicle. So will the large banks increase saving account rates? I believe that eventually they will, things have a way of balancing out, it’s just my hunch but they are holding off as long as they can.

There also seems a split in the nature of customers and between banks. One is the urban and rural divide. Rural customers sub Rs1 lakh deposits are a lot more loyal to banks. Can’t blame them really, a trip outside of the metros and Tier I cities will explain the presence PSU banks have built. PSU banks have thrived on this fact and dominate this category of rural and semi urban customers. The issue now comes to urban centers and metros. Here there is a mix of the sub Rs1 lac and higher depositor and PSU and Private Banks. This is where large banks cannot write off the rate increase by smaller technologically advanced new generation banks.  

A lot has been said on the subject over the past 2 weeks and a number of citations have been made of developed countries offering deregulated rates. However, there aren’t any free lunches. Deregulation has been introduced at a time when money supply is under pressure and banks may be pulling all strings to maintain a low cost deposit base. Hence we are experiencing a rising saving rate cycle. However, just like the pattern in developed countries this could reverse itself when money supply is easy. Also, banks could impose a levy on transaction services offered to saving account holders or pass higher cost of funds through higher base rate. From what we have seen over the past 2-3 quarters bankers are in no mood to absorb higher rates and if their second quarter margins are intact it only means that they have passed on the increase in cost of funds.

 

 

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Written by Fundamental Side

November 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

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