One of the most anticipated events of the year — the Business Standard BFSI Insight Summit 2023 — kicks off in Mumbai on Monday with India’s highest decision-makers brainstorming on the country’s future growth trajectory and maintaining financial stability amid global headwinds.
The summit starts with a fireside chat with K V Kamath, the veteran banker who pioneered credit-card and EMI (equated monthly instalment) culture among India’s aspirational youths two decades ago. He has worn many hats — from chief executive of ICICI Bank and chairman of Infosys to leading the Brics Bank. He is now chairperson of the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development. He is also chairman of textile-to-technology giant Reliance Industry’s Jio Financial Services, which promises to disrupt the financial sector like never before.
While Kamath starts the summit, it concludes with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das, the latest recipient of the prestigious Governor of the Year by Central Banking — a first since Raghuram Rajan was honoured with this in 2016.
Das’ comments in the summit will be closely watched by all the stakeholders on India’s economy and business. They will be dissected by the financial sector community in the coming days.
As India integrated with the global economy since economic liberalisation started in 1991, the country has not been insulated from worldwide shocks. The waves from developed countries hit the Indian shores at frequent intervals. The RBI under Das maintained a relative calm despite headwinds like high inflation resulting in higher interest rates in developed nations, particularly in the United States, where treasury yields hit a 16-year high.
The RBI has intervened to ensure order and curb volatility in financial markets through action and words.
And there are domestic challenges. The ultra-loose monetary policy during the Covid years, and a sharp uptick in economic activities since then, coupled with erratic weather conditions mainly due to El Nino, is keeping the central bank on its toes to fulfil its primary mandate, which is to keep inflation in control. The consumer price-index based inflation rate, which is the RBI’s main yardstick for policy making, is frequently shooting above the tolerance level of 6 per cent. Once bitten twice shy, Das is maintaining Arjuna’s eye on inflation after losing the battle against price rise in 2022. He is refusing to drop the guard against inflation despite a growing clamour for interest rate cuts.
And then there is the political hot potato called the exchange rate. After getting battered in 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the rupee demonstrated remarkable resilience this year. The Indian currency is one of the most stable ones in 2023 despite the hardening of the dollar index. The RBI, under Das, never shied away from using the umbrella during the rainy season — the $600 billion foreign exchange reserves.
While banking mostly hogs the limelight among financial-sector participants, insurance is promising to take rapid strides under the leadership of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India Chairman Debasish Panda, who has set the goal of insurance for all by 2047, when the country reaches the 100th year of Independence. It is somewhat unprecedented that a financial-sector regulator is pushing the industry for growth with the objective to increase insurance penetration, seen as the Jan Dhan moment for the sector.
The views of State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Dinesh Khara, who recently got an extension to continue in his job till August next year, on how to keep up the momentum at a time of healthy growth in banking will be interesting. SBI under Khara clocked net profits of Rs 50,000 crore in FY23 — a first for the banking sector.
A host of marketing gurus such as Ramdev Agarwal and Chris Wood, and Securities and Exchange Board of India Wholetime Member Ananth Narayan will be sharing their views in the two-day event.
There will be a panel discussion of mutual-fund chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief investment officers.
Top executives of public-sector, private-sector and foreign banks will be discussing issues ranging from growth to technology, and small finance bank CEOs will be sharing their views on the way ahead for such lenders. There will be a panel discussion of CEOs of non-banking financial companies, of payments system players, and on cyber security challenges.
CEOs of the two insurance sectors — life and general — will discuss the overhaul in the regulatory architecture and how they can fulfil the regulator’s vision of insurance for all by 2047.
The two-day summit promises to offer a vision of how the Indian economy is gearing up to navigate the global uncertainties and maintain pole position among large economies.