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No beating about the bush.
The RBI needs to come out with comprehensive guidelines on KYC to ensure that customers are not harassed by banks. At the same time customers should also be made to get involved in the ongoing KYC process at banks
Know Your Customer (KYC) is a process to identify the veracity of a customer’s identity as well residence proof. This is an integral part of establishing business relationship with a customer for banks and financial institutions. Additionally, the KYC process helps prevent banks from being used, intentionally or unintentionally, by criminal elements for money laundering or terrorist financing activities. Last, but not the least, KYC procedures also enable banks to understand their customers and their financial dealings better which in turn help them manage their risks prudently.
Banks and financial institutions grapple with the issues related to the KYC compliance. Non-compliance of KYC is a major challenge faced by the banks in India. There are two aspects of KYC compliance that banks need to monitor. The first aspect that they need to check is whether the employees are following the KYC guidelines properly or not. The second, but no less important, is the co-operation of customers. Without help from customers, it is difficult for a bank to build a robust KYC process.
The role of the customer is important in the KYC process at two critical steps: first, when the account is opened; second, when the ongoing process of KYC once business relationship has been established. While the first step of KYC is easy to monitor, it is in the ongoing process of KYC that many banks face challenge.
The guidelines of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on KYC process states that banks should follow ‘risk-based’ approach of KYC process and classify customers into low, medium and high risk. The significance of classification lies in the fact that ongoing KYC process is driven by the classification. As per RBI guidelines, “Banks should introduce a system of periodical updation of customer identification data (including photograph/s) after the account is opened. The periodicity of such updation should not be less than once in five years in case of low risk category customers and not less than once in two years in case of high and medium risk categories. Such verification should be done irrespective of whether the account has been transferred from one branch to another and banks are required to also maintain records of transactions as prescribed”.
After master circular was issued on 1st July, the RBI carried out amendment in these guidelines for low and medium risk customers which were mentioned by central bank in the notification.
So considering the above guidelines, what should a bank do, say for a low risk customer who has failed to produce updated customer identification data? The Bank has two options. First, close the account, especially, if it has become dormant and has nominal balance. Second, the customer should be penalised for failing to submit KYC documents. A bank faces a challenge in intimating customers about the need to re-submit documents, after specified number of years, as many customers move from their initial residence and it also involves cost.
SBI’s recent initiative
State Bank of India (SBI) has started an initiative in this direction recently. It has come out with advertisement in the newspapers asking customers to comply with KYC requirements at the earliest and has provided a timeline up to 28th February for customers to comply with KYC guidelines. Customers who have not complied with KYC will attract a nominal charge of Rs112. There are restrictions also going to be placed on these accounts by the bank. Also a certain category of account is liable to get closed as well.
Is this a right move by the bank? Does this need to be made a permanent feature of KYC process and should it get complete regulatory backing? Should there be a provision for penalty and not just charges?
The answer is a firm yes.
In order to ensure better compliance process, the bank should penalise a nominal amount to customer if he, or she, fails to provide documents related to proof of residence and identity and other relevant documents wherever applicable. This will act as a deterrent for the customer who tends to take KYC compliance as the responsibility of the banks and not that of the customer. The regulator should come out with comprehensive guidelines on this to ensure that customers are not harassed; however the customers should be made to get involved in the ongoing KYC process.
(Vivek Sharma has worked for 17 years in the stock market, debt market and banking. He is a post graduate in Economics and MBA in Finance. He writes on personal finance and economics and is invited as an expert on personal finance shows.)