The solution of Universal Banking was having many factors to deal with which further categorized under Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT);
- Economies Of Scale: The main advantage of Universal Banking is that it results in greater economic efficiency in the form of lower cost, higher output and better products. Various Reserve Banks Committees and reports in favor of Universal Banking, is that it enables banks to exploit economies of scale and scope. It means a bank can reduce average costs and thereby improve spreads if it expands its scale of operations and diversifying activities.
- Profitable Diversions: By diversifying the activities, the bank can use its existing expertise in one type of financial service in providing other types. So, it entails less cost in performing all the functions by one entity instead of separate bodies.
- Resource Utilization: A bank possesses the information on the risk characteristics of the clients, which it can use to pursue other activities with the same client. A data collection about the market trends, risk and returns associated with portfolios of Mutual Funds, diversifiable and non diversifiable risk analysis, etc are useful for other clients and information seekers. Automatically, a bank will get the benefit of being involved in Research.
- Easy marketing on the foundation a of Brand name: A bank has an existing network of branches, which can act as shops for selling products like Insurance, Mutual Fund without much efforts on marketing, as the branch will act here as a parent company or source. In this way a bank can reach the remotest client without having to take recourse ton an agent.
- One stop shopping: The idea of ‘one stop shopping’ saves a lot of transaction costs and increases the speed of economic activities. It is beneficial for the bank as well as customers.
- Investor friendly activities: Another manifestation of Universal Banking is bank holding stakes in a firm. A bank’s equity holding in a borrower firm, acts as a signal for other investors on to the health of the firm, since the lending bank is in a better position to monitor the firm’s activities.
- Grey area of Universal Bank: The path of Universal Banking for DFIs is strewn with obstacles. The biggest one is overcoming the differences in regulatory requirements for a bank and DFI. Unlike banks, DFIs are not required to keep a portion of their deposits as cash reserves.
- No expertise in long term lending: In the case of traditional project finance an area where DFIs tread carefully, becoming a bank may not make a big difference. Project finance and Infrastructure Finance are generally long gestation projects and would require DFIs to borrow long term. Therefore, the transformation into a bank may not be of great assistance in lending long-term.
- NPA problem remained intact: The most serious problem of DFIs have had to encounter is bad loans or Non Performing Assets (NPA). For the DFIs and Universal Banking or installation of cutting-edge-technology in operations are unlikely to improve the situation concerning NPAs. Most of the NPAs came out of loans to commodity sectors, such as steel, chemicals, textiles, etc. the improper use of DFI funds by project promoters, a sharp change in operating environment and poor appraisals by DFIs combined to destroy the viability of some projects. So, instead of improving the situation Universal Banking may worsen the situation, due to the expansion in activities banks will fail to make thorough study of the actual need of the party concerned, the prospect of the business, in which it is engaged, its track record, the quality of the management, etc.
- Big Empires: Universal Banking is an outcome of the mergers and acquisitions in the banking sector. The Finance Ministry is also empathetic towards it. But there will be big empires which may put the economy in a problem. Universal Banks will be the largest banks, by their asset base, income level and profitability there is a danger of ‘Price Distortion’. It might take place by manipulating interests of the bank for the self interest motive instead of social interest. There is a threat to the overall quality of the products of the bank, because of the possibility of turning all the strengths of the Universal Banking into weaknesses. (e.g. the strength of economies of scale may turn into the degradation of qualities of bank products, due to over expansion.) If the banks are not prudent enough, deposit rates could shoot up and thus affect profits. To increase profits quickly banks may go in for riskier business, which could lead to a full in asset quality. Disintermediation and securitization could further affect the business of banks.
- To increase efficiency and productivity: Liberalization offers opportunities to banks. Now, the focus will be on profits rather than on the size of balance sheet. Fee based incomes will be more attractive than mobilizing deposits, which lead to lower cost funds. To face the increased competition, banks will need to improve their efficiency and productivity, which will lead to new products and better services.
- To get more exposure in the global market: In terms of total asset base and net worth the Indian banks have a very long road to travel when compared to top 10 banks in the world. (SBI is the only Indian bank to appear in the top 100 banks list of ‘Fortune 500’ based on sales, profits, assets and market value. It also ranks II in the list of Forbes 2000 among all Indian companies) as the asset base sans capital of most of the top 10 banks in the world are much more than the asset base and capital of the entire Indian banking sector. In order to enter at least the top 100 segment in the world, the Indian banks need to acquire a lot of mass in their volume of operations. Pure routine banking operations alone cannot take the Indian banks into the league of the Top 100 banks in the world. Here is the real need of universal banking, as the wide range of financial services in addition to the Commercial banking functions like Mutual Funds, Merchant banking, Factoring, Insurance, credit cards, retail, personal loans, etc. will help in enhancing overall profitability.
- To eradicate the ‘Financial Apartheid’: A recent study on the informal sector conducted by Scientific Research Association for Economics (SRA), a Chennai based association, has found out that, ‘Though having a large number of branch network in rural areas and urban areas, the lowest strata of the society is still out of the purview of banking services. Because the small businesses in the city, 34% of that goes to money lenders for funds. Another 6.5% goes to pawn brokers, etc. The respondents were businesses engaged in activities such as fruits and vegetables vendors, laundry services, provision stores, petty shops and tea stalls. 97% of them do not depend the banking system for funds. Not because they do not want credit from banking sources, but because banks do not want to lend these entrepreneurs. It is a situation of Financial Apartheid in the informal sector. It means with the help of retail and personal banking services Universal Banking can reach this stratum easily.