Small Banks


Taking into account that small local banks can play an important role in the supply of credit to micro and small enterprises, agriculture and banking services in unbanked and under-banked regions in the country, the RBI has decided to allow new “small banks” in the private sector. While permitting small banks, however, the issues relating to their size, capital requirements, area of operations, exposure norms, regulatory prescriptions, corporate governance and resolution need to be suitably addressed in the light of experience gained. Accordingly, the following guidelines for licensing of small banks in the private sector have been formulated. The guidelines for continuous authorisation of universal banks will be issued separately.

Registration, licensing and regulations

The small bank shall be registered as a public limited company under the Companies Act, 2013. It will be licensed under Section 22 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and governed by the provisions of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act, 2005, other relevant Statutes and the Directives, Prudential Regulations and other Guidelines/Instructions issued by RBI and other regulators from time to time, including the regulations of SEBI regarding public issues and other guidelines applicable to listed banking companies.


The objectives of setting up of small banks will be for furthering financial inclusion by (i) provision of savings vehicles to underserved and unserved sections of the population, and (ii) supply of credit to small business units, small farmers, micro and small industries, and other unorganised sector entities, in their limited areas of operations, through high technology-low cost operations.

Scope of activities

The area of operations of the small bank will normally be restricted to contiguous districts in a homogenous cluster of States/Union Territories so that the bank has the “local feel” and culture. However, if considered necessary, the bank will be allowed to expand its area of operations beyond contiguous districts in one or more States with reasonable geographical proximity. Its branch expansion plan for the initial three years would need prior approval of RBI after which, based on experience, RBI may consider relaxing this condition.

In the initial five years, the small bank shall further the objectives for which it is set up. Therefore, the small bank shall primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to small farmers, small businesses, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities. It can also undertake other simple financial services activities with the prior approval of the RBI. It cannot set up subsidiaries to undertake non-banking financial services activities.

The other financial and non-financial services activities of the promoters, if any, should be kept distinctly ring-fenced and not comingled with the banking business. After the initial stabilisation period of five years, and after a review, RBI may liberalize the scope of activities of the small banks.

Capital requirement

The minimum paid up voting equity capital for small banks shall be Rs. 100 crore. Any additional voting equity capital to be brought in will depend on the business plan of the promoters. In view of the inherent risk of a small bank, it shall be required to maintain a minimum capital adequacy ratio of 15 per cent of its risk weighted assets (RWA) on a continuous basis, subject to any higher percentage as may be prescribed by RBI from time to time. However, as small banks are not expected to deal with sophisticated products, the capital adequacy ratio will be computed under simplified Basel I standards.

Friday, 11th Mar 2016, 11:09:59 AM

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