A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature, leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business but does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property. A non-banking institution which is a company and has principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in installments by way of contributions or in any other manner, is also a non-banking financial company (Residuary non-banking company).
Financial activity as principal business is when a company’s financial assets constitute more than 50 per cent of the total assets and income from financial assets constitute more than 50 per cent of the gross income. A company which fulfils both these criteria will be registered as NBFC by RBI. The term 'principal business' is not defined by the Reserve Bank of India Act. The Reserve Bank has defined it so as to ensure that only companies predominantly engaged in financial activity get registered with it and are regulated and supervised by it. Hence if there are companies engaged in agricultural operations, industrial activity, purchase and sale of goods, providing services or purchase, sale or construction of immovable property as their principal business and are doing some financial business in a small way, they will not be regulated by the Reserve Bank. Interestingly, this test is popularly known as 50-50 test and is applied to determine whether or not a company is into financial business.
NBFCs lend and make investments and hence their activities are akin to that of banks; however there are a few differences as given below: i. NBFC cannot accept demand deposits; ii. NBFCs do not form part of the payment and settlement system and cannot issue cheques drawn on itself; iii. deposit insurance facility of Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation is not available to depositors of NBFCs, unlike in case of banks.
In terms of Section 45-IA of the RBI Act, 1934, no Non-banking Financial company can commence or carry on business of a non-banking financial institution without a) obtaining a certificate of registration from the Bank and without having a Net Owned Funds of ₹ 25 lakhs (₹ Two crore since April 1999). However, in terms of the powers given to the Bank, to obviate dual regulation, certain categories of NBFCs which are regulated by other regulators are exempted from the requirement of registration with RBI viz. Venture Capital Fund/Merchant Banking companies/Stock broking companies registered with SEBI, Insurance Company holding a valid Certificate of Registration issued by IRDA, Nidhi companies as notified under Section 620A of the Companies Act, 1956, Chit companies as defined in clause (b) of Section 2 of the Chit Funds Act, 1982,Housing Finance Companies regulated by National Housing Bank, Stock Exchange or a Mutual Benefit company.
No. Housing Finance Companies, Merchant Banking Companies, Stock Exchanges, Companies engaged in the business of stock-broking/sub-broking, Venture Capital Fund Companies, Nidhi Companies, Insurance companies and Chit Fund Companies are NBFCs but they have been exempted from the requirement of registration under Section 45-IA of the RBI Act, 1934 subject to certain conditions. Housing Finance Companies are regulated by National Housing Bank, Merchant Banker/Venture Capital Fund Company/stock-exchanges/stock brokers/sub-brokers are regulated by Securities and Exchange Board of India, and Insurance companies are regulated by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. Similarly, Chit Fund Companies are regulated by the respective State Governments and Nidhi Companies are regulated by Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. Companies that do financial business but are regulated by other regulators are given specific exemption by the Reserve Bank from its regulatory requirements for avoiding duality of regulation. It may also be mentioned that Mortgage Guarantee Companies have been notified as Non-Banking Financial Companies under Section 45 I(f)(iii) of the RBI Act, 1934. Core Investment Companies with asset size of less than ₹ 100 crore, and those with asset size of ₹ 100 crore and above but not accessing public funds are exempted from registration with the RBI.
If companies that are required to be registered with the Reserve Bank as NBFCs, are found to be conducting non-banking financial activity, such as, lending, investment or deposit acceptance as their principal business, without seeking registration, the Reserve Bank can impose penalty or fine on them or can even prosecute them in a court of law. If members of public come across any entity which does non-banking financial activity but does not figure in the list of authorized NBFC on RBI website, they should inform the nearest Regional Office of the Reserve Bank, for appropriate action to be taken for contravention of the provisions of the RBI Act, 1934.
The list of registered NBFCs is available on the web site of Reserve Bank of India and can be viewed at www.rbi.org.in → Sitemap → NBFC List. The instructions issued to NBFCs from time to time are also hosted at www.rbi.org.in → Notifications → Master Circulars → Non-banking, besides, being issued through Official Gazette notifications and press releases.
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