· 14 min read

A Comparison of NBFCs and Banks

The financial sector can be a complex web of institutions, each with its own set of offerings and regulations. Two key players are Banks and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), and while they both cater to financial needs, there are crucial distinctions between them.

Understanding the Core Entities

  • Banks: Banks are licensed financial institutions that act as intermediaries between depositors and borrowers. They accept deposits from individuals and businesses, pool these funds, and then lend them out at interest. Banks also offer a wide range of financial services, including checking and savings accounts, money transfers, and wealth management.
  • NBFCs: NBFCs are companies registered under the Companies Act, 1956, that offer financial services similar to banks. However, unlike banks, they do not hold a full banking license. This means they have a narrower range of activities and cannot accept demand deposits (like checking accounts) from the general public.


  • Banks: Banks play a vital role in the overall health of the economy by facilitating the flow of credit. Their primary objective is to be financially sound and stable while providing a safe place for deposits and offering loans at competitive rates.
  • NBFCs: Cater to specific segments of the market, often targeting underserved demographics or offering specialized financial services like microfinance, housing finance, or vehicle finance. Their objective is to bridge the gap between traditional banking services and the diverse financial needs of individuals and businesses.

Regulatory Framework

  • Banks: Heavily regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. This stringent framework ensures banks maintain adequate capital reserves and liquidity to manage risk and protect depositors' funds. Deposits in banks are further insured by the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), providing an additional layer of security.
  • NBFCs: While also regulated by the RBI under the RBI Act, 1934, the regulations are generally less stringent compared to banks. However, depending on the size and activities of the NBFC, the RBI may impose stricter requirements. Deposit insurance is not available for NBFCs, so it's crucial to choose a reputable company with a strong track record.

Financial Services


  • Deposit accounts (savings, current, fixed deposits)
  • Loans (personal, home, auto, business)
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Investment products (mutual funds, bonds)
  • Money transfer services


  • Loans (personal, business, gold loans)
  • Lease financing
  • Investment products (fixed deposits, mutual funds)

Note: It is important to note that NBFCs may offer similar products like loans, but with potentially higher interest rates or cater to borrowers with lower credit scores.

Risk Profiles

  • Banks: Because of stricter regulations and deposit insurance, banks are generally considered a lower-risk institutions for depositing funds. However, interest rates on bank deposits may also be lower.
  • NBFCs: NBFCs may offer higher interest rates on deposits compared to banks. However, they might also have stricter loan eligibility criteria and potentially higher interest rates on loans due to their different risk profile. However, reputable NBFCs with a strong financial standing can still be a viable option.

Questions to consider:

Is it necessary that every NBFC should be registered with RBI?

In general, most Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) need to register with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to operate legally. This requirement is based on Section 45-IA of the RBI Act, 1934. There are two main conditions for registration:

  • RBI Certificate: An NBFC must obtain a certificate of registration from the RBI
  • Minimum Net Owned Funds: The company needs to have a minimum net owned funds of ₹ 2 crore (as of April 1999).

However, there are some exceptions. Certain categories of NBFCs are already regulated by other bodies and are exempt from RBI registration. These include:

  • Companies regulated by SEBI (Venture Capital Funds, Merchant Banking companies, Stock broking companies)
  • Insurance Companies registered with IRDA
  • Nidhi companies (as notified under Companies Act)
  • Chit companies (as defined in Chit Funds Act)
  • Housing Finance Companies regulated by National Housing Bank
  • Stock Exchanges
  • Mutual Benefit Companies

How does the RBI regulate NBFCs that focus primarily on lending and investing (50-50 Principal Business Criteria)?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) acts as the watchdog for Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) that meet the 50-50 Principal Business Criteria. This means the RBI has the authority to:

  • Impose Penalties: If an NBFC breaks the rules of the RBI Act or disobeys instructions issued by the RBI, they can face financial penalties.
  • Revoke Registration: In serious cases of non-compliance, the RBI has the power to cancel the NBFC's certificate of registration, essentially shutting them down.
  • Restrict Activities: The RBI can restrict an NBFC's ability to accept deposits or manage their assets to protect depositors' interests.
  • Force Closure: As a last resort, the RBI can even file a petition to have the NBFC wound up, meaning it would cease operations entirely.

What action can be taken against persons/financial companies making false claim of being regulated by the Reserve Bank?

Pretending to be RBI-regulated to collect deposits is a serious crime. Here's what happens if someone tries to pull a fast one:

  • It is Illegal: Making false claims of being regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is against the law. This aims to protect the public from being misled, especially when it comes to depositing money.
  • Penal Action: Those caught making these false claims can face legal consequences under the Indian Penal Code.
  • Report the Crime: If you encounter a financial entity or person falsely claiming RBI regulation, you can report them to the nearest RBI office and the police.

What are the consequences for financial institutions that lend or invest money but haven't registered as an NBFC with the RBI?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) takes a serious view of financial companies that operate as NBFCs (lending, investing, or accepting deposits) without registering. Such companies can face:

  • Fines and Penalties: The RBI can impose significant financial penalties on unregistered NBFCs.
  • Prosecution: In severe cases, the RBI can even prosecute the company in court.
  • Public Awareness: The RBI encourages people to report unregistered NBFCs to their nearest regional office. This helps them take action against these companies for violating the RBI Act.


RBI Tightens the Belt on Personal Loans: What You Need to Know?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took steps in November 2023 to encourage more cautious lending practices for unsecured personal loans. The core of the RBI's move is an increase in risk weights assigned to unsecured personal loans. This means banks and NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Companies) need to set aside more capital as a buffer against potential defaults. In simpler terms, for every ₹100 lent out, they'll need to hold more capital as a safety net.

This change could lead to two main outcomes for borrowers:

  • Potentially Higher Interest Rates: Since banks need to hold more capital, they might raise interest rates on personal loans to compensate for the increased risk.
  • Stricter Eligibility Criteria: Banks may become more selective about who they lend to, making it harder for some borrowers to qualify for personal loans.

The RBI's move aims to promote responsible lending practices. While the exact impact on interest rates and eligibility criteria remains to be seen, it's a good idea to be aware of these changes before applying for a personal loan. It might be wise to compare rates and terms across different lenders before making a decision.

Veda Dalvi
Hello, I'm Veda, the Legal Analyist with a knack for decoding the complex world of laws. A coffee aficionado and a lover of sunsets, oceans and the cosmos. Let's navigate the Legal Universe together!

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