With about Rs 4 lakh crore coming into the banking system within a week after demonetisation, Moody’s Investors Service on Wednesday cautioned that banks’ deposit base will witness a “sharp decline” as and when the current restriction on cash withdrawals eases. In a major assault on black money, counterfeit notes and terror financing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on November 8 announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and asked holders of such bills to deposit them in banks. Moody’s said the trend of significant inflows will continue for the next 3-4 weeks.
“But, as cash availability increases and the current restrictions on cash withdrawals are lifted, sharp declines in the deposit base will occur in the near future,” Moody’s said. Once this volatility subsides and stability is achieved, possibly around three months from now, we estimate that bank deposits will increase by around 1-2 per cent compared to what they would have been before the demonetisation scheme, it added.
In order to ensure sufficient cash availability in the system, people have been allowed to withdraw only Rs 24,000 in a week through cheque. Besides, the daily withdrawal limit from the recalibrated ATMs stands at Rs 2,500. Moody’s said the expectation of a relatively low level of increase is based on the assumption that the role of cash – as a medium of transaction – will not change materially in the near term in India’s economy.
“However, as the cash intensity of the economy reduces over the medium term, driven by a combination of the informal economy coming into the ambit of the formal one and a higher proportion of cashless payments, bank deposit levels may benefit in a more meaningful fashion,” Moody’s said.
According to official estimates, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes account for around 86 per cent of the existing currency in circulation and around 9.5 per cent of GDP. Of the Rs 14 lakh crore of high-denomination notes, an estimated Rs 4 lakh crore has come into the banking system since November 8.
The withdrawal of these high-value notes may provide a strong impetus to greater use of the formal financial system — the banking system — for the intermediation of commercial transactions, especially in the retail segment, Moody’s said.
The government move has meant that a large proportion of the population will have to access banking channels at least once, so as to convert their existing holdings into the new legal tender.
Moody’s said studies have shown that first-time users tend to keep using the banking system once they initiate the process. Therefore, we expect a material proportion of the first-time/very infrequent users to become more sticky customers of the banks.
“This development should also benefit the banking system in the form of a higher level of low-cost deposit,” it said. Moody’s said retail payments systems will be a clear beneficiary of the demonetisation move as people may see these channels being much more convenient compared to the hassle they may experience in transitioning to the new denomination notes.
There has been a sustained significant growth in cashless payment transactions in India over the last few years.
In addition, on the supply side, both banks and new generation players such as e-wallet providers have been very focused on developing this segment. Thus, in an already favourable ecosystem for retail payment systems, this development may act as a further stimulus, Moody’s said.
The micro-finance segments would be impacted significantly during the transition from the old notes to the new ones as transactions in this segment are predominantly cash based, it said.
However, once the transition is complete, asset quality may stabilise. The broader asset quality of the banking system would be impacted if economic conditions remain affected beyond the transition period, Moody’s added.