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Top priority is to keep NPAs under control, says new SBI chief

Mumbai, Oct 8, 2013 (PTI) 21:32 IST
Newly appointed SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya speaks during a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday. PTI Photo
Newly appointed State Bank of India Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya today said her "top priority" is to keep bad loans under check and underscored the need to use more IT-driven solutions to address stress in the system.

"There is no doubt in our mind that NPAs (Non-performing Assets) remain the top priority. It will remain a top priority...(as long as) we see the stress being around," she said at her maiden interaction with media as Chairperson here this evening.

Alluding to her immediate predecessor Pratip Chaudhuri's declaration of the bank fighting a war on NPAs, she said, "I think nobody can say the war is over. If anything, we are going to make the intensity much, much more serious.

"To that extent, we have to ensure that whatever is done, we do it better and also we use a lot of other weapons to control NPAs."

SBI's gross non-performing assets rose to 5.56 per cent, among the highest in the system in the June quarter.

The 57-year-old Bhattacharya, who was yesterday appointed the first woman head of the 207-year-old bank, said SBI will use a lot more of IT tools to bring NPA numbers down. She said the bank will soon be launching an IT platform in this regard.

Bhattacharya, however, said she does not possess any "magic wand" to solve the problem in the next quarter or two, stating the bank is a proxy to the turbulent economy and hence, the stress will continue. But she said there is no alarm rising on the NPA front as the economy has shown signs of improvement.

Citing the ongoing final audit for the September quarter and the 'silent period', she declined to give any projections.

Bhattacharya said the top Government lender has under- utilised the information technology architecture when it comes to dealing with NPAs, and it will leverage on the benefits of the same to get a grip over stressed assets. "We will be using IT much more. I think we have not leveraged it fully enough."

Focus will be devoted for NPA management and how to cut down the time taken for resolution of NPAs, she said. "Once the NPA issue is managed, we will see an improvement in all other ratios like return on assets and return on equity."

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