RBI aims to make rates responsive to policy changes; change may make loans cheaper for new borrowers.
Indian banks will soon have to price their loans based on rules announced by the central bank on Thursday (17 Dec 2015) in a move that is aimed at making lending rates more responsive to policy rate changes.
Starting 1 April 2016, lenders will calculate their lending rates based on the marginal cost of funds, or the rate offered on new deposits. The new rules will likely to make loans cheaper for new borrowers. For existing borrowers, it may take as much as a year for the benefits to be transmitted.
Banks currently set their lending rates based on the average cost of funds on deposits outstanding.
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan has repeatedly emphasized the need for banks to pass on interest rate cuts, saying less than half had been passed on to consumers this year.
While RBI has cut its benchmark rate by 125 basis points in 2015, lending rates have come down only by 60 basis points, RBI said in its December monetary policy review. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.
“While these guidelines will benefit new customers, existing customers will also have an option to shift to the new regime with some conditions,” Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman of the nation’s largest lender State Bank of India, said in an emailed statement. “Sufficient time has been given to banks to switch over to the new regime of marginal cost of funds-based lending rate.”
By allowing banks to move to the new system for fresh loans and giving them the option to stay with the base rate system for existing loans, lenders will be spared a one-time hit to profits, which some had feared.
The Indian banking sector has struggled through a number of rate-setting methods over the last few years and has moved from a benchmark prime lending rate (BPLR) system to a base rate (or minimum lending rate) system and now the marginal cost of funds-based lending rate (MCLR). This time around, the shift was once again driven by weak transmission of interest rate cuts.
According to the new rules, every bank will be required to calculate its marginal cost of funds across different tenors. To this, the banks will add other components including operating cost and a tenor premium. A tenor premium is the compensation for the risk associated with lending for a longer time.