J&K Bank a peoples bank with huge emotional connect, has lot of potential & promise: MD Baldev Prakash

Srinagar, July 05 (KNS): Managing Director and CEO of Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited, Baldev Prakash has said that J&K Bank is a peoples bank with huge emotional connect and it has a lot of potential and promise to serve the people as a financial institution.

In an Exclusive interview with Kashmir News Service, Prakash talked about series of issues ranging from Bank’s growth over the past few years to serving the people with best of its services and to upgrading the Core Banking Solutions for safety and security of its customers.

Here are the Excerpts of that interview:

KNS: First of all tell us about yourself, your stint as MD & CEO Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

JKB MD: I am a banker by profession. I have been working for over 30 years in SBI and before joining J&K Bank, I was Chief General Manager, Digital and Transaction Banking Marketing, at

SBI, Mumbai.

Now coming to my stint at J&K Bank so far, let me tell you this is a financial institution with systemic significance for UTs of J&K and Ladakh. After spending almost six months at the helm, I see a lot of potential and promise in this Bank.

KNS: Since you have come from SBI - leader in public sector banking - how do you rate J&K Bank. And what are the challenges you foresee in the current system at J&K Bank?

JKB MD: I rate J&K Bank as one of the finest banks in the country in its peer-group. Let me tell you I have seen lot of opportunities in, what you term as current system, in J&K Bank.

And I feel happy to share with your audience that we have already started availing those opportunities to strengthen our business processes and deepen connect with all stakeholders especially our customers. 

Backed by an illustrious legacy of more than eight decades, profound emotional equity of the people of J&K and unflinching support of its stakeholders especially promoters’ i.e. UT Government (with 68.03% share-holding), I see the Bank poised to grow and on right trajectory to achieve our business objectives as well as other organizational goals.

KNS: In a recent report J&K bank has seen growth in its annual profit at Rs 501.56 Cr. How do you see these results, who would u like to give credit to?

JKB MD: Well, the growth story is that with such annual results we have strengthened and stabilized our balance sheet. The upshot was that our YoY and QoQ growth in business was consistent and provided us the requisite drive to grow and leap ahead with more strength and confidence.

The latest numbers also expressed our resolve to strengthen balance-sheet while making sustained profits, as we provided for our liabilities besides making voluntary provisioning for some non-financial obligations that were not mandated and could be met over a period of next five years as per the board approvals. This was done consciously to provide ourselves enough head-room to push ahead and deliver better returns to our investors at the end of FY 2022-23.

The credit goes to all the stakeholders especially the effective guidance of management and committed efforts of the staff.

KNS: J&K bank is called people's bank, but people were put to lot of trouble due to recent outages in banking system. What can you tell us about that?

JKB MD: Rightly said this is People’s bank with a huge emotional attachment of people and shall remain so always. Improvement in services is an ongoing process for us as a bank but the services were affected because we were in the process of upgrading our Core Banking Solution platform from Finacle 7 to Finacle 10, which has been completed now. The platform upgrade will certainly make our services better for our customers while making their transactions more secure. 

Having said that, with migration of platforms on a scale where we process service-requests in millions to serve our customers across the country every day, we expected temporary interruption in few of our services till the successful completion of migration and had accordingly informed our customers through print, electronic and social media.

And let me tell you, such interruptions during migration of platforms are not specific to us only; there have been such upgradations by other bigger banks in the country that have also witnessed periods of interruptions before the functioning stabilized. But here in J&K, since we are sort of a universal bank with huge public engagement and expectations, the temporarily interrupted services affected the largest chunk of people and showed up instantly. 

In this regard, I would again regret the inconvenience caused to our dearly respected customers during the transition and extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of them besides people at large for their support and patience. As always, we have passed this rough patch successfully, and hereafter, we shall continue to improve our services to further strengthen our bond based on mutual-trust and service-excellence.  

KNS: Where do you see J&K Bank in next 2-3 years and what are the future plans to achieve substantial growth to be at par with other private banks?

JKB MD: In 2-3 years, I see J&K Bank among the fastest growing banks in the country. Keeping growth as center-piece of our future plans, we have thoroughly reviewed the functioning of the institution. And let me tell you that growth has never been a challenge in our home turf i.e. J&K and Ladakh. Even during crisis situations, the Bank has been able to achieve double digit growth both on deposits and advances side.

However in Rest of India where the Bank had consciously de-prioritized corporate lending which had led to some de-growth, we are now focusing to improve the growth numbers as well by tapping into good rated small/medium corporates besides retail in select markets.

Capitalizing strongly on our growth numbers, the Business Plan 2022-23 is already in action and has been communicated to the business heads quite early to ensure a proper head start without losing any time.

So we are very much on the job.

KNS: Tell us about how you see bank's huge gross NPA & what are you doing to reduce it. How much amount has been recovered from defaulters so far?

JKB MD: I see NPA management as the prime focus area to ensure worthwhile recovery as it would be critical for unlocking of valuable capital. In this regard, we have already revamped the framework by assigning the role of Impaired Asset management to a dedicated Vertical Head.

We have also rolled out two special One Time Settlement schemes targeting the range of NPA accounts. The first one titled Special OTS – 2021 targeted accounts with outstanding amount of Rs. 15 Lakh to Rs. 5 Crore was launched in January-2022, while as ‘Special Karz Mukti Scheme – 2022’ launched recently covered the accounts with outstanding principal amount up to Rs. 15 Lakh. The response has been quite good in Special OTS -2021 and we are expecting to resolve substantial amount of NPAs under the current scheme also. 

In addition, we have redoubled our efforts to pursue recovery of NPAs vigorously by employing all available means. We are targeting to bring down the GNPA of the Bank to around 5% level by the end of this year. 

Regarding the amount of recovery, let me inform you that the Bank recovered Rs 1040.42 Crore during March Quarter of last FY 2021-22 and has recovered Rs 114.09 Crore during the first two months of current quarter.

KNS: There have been several raids in the bank recently, has this caused a dent to bank’s image? How do you personally see this?

JKB MD: Most of what you refer to is about probes that have been initiated since 2019 by the country’s investigating agencies both at local and national level, wherein the Bank continues to cooperate fully with them.

Since every society requires a robust system of checks and balances for smooth and judicious conduct of affairs, therefore I don’t think that our name coming up in such news items should do us any harm because the stated purpose of such probes is to strengthen transparency and accountability within the organisation while allowing law to take its own course.

And let me inform your readers that so far, nobody from the Bank has been implicated or convicted of the accusations leveled under various petitions reported by the investigating agencies.

KNS: Due to stress in income bank has stopped the contribution towards CSR, are there any plans to resume the same? 

JKB MD: I believe in honesty and am optimistic by temperament. Coinciding with the reformative business processes initiated within the Bank, some positive changes are happening in the overall business environment. The pandemic is ebbing, economic activity is gaining traction, the twin UTs are receiving a huge number of tourists and a good season seems to be in the offing – overall a promising start to the FY 2023.

Anticipating improvement in the operating environment, we envisage double digit growth in deposit and advances along with substantial recoveries of NPAs.

My focus during the first few months was on revamping the structure, the business model, growth strategies, and to firmly put in place a framework that can lead this institution towards truly realizing it’s potential by capitalizing on its unique attributes and core competencies. And the time to execute our plans has already begun with a great sense of anticipation and hope for accomplishment.

Our CSR activities are statutorily linked to the profit numbers of last three years. Going by those numbers, we have a very limited budget this year for CSR. While seeing a sharp increase in our CSR budget going forward, we are already chalking out a plan to employ the mandatory funds efficiently and judiciously for the long-term well-being of under-privileged and marginalized besides other eco-social programs.   

KNS: Recently, a bank manager of Elaqai Dehati Bank was killed in Kulgam. Has that impacted the working of J&K bank’s staff at vulnerable locations, if so, what is the management doing to give them a sense of security?

JKB MD: It was very unfortunate and as you know we have already expressed our shock and dismay on the killing of our fellow-banker and solidarity with the bereaved family. And I strongly feel that nothing of the sort should ever happen to anyone here.

However, regarding its impact, I would say that as premier organisation, we have taken stock of the situation and all the necessary measures have been put in place to ensure the security and well-being of all J&K Bank family members. (KNS)

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