Financial Institutions

Role of IFSC in the Indian SPAC Dream

India, being one of the major consumers of international financial services, has been pushing the envelope on making itself the hub for such services. With this objective, the Government of India had operationalised India’s first (and currently the only) International Financial Services Centre (“IFSC”) at GIFT Multi Services Special Economic Zone (“SEZ”) in Gujarat in April 2015. In this regard and to further this objective, the International Financial Services Centres Authority Act was enacted in December 2019 to set up a unified regulator, viz the International Financial Services Centres Authority (“IFSCA”), which commenced operation in October 2020. The IFSCA has been vested with the roles and powers of four domestic regulators, namely the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (“IRDAI”), and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority. IFSCA has been set up to develop and regulate financial institutions, financial services, and financial products within the IFSCs in India.


Continue Reading Role of IFSC in the Indian SPAC Dream: An Overview – Part 1

FIG Paper 8

Introduction:

With the pandemic acting as a tailwind for the digital payments industry in India, the fintech industry represents a key opportunity for the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) for its financial inclusion push in the country. A key driver in this regard is the burgeoning prepaid payment instruments (“PPI”) industry. PPIs have been widely used in the country for many years, but have seen significant commercial changes in recent times to reach a wider consumer base, given the high market penetration of mobile internet in India.


Continue Reading FIG Paper (No. 8) – New Master Directions for PPI – A Fresh Look at Prepaid Payment Instruments!

FIG Paper (No. 7) - Cryptocurrency in India

Introduction:

In recent years, investments in cryptocurrencies have witnessed exponential growth, with growing recognition by established financial institutions across the globe and cryptocurrencies morphing from a digital payment method to an asset class for investment.
Continue Reading FIG Paper (No. 7) – Cryptocurrency in India!

RBI Payment Regulations - 2009 to 2021 - Bank nodals to PA PG licenses

Introduction:

In early March 2020, a regulatory moratorium imposed on a private bank in India froze the country’s digital payments ecosystem. Many payment aggregators (“PA”) and payment gateways (“PG”) had set up nodal accounts with this bank, including others, and it raised a question on whether the customer funds pooled in those accounts were bankruptcy ‘remote’. Within 10 days, the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) issued the payment aggregator and gateway guidelines (“PA/PG Guidelines”) on March 17, 2020, under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (“PSSA”), to regulate PAs and prescribe baseline technology standards for PAs and PGs.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 5 : Series -1) : RBI Payment Regulations – 2009 to 2021: Bank ‘nodals’ to PA/PG licenses! 

Indian Mutual Funds – New M&A Rules! Anu Tiwari (Partner), Ritu Sajnani (Senior Associate), Utkarsh Bhatnagar (Senior Associate) and Karthik Koragal (Associate) The Securities Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) carried out a regulatory revamp exercise of SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) and various circulars issued under it by way of a circular on mutual fund(s) (“MF”) issued on March 4, 2021 (“MF Circular”), effective from March 5, 2021, thereby streamlining a robust regime governing the reporting, compliance and disclosure requirements applicable to asset management company(ies) (“AMC”) and the trustee(s) of such AMCs. Reporting requirements strengthened Currently, the MF Circular requires an AMC to furnish the complete details of any indirect change in its control/ promoters of the sponsor(s) to SEBI and also notify details of a proposed change in control (whether direct or indirect) to the unitholders, by way of an email (in addition to publishing the same in newspapers. Similarly, in case of any proposed change to the fundamental attributes of a MF scheme, trustees are now mandated to obtain comments from SEBI, prior to effectuating such change. With an intent to ensure better compliance, SEBI has also expanded the scope of ‘key personnel’ of an AMC to include chief investment officer, chief risk officer, chief information security officer, chief operation officer, compliance officer, sales head, investor relation officer(s), etc. in addition to the erstwhile list of key personnel, which included the chief executive officer, fund manager(s), dealer(s) and head of other departments of the AMC. Hence, inter alia these new key personnel who are also now prohibited from carrying on self-dealing or front running activities, in addition to meeting the prescribed eligibility criteria. The revised reporting requirements extends SEBI’s regulatory prowess to monitor and bring more transparency in relation to the indirect change in control of the AMCs’ process. Relaxations and scrutiny go hand-in-hand In order to facilitate innovation in the MF space, SEBI has introduced certain relaxations like permitting employees of AMCs to participate in private placement of equity by any company, has allowed trustees to delegate its function(s) to declare/ fix a record date and decide the quantum of dividend, etc. to AMC officials. Further, trustees are now mandated to report to SEBI the MF securities dealt by them, only if a transaction exceeds INR 5 lakhs (vis-a-vis the previous threshold of INR 1 lakh). The regulator has also classified investment in non-convertible preference shares (“NCPSs”) as a ‘debt instrument’ and accordingly, limitation of a MF scheme to invest not more than 10% of its net asset value in debt instruments will also include NCPSs. The trustees now being required to obtain SEBI comments before effecting a ‘change in in the fundamental attributes of a MF scheme’ seems burden-some, as the regulator’s role, and oversight, already guarantees for the requisite checks and balances to govern the MF scheme, including for MF scheme transfers, through separate regulations and circulars in this behalf. Above is likely to add another layer to M&A deal-making, with already many layers involved, impacting deal costs and timelines, especially if a ‘new sponsor’ application may be involved, from a process, governance and unit holders’ standpoint. Albeit above ties into SEBI’s increasing focus on MF trustee’s accountability, which has hitherto been an overlooked area, given the nature and composition of MF trustee boards. Though, done with noble regulatory intent, one would have to see whether the above changes, including expansion of key personnel, further ‘spook’ trustee directors, especially independents - already an onerous position, with few upsides, especially after Calcutta High Court’s Order in the ITC / JPMorgan MF Trustees case, and SEBI’s approach qua Franklin Templeton trustees in 2020, expand the scope of potential SEBI show-cause ‘noticees’ from the current list of 7 (!), and shoot MF M&A in the knees, which was given a new lease of life recently via SEBI dropping the ‘3/ 5’ profitability criterion in Regulation 7, MF Regulations.

The Securities Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) carried out a regulatory revamp exercise of SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) and various circulars issued under it by way of a circular on mutual fund(s) (“MF”) issued on March 4, 2021 (“MF Circular”), effective from March 5, 2021, thereby streamlining a robust regime governing the reporting, compliance and disclosure requirements applicable to asset management company(ies) (“AMC”) and the trustee(s) of such AMCs.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No.4 : Series – 2): Indian Mutual Funds – New M&A Rules!

 Indian Mutual Funds – M&A Wave

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) recently approved amendments to the SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) at its December 16, 2020 board meeting, notified on February 4, 2021 through the MF Regulations by way of the SEBI (Mutual Funds) (Amendment) Regulations, 2021, with effect from March 5, 2021.

Currently, a Mutual Fund (“MF”) ‘sponsor’ is required to have a ‘sound track record’ i.e. having profits  in 3 out of the last 5 years, including the fifth year. Recognising the role of emerging tech/ fintech companies in the Indian financial services space and to facilitate MF innovation/ geographic penetration, SEBI relaxed the above profit criterion for sponsors. Going forward, MF sponsors who do not meet the above, would still be eligible to, either set up a new, or acquire an existing, MF asset management company (“AMC”) and trustee company, if it has a minimum net-worth of INR 1 billion as contribution towards the AMC’s net-worth, which is required to be maintained till the sponsor makes profits for 5 consecutive financial years.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 3: Series – 1) : Indian Mutual Funds – M&A Wave!

RBI’S REVISED REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR NBFCS

Introduction

In the backdrop of recent stress in the financial sector, especially in the speciality finance (i.e. NBFC) space, the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) has sought to address potential systemic risks by issuing a discussion paper on ‘Revised Regulatory Framework for NBFCs – A Scale-Based Approach’ (“Discussion Paper”) on January 22, 2021. The apex bank, through the Discussion Paper, has introduced a scale-based approach to the regulation of non-banking financial companies. Owing to their growing significance, linkages with the banking and capital markets sectors, and complexity in operations, the Discussion Paper proposes a four-tiered regulatory structure for NBFCs, based on proportionality of the NBFCs.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 2) : RBI’s Revised Regulatory Framework for NBFCs : Industry Implications

RBI Working Group on Digital Lending – Policy Suggestions

The Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”), through a press release issued on January 13, 2021, has set up a working group on digital lending (“WG”), to study all aspects of digital lending activities in the regulated financial sector as well as by unregulated players so that an appropriate regulatory approach can be put in place.

The move is well-timed, given the recent turmoil witnessed in the Indian digital lending space, and comes on the back of the RBI’s December 23, 2020, public caution against unauthorised digital lending platforms/ mobile Apps and its June 24, 2020, Circular, prescribing Fair Practices Code for banks and non-banking finance companies (“NBFCs”) while sourcing loans or recovering dues through digital lending platforms.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 1) : RBI Working Group on Digital Lending – Policy Suggestions