Bankers express concern over RBI governance paper, feel it could have adverse effects

MUMBAI: Bankers have written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seeking a review of its discussion paper on governance that aims to curtail the power of CEOs and calls for heads of risk, compliance and audit to report to the board, said people with knowledge of the matter. Private sector banks have expressed concerns about curbs on the tenure of CEOs. State-run lenders say the proposal wrongly seeks to empower non-executive board members, a move that could have adverse consequences as government nominees may not possess skills needed to run specialised bank functions.RBI open to dialogue: IBAThe Indian Banks' Association (IBA) made a representation to the RBI after deliberations among public sector, private sector and foreign lenders last month, CEO Sunil Mehta said. The central bank has taken cognisance of the group's suggestions and is open to dialogue, he said."All three set of banks have their issues with this paper," Mehta said. "Public sector banks have to contend with the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and now will have to deal with the extended role of independent directors. Private sector banks have to be prepared with the restriction of CEO tenures and equity infusion by promoters and foreign banks do not even have a board here. All these concerns have been shared."A key concern is mixing the roles of independent and executive directors, which could create complications in the future, he said."Independent directors are not full-time executives in the bank and many times they have no expertise in specialist functions like risk management or audit. Executives have an important role in the bank boards because they are a bridge between the management and boards. The proposed changes will create more problems," Mehta said.The paper has suggested restricting the tenure of promoter CEOs and whole-time directors to 10 years and professional CEOs to 15 years. It wants the heads of functions such as risk, compliance and audit to report directly to independent directors instead of CEOs as is the case currently.