Reserve Bank as Banker to Banks


Banks are required to maintain a portion of their demand and time liabilities as cash reserves with the Reserve Bank. For this purpose, they need to maintain accounts with the Reserve Bank. They also need to keep accounts with the Reserve Bank for settling inter-bank obligations, such as, clearing transactions of individual bank customers who have their accounts with different banks or clearing money market transactions between two banks, buying and selling securities and foreign currencies.

In order to facilitate a smooth inter-bank transfer of funds, or to make payments and to receive funds on their behalf, banks need a common banker. By providing the facility of opening accounts for banks, the Reserve Bank becomes this common banker, known as ‘Banker to Banks’ function. The function is performed through the Deposit Accounts Department (DAD) at the Reserve Bank’s Regional offices. The Department of Government and Bank Accounts oversees this function and formulates policy and issues operational instructions to DAD.

Reserve Bank as Banker to Banks

The Reserve Bank continuously monitors operations of these accounts to ensure that defaults do not take place. Among other provisions, the Reserve Bank stipulates minimum balances to be maintained by banks in these accounts. Since banks need to settle transactions with each other occurring at various places in India, they are allowed to open accounts with different regional offices of the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank also facilitates remittance of funds from a bank’s surplus account at one location to its deficit account at another. Such transfers are electronically routed through a computerised system called e-Kuber. The computerisation of accounts at the Reserve Bank has greatly facilitated banks’ monitoring of their funds position in various accounts across different locations on a real-time basis.

In addition, the Reserve Bank has also introduced the Centralised Funds Management System (CFMS) to facilitate centralised funds enquiry and transfer of funds across DADs. This helps banks in their fund management as they can access information on their balances maintained across different DADs from a single location. Currently, 75 banks are using the system and all DADs are connected to the system. As Banker to Banks, the Reserve Bank provides short-term loans and advances to select banks, when necessary, to facilitate lending to specific sectors and for specific purposes. These loans are provided against promissory notes and other collateral given by the banks.

Lender of Last Resort

As a Banker to Banks, the Reserve Bank also acts as the ‘lender of the last resort’. It can come to the rescue of a bank that is solvent but faces temporary liquidity problems by supplying it with much needed liquidity when no one else is willing to extend credit to that bank. The Reserve Bank extends this facility to protect the interest of the depositors of the bank and to prevent possible failure of the bank, which in turn may also affect other banks and institutions and can have an adverse impact on financial stability and thus on the economy.

Legal Framework

Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934