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Citibank Is Shutting Down Operations in India. What Will Happen to the Account Holders’ Money?

After binge eating & watching, binge switching of businesses from one owner to another seems to be the new normal. But who is accountable for the customers’ interests?

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Citibank Is Shutting Down Operations In India

Citi India has a long history. It was established in the year 1902 in Kolkata. It is one of the largest foreign direct investors in the financial services sector in India.

Citibank was the first bank to introduce facilities like the ATM, 24 hour customer service, SMS banking and internet banking; which was later incorporated by other banks to a larger extent.

But, what went wrong all of a sudden?

This long-term association with India doesn’t seem to be that fruitful for this banking giant.

It has decided to end all banking operations in India.

Why did it decide to do this?

What happens to the 20,000 employees working in Citibank India?

And what about the millions of funds of account holders in Citibank?

There has to be a solution.

Also read: This Startup Is Revolutionizing the Indian Gaming Industry

Citibank’s Poor Performance

Citibank started to expand in India in the early 2000s.

Just as its operations gathered momentum, the global economic slowdown of 2008 presented an indelible stigma on its brand name.

Citibank was declared insolvent in November 2008. Citigroup announced plans for about 52,000 new job cuts, on top of 23,000 cuts already made earlier in 2008, due to the heavy losses it had to face in all quarters of 2008.

Will this be another job cut, with 20,000 Indian employees being stranded for a regular source of income?

Let’s face facts- Citibank has failed to expand its banking business in India as compared to the other domestic players.

HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, SBI are a few competitors to Citibank as far as retail banking is concerned.

Citibank’s Poor Performance
Source

Citigroup’s businesses in India include wealth management, credit cards and mortgages besides the retail banking business, which it has decided to shut down. The bank is involved in selling financial services products like mutual funds, investment banking operations and trade solutions.

For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020, Citibank India reported a profit after tax of INR4,918 crores. This figure has been on the decline in the recent years.

The deposit size of the bank for 2019-20 was approximately  Rs.1.57 lakh crore.

This failure to ramp up the retail banking business has led Citibank to come to this conclusion.

Citibank Is Not The Only One

Many other foreign banking institutions have scaled down the working in India. Just like Citibank, Standard Chartered closed down a few of its equity businesses in India. It also decided to shut down its asset management company(AMC). The AMC was sold to IDFC for $205 million in 2013.

Deutsche bank sold its credit card business to IndusInd bank in 2011. This gave IndusInd bank access to 2 lakh credit card customers and the technology platform of Deutsche bank, along with 200 top-notch employees. IndusInd bank is doing well in India currently.

HSBC, too, has closed a few private banking facilities in India.

So, if so many foreign banking institutions are shutting down their businesses in India, there is definitely some thorn in the flesh.

Also, Citibank will look to do what the banks, prior to it have done. It will look to sell its retail banking business to some other company.

Citibank To Find A Buyer

Citibank has said it will find a buyer before it exits the Indian banking market.

Newly-appointed CEO of Citigroup, Jane Fraser, said the company will make sure no employee loses their job. She also ensured that the assets of the bank will be transferred safely and wholly to its buyer.

Newly-appointed CEO of Citigroup, Jane Fraser
Source: citigroup

Hence, the employees and the account holders can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment. Though ambiguity remains on who the buyer will be.

A smooth transition is expected, which will work in the favor of all.

This decision to find a buyer for the existing retail banking business is seen as a strategic move by Citibank to close down on the less-profitable business and scale up on the more profitable businesses.

Citigroup will be cash rich after this sell-off. It is targeting to explore the wealth management business hereafter.

The timeframe to find a buyer is not decided yet. This should send a positive sentiment amongst its employees; as their employer is not in a haste to bid a goodbye to them. This will also help the transition to be hassle-free.

Wealth Management And Institutional Businesses – Citigroup’s Next Target

CEO of Citigroup, Jane Fraser, said the company’s resources are “better deployed” against high returning opportunities in wealth management and institutional businesses in Asia. She added that Citigroup is looking to “double down on wealth” in the coming years.

It must be noted that India is not the only nation where Citibank is shutting down. It is doing the same in 12 other nations as well.

As stated by Citigroup CEO, Jane Fraser in a release- China, Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Korea, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Poland, and Taiwan are the other nations where it will shut down its retail banking set up.

Citigroup has said that it will look to improve its position in global consumer banking business in UAE, London, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Citigroup has said that it will look to improve its position in global consumer banking business
Joshua Lawrence on Unsplash

It can be understood that Citigroup is targeting the established corporate flourished cities of the world, rather than aiming to create value out of the tier-2 cities of the world.

On a lighter note, the bank has taken its name too seriously it seems.

The plan to shut down retail banking and focus on the cash rich asset management or wealth management industry is a well sought one.

Citigroup, hence, is banking on its wealth management business after shutting down the banking one.

Also read: 2021’s India Is Atmanirbhar: 10 Desi Unicorn Startups

The Indian Banking System

The Indian banking system consists of 12 public sector banks, 22 private sector banks, 44 foreign banks, 56 regional rural banks, 1,485 urban cooperative banks and 96,000 rural cooperative banks.

In such a cut-throat competition in a sector which is still evolving, one needs scalability along with trust to make a mark.

If we talk about trust, that is the favorite indicator for Indians to choose between any two things.

And when it comes to selecting a bank- your keeper of wealth, the parameter of trust elevates even further.

Citibank is a brand which was spoiled heavily during the 2008 economic fiasco. This recent decision to shut down a part of their business validates this fact, along with the many other problems it has faced.

The Modi government’s drive to open bank accounts for every citizen of India has seen immense account openings in the last 5 years. The demonetization of 2016 added value to the process of opening a bank account.

The demonetization of 2016
Source: INDIA TODAY

Every remote citizen of India wanted to own a bank account.

A few wanted to do it so that they don’t miss out on the Rs.15 lakh which Modi promised during his election campaign; and most of them for their personal needs.

Citibank would have been the last choice for most of them as it is less penetrated in the tier-2 cities of India.

People have a liking towards banks like SBI, Bank of Baroda, PNB and regional cooperative banks. HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank have a decent penetration too which has improved the quarterly results for them.

The Indian banking market was too tough to crack for the likes of the banking giants of the world like Citigroup– one can conclude.

The public sector banks must give a pat on the backs of the ‘tough Indians’ for this. 

Next retail banking entrant in India- Come prepared!

Also read: Will the US Fed Finally Stop Printing Currency?

Finance

Rbi Bans American Express and Diners Club From May 1, 2021

RBI swipes away Amex from India

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RBI Bans American Express

Everybody loves to flaunt the upgraded status of their credit cards at airport lounges and restaurants.

But, what if you think of doing so the next time and have to cut a sorry figure, as you come to know that your country’s central bank has banned these cards.

Yep! If you own an American Express or a Diners Club card, you need to know that RBI has passed a notice on banning American Express and Diners Club from May 1, 2021.

But, why has RBI been so severe on these multinational financial services providers? What is next in store for you if you use these cards? Can you use it hereafter?

What happens to all the privileges you gained on your Amex and Diners Club card all these years? Is your privacy at stake?

Let us find out all these answers, one by one.

The Ban

Amex and Dinner Club ban

RBI has banned Amex and Diners Club from acquiring new customers from May 1, 2021.

This ban has been imposed by an order issued by the RBI on April 23, 2021.

Reason For The Ban

According to RBI, Amex and Diners Club have violated data storage norms.

“These entities have been found non-compliant with the directions on Storage of Payment System Data,” the RBI said.

Both these card service providers are authorized payment network operators as per the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (PSS Act).

RBI has taken this decision as per the powers vested in RBI by the PSS Act.

But this is not a sudden outburst by RBI. Both the card service providers were warned about the same in April 2018 itself.

In April 2018, RBI directed all the payments service providers in India to store all the data (full end-to-end transaction details, information collected, carried, and processed as part of the payment instruction) in Indian online data storage facilities. RBI allotted 6 months to put this order into effect.

It also required the payment card companies to report compliance to RBI and submit a board-approved System Audit Report (SAR).

But American Express and Diners Club failed to submit the compliance report, and hence the ban.

It is shocking to know that American Express, a leading payments card company, paid less heed to the central bank’s instructions!

This was very unlikely to happen. What was American Express doing all these 2 years since April, 2018?

When Will The Ban Be Lifted?

The ban has been imposed will full certainty by the RBI.

Will RBI, India ban use of Cryptocurrency

But, Amex and Diners Club can make some early moves to convince RBI about their future intentions. If they act responsibly and take the path as guided by the RBI over secure storage of data locally, they present themselves a better opportunity.

The employees of Amex and Diners Club will feel stranded at the moment. The marketing teams working for onboarding new customers to their companies will be left with no work from May 1 onwards. This will be an add-on worry for the employees during the ongoing pandemic.

Hence, RBI can reconsider the ban in the future, if Amex and Diners Club adhere to its norms.

The Existing Customers

The ban does not speak anything about the existing customers of American Express and Diners Club.

Hence, all the card owners will be able to transact normally- they can use, upgrade and enjoy privileges as before.

To redeem its brand value, and more importantly, to redeem its customers, Amex can offer a few giveaways in the form of offers and discounts. The ongoing pandemic in India will restrict the users from availing these benefits, though.

But now that both these card companies are on the radar of RBI, the cardholders better hope their card issuers remain in the ‘good books’ of the regulators.

Other Similar Bans

This is not the first time that a card company or a financial services provider is banned by the RBI.

HDFC Bank faced such a ban in December, 2020.

Yes, the so-called leading bank of India faced a similar ban. It was barred from launching any new digital services and issuing new credit cards.

This ban came as a result of the frequent outages on the mobile banking and net banking systems of HDFC Bank for a period of 2 years.

Even after 6 months of imposing the ban, there are no signs of the ban being lifted.

HDFC Bank is partners with Diners Club for the sale of credit cards and specialized payments systems.

Diners Club did not learn the lesson from HDFC Bank it seems.

Both HDFC Bank and Diners Club under the radar of RBI at almost the same time- this shows the ‘taken for granted’ attitude of the financial services sector towards RBI.

Do you know, Diners Club International, founded in 1950, is the first independent card company in the world to issue credit cards to its customers. But , RBI has put swords on the oldest credit card company in the world.

Options For Customers

After this ban, the customers are left with options like- SBI Card, Axis Bank Cards, Icici Bank Cards, to name a few.

SBI Card will be the biggest beneficiary of this move. The ‘sarkari’ tag associated with SBI has done wonders to its retail banking business. The same is expected with SBI Card as its penetration strengthens in the tier-2 cities of India.

Foreign Companies – Go Away

Citibank has shut down its retail banking business in India. It will leave India soon.

Citibank Is Shutting Down Operations In India
Source

Many other international leading brands from the financial sector- like Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank have fled India, too.

And now that American Express and Diners Club are feeling the heat, it is to be understood where things are heading.

Non-compliance of the norms set by RBI within the stipulated time cannot be just a brain-fade from Amex and Diners Club. There can be more to it.

Is it that these companies did not want to store their data locally in India and were waiting for RBI to call the shots?

Whatever it is; well-done RBI!

We shouldn’t let anyone misuse our country’s data, should we?

If we can swipe, we can swipe them away too!

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Finance

Tax Benefits of Investing in Real Estate

If you feel equity is overvalued currently, real estate can be a better option.

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Tax Benefits Of Investing In Real Estate

Real estate and gold are the favorite asset classes of Indians for investments. Equity comes last on the list.

Investing in real estate comes with a few tax benefits.

But, the benefits have got so many ifs and buts that it is confusing for a regular taxpayer to comprehend for his use case.

Do you know that selling a house before and after 24 months of purchase attracts a different tax rate?

Do you know that a house constructed, and a house purchased, both come under different purviews of the income tax? Or does it not come under income tax at all?

Then where does it find its place in the tax regime?

Well, like all the topics here on TBM, let’s disintegrate this topic as well for better and easy understanding.

Let’s take it one by one.

So, here we go!

Real Estate- A Capital Asset

Real estate is a capital asset. But not all real estate is a capital asset.

Rural agricultural land is not considered a capital asset. This is because the income generated from the sale of rural agricultural land is exempt from taxation.

Section 10(1) of the income tax rules says that any income which is earned by agricultural sources is exempt from income tax.

But, all other forms of real estate like- residential property, commercial property, plots come under the taxation regime.

In fact, urban agricultural land also comes under the purview of taxation.

Capital Gains

The gain on every asset considered as a capital asset is called capital gain.

Capital Gains

So, if you buy a house for Rs. 25 lakhs and sell it for Rs. 50 lakhs, your capital gain is 50-25= Rs. 25 lakhs.

So the capital gain is nothing more than ‘apna fayda’ in any transaction of buy and sell. It is just that these terms are packaged heavily.

Now, capital gains are classified into two categories:

  • Short-term capital gain (STCG)
  • Long-term capital gain (LTCG)

The difference between the two can be gauged by their literal understanding.

Here is the detailed difference between the two:

Time

STCG is applicable when the difference between buying and selling of the residential property is less than 24 months. LTCG is applicable when the same is more than 24 months.

Tax rate

STCG is taxed as per the income tax slab of the individual. The income tax slabs are as under for the current financial year:

Tax Benefit Is Not A Discount

LTCG is taxed at a flat rate of 20%. There are many exemptions in LTCG taxation and are discussed below.

Indexation benefit

Indexation benefit takes into account inflation.

So it’s like- why should you pay more tax if you sold your house at a higher selling price, just because there was a boom in the real estate prices due to heavy inflation? Is it your fault?

Hence, the indexation benefit has been introduced to remove this drawback.

Indexation is considered in LTCG, but is not considered while processing the taxes for STCG. This is fair enough as inflation has a minimum effect in 24 months.

Exemptions

 There are no exemptions in STCG. A few exemptions can be availed in LTCG.

Let us talk about these exceptions in LTCG, which make real estate investments beneficial.

Benefits Under Section 54

Eligible Assets

This section has provisions for reducing your LTCG tax on the sale of residential house property only. The residential house can be a purchased one or a self-constructed one.

But, plots and commercial properties don’t come under its purview.

Beneficiary

Who can claim this benefit?

Only individuals and HUF can claim this benefit under Section 54.

Time Limit

To claim the benefits under this section, the residential property should be held for a minimum of 24 months.

So, you cannot buy a house every month, and keep on claiming benefits by selling them every single month.

Because if you do that, you will come under the purview of STCG, which anyhow has got no exemption benefit.

But what is the benefit?

Benefit

The benefit is that you don’t have to pay the LTCG tax at a flat rate of 20% (as mentioned above) on the profits earned by selling a house.

How?

You have to buy another house with the amount you earned from the earlier property sale. You can also construct a new house, if not buy an already constructed one. But, you cannot buy a plot to claim this benefit.

Also, it is mandatory to buy a new property within 2 years of the sale of the original property. A property bought 1 year before the sale of the original property will also serve the purpose. If the taxpayer prefers constructing a house over buying one, the time limit is extended to 3 years.

Let’s take an example.

If you sell a house for Rs. 50 lakhs, which you had bought earlier at Rs. 25 lakhs; then your capital gain is Rs. 25 lakhs. You will have to buy another property or a maximum of two properties worth Rs. 25 lakhs; so that you don’t pay the LTCG tax of 20% on this Rs. 25 lakhs.

This is a saving of Rs. 5 lakhs.

Now, it is not necessary to buy another property worth Rs. 25 lakhs only. You can buy another property worth Rs. 50 lakhs as well; but only Rs. 25 lakhs can be claimed for tax exemption.

Maximum LTCG Capping

This benefit is not for the real estate tycoons; as it should be.

The maximum LTCG which can be exempted using Section 54 is Rs. 2 crores.

Also, it is not for real estate brokers and traders.

This is because you can avail of this benefit just once in your lifetime.

“Why not buy a new house and enjoy this taxation benefit, and then sell the new house immediately after and relax with cash in hand”? – A naive taxpayer can question their Chartered Accountant.

This, too, is not possible, as if the new property used for claiming the benefit is sold within 3 years of purchase, the exemption will be reversed. The individual will then be liable to pay the LTCG tax in the next assessment year.

The taxation guys are smart, it seems. No room for mischief!

To add to the strict norms, it is mandatory to park the LTCG in dedicated capital gain account schemes of banks. It cannot be kept in savings accounts.

Also read: Private Company vs Public Company

Other Sections

This was an elaborate explanation of Section 54, which provides tax benefits to real estate investors.

But there are various other sections that are targeted towards the taxation benefits of the real estate investors.

Here is a brief explanation of the other sections, as the nature of the benefits remains more or less the same, as in section 54.

Section 54EC

Eligible Assets

All capital assets- including house property, plots, and commercial property, come under the purview of Section 54EC.

Beneficiary

All taxpayers can take benefit under this section, unlike Section 54.

Benefit

To claim an LTCG benefit under Section 54EC, the real estate property should be held for a minimum of 3 years.

After the sale of this property, the LTCG should be invested in specified bonds with a lock-in period of 5 years. This investment should be done within 6 months of the sale of the property.

The investment can be done in National Highways Authority Of India (NHAI) bonds or Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) bonds.

So, as per the example mentioned above, Rs. 25 lakhs need to be invested in these bonds to exempt them from LTCG taxation.

A maximum of Rs. 50 lakhs of LTCG can be claimed under this section.

Unlike Section 54, no dedicated bank account is needed here.

The returns on these bonds are very low, which are around 5-6%. These returns are taxable as per the income tax slabs. Hence, Section 54 stands out in front of Section 54EC.

Section 54F

Eligible Assets

Commercial properties, plots, and all other capital assets except house property come under the purview of Section 54F.

Benefit

The major difference between Section 54F and Section 54 is- The ‘entire sale value’ of the original real estate property should be invested for the purchase of a new ‘residential property only’.

Hence, as per our example, the entire Rs. 50 lakhs have to be invested to buy a new property.

If only Rs. 25 lakhs is invested, you get 50% benefit, i.e. benefit on 50% of the LTCG (Rs. 12.5 lakhs).

Real Estate And Unrealistic Expectations

Investments in real estate are not always fruitful. It depends on the bull and bear cycles of real estate, each of which lasts for 10 years, historically.

Grabbing all the available loans to buy real estate disturbs the equations even further.

Real estate investors need to make informed decisions, which is rarely seen amongst a generalized pool of investors.

Not many know the exact tax benefits as well for their use-cases.

Tax Benefit Is Not A Discount

A tax benefit is sometimes seen as a discount.

A tax benefit is not a discount number on the price tag of a piece of land or a flat.

Tax Benefit Is Not A Discount

You can see it as a cashback offer- the closest you can relate to in this domain.

A middle-class person has to spend the savings of his lifetime, along with additional loans to buy real estate.

The tax benefit shouldn’t be the only decisive factor behind buying it.

You shouldn’t forget to claim your tax benefit too.

There is much more you can do to save tax on real estate apart from the above-discussed points.

Keep following TBM for more on this in the future. You can always reach out to your CA, if in a hurry.

That is the best way, as you don’t have to tax your mind.

It’s April. If you have paid the tax, just relax!

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Finance

CIF Number – The Only ‘Aadhar’ Of Your Bank Account

The ‘know how’ and ‘DIYs’ of the CIF number

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CIF Number - The Only ‘Aadhar’ Of Your Bank Account

If you have a bank account, you might have come across the term CIF number; at least once in your lifetime, surely.

If you don’t know what the CIF number is, then you are at the right place.

We’ve got you covered.

Let us dive deep into what a CIF number is and how it is important for the prompt working of the banking system.

What Is The CIF Number?

What Is The CIF Number

CIF stands for ‘Customer Information File’. As the name suggests, the file has a number which is known as the CIF number.

The format of the number varies with the banks i.e. different banks follow different formats for this number.

For example:

  • SBI: 11-digit
  • Central Bank of India:10-digit
  • AXIS Bank: 4-digit
  • HDFC: 8-digit

This number is highly essential for mobile banking or internet banking as this number works as the user ID. The user ID can be changed later on, but the CIF number is the digital virtual identity to every username changed in the future as well.

This customer information file carries all the banking information of the account holder in a digital form. So yes, your banker has all your banking information, that too, in detail.

So, does it imply- “Do not share your CIF number with anybody”?

Well not at all. It is not like a secret ATM pin. It is mentioned in every document related to your banking identity.

It contains information about the owner of the account, ongoing as well as previous loans, demat services, account type, account balance, and transaction information.

All the accounts you have with the bank can be linked to one single CIF number. This is useful in growing your Total Relationship Value (TRV) or Customer Relationship Value (CRV).

It is used by banks to determine how much minimum balance you can maintain, or how much credit can be given to you.

Just like the Aadhar card number gives you a unique identity, a CIF number gives you a unique banking code for all your banking needs.

This code cannot be changed as it is specially coded with all your information.

Also read: Private Company vs Public Company

Where Can You Find Your CIF Number?

There are various ways of finding your CIF number. Both offline and online.

It doesn’t matter in which bank you have your account, the process is the same for every bank.

Let’s get to it.

Offline Mode:

Passbook

This is the easiest way to find your CIF number.

The CIF number is printed on the first page of your passbook, just above the account number.

CIF number in SBI passbook
Source

Checkbook

Just like the passbook, the CIF number is printed on the first page of your checkbook. You won’t find it on the cheques.

Customer care

You can always go old school and contact the customer care number to know your CIF number.

Online Mode:

Internet banking

  1. Log in to your internet banking.
  2. Select the ‘e-statement’ option.
  3. Choose the period for e-statement.
  4. The account summary page will show your CIF number.
CIF number in SBI Online account
Source

Mobile app

Nowadays, every major bank has their app for the comfort of its customers.

You can easily find the CIF number in the app of your respective bank.

SMS E-statement

Every bank provides an e-statement at your will, it is usually through SMS, but you can opt for email.

Just send a request to customer care. The automated operator will guide you through the process.

Do You Need The CIF Number Often?

You won’t require the CIF number often, as it is mainly for bank administrative purposes.

You will need it if you wish to change your bank branch or if you wish to access mobile banking and internet banking.

Every bank you change will pass on the CIF number to the next bank. The new bank will fetch the data from this CIF number.

A loan, mutual fund, fixed deposit is managed through the existing account number usually; hence producing your CIF number all the time is not required.

CIF Number- The Aadhar For The FinTechs

The FinTech companies are evolving.

CIF Number for FinTech Companies

The services of personalized bank accounts, personal and health insurance solutions, loans, and peer-to-peer transfer of assets are being made easy and fast for the customers.

Hence, the information of the CIF number is like gold dust for the FinTech companies.

The CIF number with self-learning algorithms can do wonders to transform the financial services sector. 

In today’s world, where online frauds are the order of the day, financial data security is the need of the hour. It is time to segregate data and work more upon data privacy. CIF number is the key here.

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