NEW DELHI, 15 November 2018 – India’s Finance Minister inaugurated the two-day 25th World Congress of Savings and Retail Banks held in Delhi. Shri Arun Jaitley, Honourable Union Finance Minister, Government of India, gave a keynote address to an audience of WSBI member savings and retail banks, banking policymakers and banking industry experts who are exploring the challenges faced by savings and retail banks around the world and how those institutions can better serve communities in a globalised world.
Held at the Taj Palace Hotel in the Indian capital, the audience during the opening session also heard from State Bank of India Chairman Shri Rajnish Kumar, NABARD Chairman Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, along with Shri Rajiv Kumar, Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
Under the theme “Sustainable Retail Banking – Making globalization inclusive for all”, the event features speakers and panellists who come from WSBI’s membership as well as experts from throughout the banking world who will offer attendees their insight during high-impact panel discussions. Under that theme, outgoing WSBI President Heinrich Haasis provided a summary of achievements made during his six-year association presidency, including inroads made toward a WSBI pledge to provide “an account for everybody”, which was outlined in a 2012 WSBI declaration in Marrakesh. Haasis said: “Since our World Bank Universal Financial Access 2020 commitment made in 2015, WSBI members have added 340 million accounts for 234 million people into the formal financial system thanks to their efforts.”
WSBI President Isidro Fainé, gave an acceptance speech as incoming WSBI president. He was followed by fellow Spaniard Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and NATO Secretary General.
Opening day sessions followed, tackling three areas via panel discussions. The first, titled “Globalisation: the promise of a golden dawn or dystopia in the making?”, examined how WSBI members, as financial institutions that are focused on their local community, could bring the benefits of globalisation to the local level by acting as an interface that connects these communities to global perspectives and global growth opportunities. The second session, “Two worlds no longer apart – rural and local development for growth in harmony”, looked at how savings and retail banks take the best globalisation and digitisation to ensure their profitability while at the same time creating benefits for people and the planet. The third session focused on the theme “Digitisation as a tool for financial inclusion and customer proximity.”
Outgoing President Heinrich Haasis, who will now serve as WSBI Honourary President concluded: “Policymakers acknowledge that WSBI member savings banks nourish the SMEs that often times export their products abroad. Members also help households at local level too through savings and loans. The savings and retail banking model helps make globalisation inclusive for all.”
Chairman, NABARD observed that the financial inclusion model adopted by India has contributed to inclusive growth and laying down a huge digital infrastructure which can be used by the State for providing various benefits to the poorer population. NABARD has also enabled outreach to more than 100 million rural women through partnerships with over 60,000 bank branches and over 5,000 civil society organisations. Savings plays a very critical role in all the financial inclusion approaches promoted by NABARD. NABARD is also in the process of digitisation of Self Help Groups, which contributes to intensification of credit, convergence of various government benefit schemes and providing better business opportunities for banks with over 100 million members of SHGs.
From a situation in 2011 where in 41% of the households did not have access to banks, India has come a long way thanks to the Prime Ministers Jan Dhan Yojana that enabled 329 million accounts for the erstwhile unbanked population. The Financial Inclusion approaches of India are unique to our situation and have been acknowledged by the Global FINDEX Report. The JAM trinity has enabled the laying out of a vast financial infrastructure in the form of a digital pipeline within a very short time. This has enabled providing social security to about 190 million families within a short span of 4 years.
The Finance Minister observed that the subject of digital financial inclusion is a topic of extreme importance to a country like India where we have adopted a higher growth rate to propel development. Within a short span of time, what started of as a financial inclusion experiment, we have been able to achieve remarkable results in banking the unbanked, securing the unsecured, funding the unfunded and covering the uncovered rural areas. Our achievements in financial inclusion have in a way influenced the aspirations of the low-income population. This has led to improving the rural sanitation, providing better quality of life to poorer population in the villages.