RBI aims at banking execs—can they hit the bullseye?


– The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulations on banking executive compensation are leading to unintended consequences.

– The RBI’s rules aim to prevent excessive risk-taking and strengthen corporate governance in the banking sector.

The RBI’s regulations on banking executive compensation have raised concerns about unintended consequences. The rules, enacted in 2019, require banks to link 50% of executive pay to performance and include clawback clauses to recover bonuses if decisions turn sour later. While these regulations aim to prevent excessive risk-taking and strengthen corporate governance, they may also lead to unintended consequences.

The article highlights the case of Madhivanan Balakrishnan, who resigned from IDFC First Bank after the RBI asked the bank to slash his pay by 30%. Similar instances occurred at Catholic Syrian Bank, IndusInd Bank, and HDFC Bank, where the RBI delayed approving the CEO’s performance pay. These incidents suggest that the RBI is increasingly interfering in the pay structure of senior bank executives.

The article explains that the root of the issue can be traced back to the 2008 global financial crisis, where compensation practices at large financial institutions were identified as a contributing factor. The excessive focus on short-term profits and generous bonus payments without adequate regard for long-term risks contributed to the crisis. To address this issue, global bank forums started issuing guidelines on best practices for CEO compensation.

In India, the RBI initiated a cleanup in the mid-2010s, revealing that Indian bankers had been prone to risky lending practices. In response, the RBI enacted its own rules in 2019 to monitor total remuneration paid to bankers and ensure that 50% of the pay is linked to performance. The inclusion of clawback clauses was meant to hold executives accountable for their decisions.

However, over-regulation in the banking industry could have unintended consequences. The article cites a case in Israel, where a law capping compensation in banks led to CEOs leaving for higher salaries and less regulation. In India, banking executives may feel that they are not being sufficiently compensated for the increased personal responsibility and risk involved in their positions.

The article concludes that it remains to be seen whether Madhivanan Balakrishnan’s resignation is a sign of a larger trend in the Indian banking industry. The RBI’s regulations are aimed at addressing issues of risk-taking and governance, but they may also result in valuable talent leaving the sector.