The State Bank of India, the country’s largest public sector bank, is “examining” the possibility of applying for a licence under the Reserve Bank of India’s pan-India Umbrella Entity for retail payments framework, the Economic Times reported. If SBI goes ahead and establishes such an entity, it would be competing with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). SBI is a shareholder in the NPCI, which is owned by a consortium of public and private sector banks.

The RBI had released the framework on August 18 to set up pan-India payment entities that could set up, manage and operate new payment systems in the retail space beyond ATMs, White Label PoS, Aadhaar-based payments and remittance services, and other such activities. Products that such entities develop are expected to be interoperable with the NPCI systems as much as possible, as per the framework. Given that NPCI has more than 100 million users and had more than 1.34 billion transactions over UPI in June 2020, any new entrant would need to be interoperable with NPCI systems to increase its reach.

Such a move is expected to “increase the reach and expanse of financial inclusion” as more products will be available via such a platform, an SBI spokesperson told ET. Under the framework, SBI could potentially set up this new entity via a combined ownership model wherein SBI, as promoter, would invite other state-owned banks to form a consortium, ET reported. Or it could partner with fintech companies so that the companies’ digital services could be offered via SBI’s channels, ET reported, citing a person in the know.

Rules to set up the new umbrella entity

To set up this new entity, as per the rules, SBI will have to:

  • Have at least 2 other promoters/promoter groups, and together they will have to show paid-up capital of at least ₹500 crore. Neither of the three parties can have more than 40% investment in the umbrella entity.
  • Demonstrate capital contribution of at least 10%, that is, ₹50 crore at the time of filing the application, as would its partners.
  • Ensure that its, or its partners’ shareholding does not dilute to below 25% after five years of the commencement of business of the umbrella entity.
  • Maintain a net worth of ₹300 crore of the umbrella entity at all times.

Any application to set up this umbrella entity has to be sent to the Chief General Manager, Department of Payment and Settlement Systems in the RBI, latest by February 26, 2021. An External Advisory Committee (EAC) will review the application and submit its recommendations to the RBI. The Board for Regulation and Supervision of Payment and Settlement Systems (BPSS) will be the final authority on issuing authorisation.