Pension regulator ticks off SBI for not pushing NPS

BS 25/7/09

The bank has managed to collect only 19 forms.

State Bank of India (SBI) might have a network of 11,000 branches, but ever since the launch of the new pension scheme (NPS) nearly three months ago, the country’s largest bank has managed to collect only 19 forms from prospective investors.

Peeved at the way public sector banks — which are points of presence (PoPs) for opening of NPS accounts and collection of contributions — were going about the new scheme, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has shot off a letter to SBI Chairman O P Bhatt, asking why the scheme was not being pushed.

While Bhatt is yet to respond, the missive, sent around 10 days ago, seems to have done the trick with the bank’s 26 designated branches accepting 17 forms since July 16. Though the latest data is not available, compared with other public sector banks (barring IDBI Bank), which have registered themselves as PoPs, SBI has fared better.

NO HARDSELLING

PoP

Branches

No of forms collected

ICICI Bank

49

164

Kotak Mahindra Bank

25

160

Cams

25

135

Axis Bank

51

106

UTI AMC

25

88

Reliance Capital

25

73

IL&FS Securities

35

61

South Indian Bank

55

34

IDBI Bank

52

14

Citibank

25

6

SBI

26

2

Total

843

CAMS as on 16/7/09 Source: PFRDA

“We did not accept too many application forms through SBI’s associate banks. But we certainly expected a better show from SBI, Citi and IDBI Bank. It is quite clear that these banks made no preparation to ensure that the scheme is successful,” said a PFRDA official. Here it may be mentioned that existing regulations bar PoPs from hawking or pushing any particular fund manager.

As per the multi-layered NPS structure, PoPs are at the start of the chain, responsible for opening accounts and collecting the subscription to the scheme. Though players such as SBI, ICICI, UTI and Reliance are acting as PoPs, they have separate subsidiaries to deal with fund management activities.

When approached to open an NPS account, bank executives often fail to explain the details of the scheme, or name the branches where an account can be opened. PoPs, on their part, blame this failure on PFRDA, saying the authority is not making available adequate information.

Also, in the absence of tax benefits, investment consultants have been advising individuals against investing in the NPS. That apart, a management fee of only 0.09 basis points is also working as a dampener for fund managers. The result is, fund managers are pushing mutual fund and insurance policies that offer retirement benefits as well as higher commission.

When contacted, PFRDA Chairman D Swarup refused to discuss the performance of the PoPs. He, however, said that the tax benefits offered in the Budget would encourage individuals to invest in the NPS.

In addition, an exemption from payment of dividend distribution tax (DDT) and securities transaction tax (STT) would lower the transaction cost for fund managers, Swarup said.

The Budget had also proposed to allow investment in the NPS to be included in the tax exemption available under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. Besides, tax benefits are proposed to be made available if a subscriber uses the entire maturity amount to purchase annuities.

NPS Version 2.0 by Dec

The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is planning to implement the second level of the New Pension Scheme (NPS) by December despite the first level attracting only 843 applications since its launch 45 days ago.

Unlike Tier-I, where subscribers have to stay invested till they are 60 to withdraw their money, Tier-II would allow daily withdrawals, said sources associated with its planning. The authority discussed the broad contours of the scheme, to be called NPS Savings Account, earlier this week.

Like Tier-I, NPS Savings Account will allow investors to choose their investment mix. The fund managers will remain the same — State Bank of India, UTI, ICICI Bank, IDFC, Reliance Capital and Kotak Mahindra. Withdrawals will be based on the daily net asset value. However, only those who have opted for Tier-I will be able to subscribe to the second level of the scheme.

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