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BW Businessworld

The Best In Banking

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For the second year in a row, Businessworld Best Bank Awards set a new benchmark. The glittering award ceremony, held on 23 Decem-ber 2010 at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai, was attended by the who's who of the banking industry. The good turnout a day before Christmas eve proved the importance of the event to the industry. After all, this year was more about growth than survival.

D.D. Purkayastha, MD and CEO of ABP Group, started off the event by welcoming the chief guest, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and members of the banking community. Speaking on the occasion, the finance minister said, "The Best Banks survey based on parameters like growth, size, sustainability of operations and exposure to market risks that are time-tested and continue to be relevant in all situations."

The ballroom was packed with those who wanted to see the winners and hear the finance minister, who, in his speech, not only praised the winners for their hard work, dedication and entrepreneurship, but also cautioned them against "deterioration in quality of assets". He said it "would take away capital and banks will have to make sufficient coverage provision as well". He said bankers should "closely monitor their asset quality to prevent further slippages and strictly adhere to the exposure norms set by the RBI in the interest of financial stability".

The finance minister, however, did remind all present of the much-awaited additional banking licences that the Reserve Bank of India is considering for private sector players.

The FM pointed to the fact that in the first half of 2010-11, the Indian economy recorded an overall GDP growth of 8.9 per cent. He said that in the face of all this crisis, core capital (as measured by Tier I capital) in Indian banks, made up about 70 per cent of the total capital as of end-March 2010. In fact, Core CRAR ratio of scheduled commercial banks at end-March 2010 stood at 9.4 per cent and 10.1 per cent under Basel I and II frameworks, respectively, which is much higher than the Reserve Bank's stipulation of 6 per cent under the Basel II framework.

He concluded his speech by asking banks to increase focus on financial inclusion, a point he had stressed upon at the Businessworld Best Bank Awards last year as well.

The FM's speech was preceded by that of Businessworld's editor Prosenjit Datta, who took the audience through the process and parameters for the banking survey conducted by BW with PricewaterhouseCoopers. The 57 commercial banks were divided into three categories based on their size: large (above Rs 1,00,000 crore), mid-size (from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 1,00,000 crore) and small (less than Rs 30,000 crore). All banks were required to have at least five branches and the analysis was based on their performance from 2006-07 to 2009-10. As the editor pointed out, "The difference between the first and the second along several parameters was very slim."

He also thanked the jury, whose members added to the effectiveness of the shortlisting process using their years of experience in the field. The jury included Kalpana Morparia, CEO of JP Morgan India; B. Sambamurthy, director of Institute For Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) and former chairman and managing director of Corporation Bank; V.G. Raghavan, chief financial officer of the Essar Group; and Pravin Kadle, managing director of Tata Capital.

The awards were given away by Pranab Mukherjee and Aveek Sarkar, editor-in-chief of the ABP Group.

Karur Vysya and South Indian Bank shared the honours for the Best Small Bank Award, while Andhra Bank took home the Award for the Best Mid-size Bank. The highlight of the evening was, of course, the Best Large Bank Award, which went to HDFC Bank. Incidentally, HDFC Bank had won the most tech-friendly bank award last year, which it lost to ICICI Bank this year.

Some of last year's winners have clearly moved up in their ratings. Yes Bank, which won the award for the fastest-growing small bank last year had moved into the mid-size category this year. While Axis Bank retained its position from last year as the fastest-growing large bank, DBS won the award in the small bank category.

The State Bank of India won the award for the Most Socially Responsible Bank while its chairman O.P. Bhatt was chosen for the Banker of the Year Award, same as the previous year.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council and former governor of the Reserve Bank of India. While reading out the citation for the Award, Morparia said it was a "privilege" for her to do so. T.N.A. Iyer, former executive director of RBI, collected the award on behalf of Rangarajan.

The importance of the awards can be gauged by the presence of stalwarts from banking as well as from other corporate sectors. Hobnobbing and sharing views with others were dignitaries such as Harsh Goenka, chairman of RPG Group; M. Subramaniam, CEO of Barclays India; V.P. Kamath, CEO of Apollo Hospitals; Renu Chalan, MD of State Bank of Hyderabad; Vineet Rai, MD of Aavishkaar; Kaku Nakhate, country head for Bank of America; and Rashesh Shah, chairman, Edelweiss, among others.

The presenting sponsor for the event was MCX and the principal associate sponsor was Videocon Group. The associate sponsors were IFCI and Glenlivet. Bloomberg UTV was the television partner for the event.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 10-01-2011)