below the line

| Updated on September 01, 2019 Published on September 01, 2019

Not a surprise

For many insiders in the banking industry, the mega bank mergers announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not come as a surprise. The consolidation exercise has been in the works for the last 7-8 months, under the aegis of the Department of Financial Services in the Finance Ministry. “It’s not that we had no idea about the conversations that were happening within the DFS about the possibility of arranged marriages, the only thing is that the names were revealed only on Friday”, quipped a chief executive of a public sector bank. Marriages may be made in heaven, but India’s bank marriages are made in the DFS and the North Block. However, bankers are not aware of the logic or the philosophy adopted in choosing candidates.

ADB remembers Jaitley

When visiting ADB President Takehiko Nakao met the press last week in the capital, he first expressed his deepest condolences to the sudden demise of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and then got on to brief the media about his visit. Nakao remembered his interactions with Jaitley when the latter was the Finance Minister.

Babul’s awkward moment

Nobody likes getting snubbed, particularly in full view of an audience. Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Babul Supriyo had one such experience just the other day. Supriyo was on the dais with senior colleague Prakash Javadekar for a curtain-raiser event of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. During the Q and A session, as he started supplementing an answer given by Javadekar, the latter intervened and told him there was no need to do so. While the reason is not known, it did surprise the over 100 mediapersons at the National Media Centre.

Cold-blooded murder

Pro-reform analysts and business observers may laud the bank mergers announcement. But bank unions — on expected lines one may think — are certainly not amused. The government may call it a merger, but the announcement in reality is a “cold-blooded murder”, said a top official of the All India Bank Employees’ Association. Reason: Six banks will disappear from the scene. Brace for union strikes and agitations. But note that the unions’ previous attempt to scuttle the BoB-Dena Bank-Vijaya Bank merger did not pass muster with the government and yielded little for agitating employees.

Karti’s pat for CBI

Ongoing action against former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti by the CBI and the ED seems like a long haul. In the special CBI court, when a scribe asked Karti, accused of being seriously involved in money laundering, if the CBI treats him better or the ED, “CBI officials are way more kind to me than ED guys,” he said. Karti has been summoned at least 20 times by the agencies and said that at times, they do not question him for hours. “I read a book or play chess to pass my time,” he said. “By now, I know all the CBI officials’ children’s names too,” he quipped.

Food for thought

The mega banks merger announcement from the Finance Minister is going to compel insurance regulator IRDAI to wear its thinking cap, as there is little clarity on how insurance ventures floated by the amalgamating and anchor banks play out post-merger. Sample this: PNB already has a life insurance venture, PNB MetLife, in which it is the largest shareholder with 30 per cent stake. Now if the Oriental Bank of Commerce — which is a JV partner in the Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance — merges with PNB, theconsolidated mega bank with holdings in two separate life insurance entities! Will the IRDAI allow this?

Anxious employees

Employees of the Oriental Bank of Commerce and the United Bank of India are an anxious lot. Many are wondering whether they will be transferred or compelled to settle for lower-ranked posts in the new amalgamated entity. They are also worried about being treated as second-grade citizens, with PNB officials getting the upper hand in top-notch postings. Many point to the treatment of New Bank of India employees after PNB acquired it. The new PNB-OBC-UBI behemoth will have nearly one lakh employees, much more than the 80,000 the Bank of Baroda has after gobbling up Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank. Post that mega three-way merger, it so happens that none of the new regional heads are from Dena Bank!

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on September 01, 2019
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