The first branch of Unity Small Finance Bank, the joint venture between Centrum Group and Bharatpe, will be operational from the city with growth capital of Rs 1,500 crore and a loan portfolio of Rs 1,300 crore, according to a senior official at one of the promoter groups.
On October 12, the Reserve Bank granted the final license to Unity Small Finance Bank, a consortium launched by Centrum Financial Services and Resilient Innovations, a branch of the Bharatpe digital lending platform, four months after giving it a tentative sign to establish a small financial bank, then bought out the scam-ridden Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC), which had been under the direct control of the RBI since mid-2019.
In June, the Reserve Bank gave the consortium approval in principle for the 12th small finance bank license on the condition that it take over PMC, the city-based cooperative lender under restrictions for more than two years after a huge over Rs 7,000 crore fraud.
The Centrum group owns 51% of Unity Small Finance Bank and the rest of the capital is held by Bharatpe, based in Gurugram.
“Our first branch is ready for official launch at any time at the Centrum Group Headquarters in Mumbai. We will lunch our services with an initial capital of Rs 1,500 crore and operations will begin with a loan book of Rs 1,300 crore. “Suhail Sameer, chief executive officer of Bharatpe, which is the full partner of the proposed Unity Finance bank, along with the Centrum group, told PTI.
The loan portfolio of Rs 1,300 crore will come from the existing lending activities of the Centrum group (MSMEs and microfinance companies) which will merge Centrum Capital with the proposed small finance bank. These two verticals have a loan book of Rs 1,300 crore.
After receiving the final license from the RBI last week, the plan over the next 12 months is to make the bank operational and start launching payments, loans as well as deposit products, he said. .
Asked about the launch date, he said they were working on an official launch shortly. This is expected to happen this calendar year itself, and the brand’s official opening will take place soon. “We will be primarily a digital bank, but we will certainly also have branches,” he added.
Commenting on senior management, Sameer said the JV already had former SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar on board as chairman of the board. Some of the senior executives will come from Centrum, and a few others have been hired from top banks, major small financial banks, as well as NBFCs.
Bharatpe was co-founded by Ashneer Grover and Shashvat Nakrani in 2018 to help small traders easily obtain finance. In 2018 it launched the first interoperable UPI QR code, the first MDR zero payment acceptance service and in 2020 it launched the only BharatSwipe MDR zero card acceptance terminals.
Currently serving over 70 lakh merchants in 140 cities, Bharatpe is a leader in UPI offline transactions, processing over 11 crore transactions per month with an annualized transaction value of over USD 10 billion.
The granting of a banking license to the USFB Unit paves the way for RBI to place in the public domain a proposed merger project of PMC Bank with the new SFB. The last step will be the government’s sanction for the regime. It is for the first time that two partners unite in equal parts to build a bank.
Jaspal Bindra, executive chairman of the Centrum group, had said on the day the RBI gave final approval that Unity SFB would be operational in the coming weeks.
While granting the green light in principle on June 18, the RBI said the approval was granted in accordance with Centrum’s February 1 offer expressing interest in taking over PMC Bank.
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