Global Economy

Political, regulatory pressure on corp governance impacting risk taking by firms: Keki Mistry


MUMBAI: Company boards are operating under increased “political and regulatory” pressure to improve their governance standards, and the resultant risk averseness is a prime reason for the growth slowdown, HDFC’s Chief Executive Keki Mistry said on Wednesday.

The mortgage lender’s executive said bankers are not taking lending decisions because of this risk averseness syndrome, and warned it will hamper India’s animal spirit unless there is a change.

The comments come at a time when official estimates for FY20 project GDP growth hurtling to an 11-year low of 5 per cent. The government is also allaying fears in the face of greater actions by agencies like CBI, ED and SFIO.

“Boards are currently operating under far greater scrutiny than ever before, with greater political and regulatory pressure on companies to improve their governance standards,” Mistry said at an event organised by industry lobby CII here.

Citing a few instances, he warned this extreme risk averseness will “hamper India’s animal spirit and could lead to a slowdown in economic growth in the country”, adding that a few calculated risks ought to be taken.

Without taking names, the long-standing key executive of the largest pure play home financier, who sits on many boards himself, said there have been instances of independent directors refusing to approve strategic investments fearing that they were “risky”.

The wariness can result in more independent directors of good caliber staying away from joining company boards where they might be needed the most, Mistry said, hinting that the “overarching compliance pressures” need to be softened.

He said the CII will be leading a delegation to the government to impress its concerns on the pressures faced by independent directors.

On bankers’ conduct amid this period of heightened risk averseness, Mistry said that there have been instances wherein lenders have not renewed their loan pacts even with the good customers, which is hurting economic growth.

“One of the reasons why we are seeing a slowdown in the economy in the last couple of years has been the fact that risk taking has become a huge issue of banks. Banks have become extremely reluctant..there is plenty of liquidity in the system, there is no shortage,” he said.

“Risk averseness is something that is hurting the economy in a big way and will continue to hurt the economy till we become more willing to take on risks,” Mistry added.

Regulations should not become such that because of them people start becoming so fearful that they do not take decisions, he told reporters later.

He also added that we are at present going through a period of transition on the same and also welcomed government steps on this front.

On the high quantum of non-performing loans, Mistry said there is a need to look at such instances as a regular business occurrence.

He also sought for a nuanced view on whistleblowers, stating that mala fide intentions need to be curbed as many a times accusations get made out of personal factors like greed and animosity, and also termed some individuals as “opportunists”.





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