Bank­ing on ser­vice

The of­fices may be musty, but PSU banks are ac­quir­ing a good rep­u­ta­tion

Governance Now - - FINANCIAL SECTOR - Ga­janan Khergamker

Per­son­alised bank­ing, re­la­tion­ship man­agers, cour­te­ous but in­sis­tent calls to sell cards, in­sur­ance and other ser­vices – these are the pos­i­tives one has come to as­so­ci­ate with pri­vate and multi­na­tional banks. Equally, they have be­come no­to­ri­ous for mak­ing hid­den charges, not warn­ing cus­tomers about ruth­less penal­ties, and deal­ing with com­plaints opaquely. What is worse, if one were to go by com­plaints re­ceived by the re­serve Bank of in­dia (rbi), they don’t give due ben­e­fits to se­nior cit­i­zens and the dif­fer­ently abled.

in oc­to­ber last year, an rbi state­ment laid out ser­vices and bank­ing fa­cil­i­ties to be pro­vided to se­nior cit­i­zens. in novem­ber, the rbi listed out fa­cil­i­ties for the dif­fer­ently abled. But a se­ries of com­plaints re­ceived since then ac­cuse banks – par­tic­u­larly pri­vate and multi­na­tional banks – of not heed­ing these di­rec­tives.

Banks are re­quired to have ded­i­cated coun­ters for se­nior cit­i­zens and the dis­abled, to sim­plify sub­mis­sion of life cer­tifi­cates and col­lec­tion of cheque books, to con­vert with­out ado fully Kyc-com­pli­ant ac­counts to se­nior cit­i­zen ac­counts when hold­ers turn 60. also, they must pro­vide ad­di­tional ser­vices to the vis­ually im­paired. a de­cem­ber 31, 2017 dead­line was set for

banks to start pro­vid­ing doorstep ser­vices to se­nior cit­i­zens and those who need them.

over­all, banks are push­ing for dig­i­tal trans­ac­tions and the use of atms. But the reg­u­la­tors – the rbi and the gov­ern­ment – want them to be sen­si­tive to the needs of those who can­not go dig­i­tal. om­buds­men have been told to take com­plaints on these counts se­ri­ously.

But pri­vate and multi­na­tional banks are stick­ing nei­ther to the spirit nor the let­ter of these di­rec­tives. For example, Kyc-com­pli­ant ac­counts of peo­ple turn­ing 60 aren’t im­me­di­ately treated as se­nior cit­i­zen ac­counts. a branch man­ager of a pri­vate bank in co­laba, mumbai, says, “a cus­tomer’s ac­count can­not be au­to­mat­i­cally con­verted into a se­nior cit­i­zen ac­count on his/her turn­ing 60 years un­less he or she per­son­ally makes a re­quest. as for doorstep fa­cil­i­ties, the cus­tomer will have to make a re­quest and it will be pro­vided con­di­tion­ally.” a lead­ing pri­vate bank stonewalled this cor­re­spon­dent’s queries about the num­ber of ac­counts au­to­mat­i­cally con­verted to se­nior cit­i­zen ac­counts and the num­ber of se­nior cit­i­zens be­ing of­fered doorstep ser­vices. re­minders on phone and email went unan­swered. Se­nior cit­i­zens are thus de­prived of due ben­e­fits de­spite the rbi guide­lines.

given the com­pe­ti­tion for get­ting and keeping cus­tomers, one would have ex­pected pri­vate and multi­na­tional banks to score with bet­ter ser­vices. in fact, it is pub­lic sec­tor banks that are en­dear­ing them­selves. Their of­fices may not be as swank as that of pri­vate sec­tor banks, but pub­lic sec­tor bank staff are act­ing from the heart. There is an air of friendly neigh­bourli­ness in the branches and man­agers try to build on the rap­port they have es­tab­lished with cus­tomers.

Says mo­han­lal Solanki, a busi­ness­man, “We have been bank­ing with dena Bank for years and are very happy with the ser­vices.” His son Vinod, who runs Kismat arts, con­curs, say­ing that many pri­vate and multi­na­tional banks loot cus­tomers with ex­tra and hid­den charges. He says, “For­get se­nior cit­i­zens, even when one of us is busy or sim­ply un­able to reach the bank, a staffer drops by and pro­vides us doorstep bank­ing – with­out a charge too. and this when we don’t even qual­ify for a se­nior cit­i­zen ac­count.”

Small and mid-level busi­ness per­sons like the Solankis have found great al­lies in pub­lic sec­tor banks, with staff tak­ing ex­tra steps to help. “To­day, even if a cheque i have drawn is de­posited into my bank at a time when there are less funds, the bank man­ager calls up and i rush to de­posit the amount to en­sure the cheque is cleared,” says Suresh Kano­jia, a res­i­dent of co­laba. “How many pri­vate banks will of­fer this sort of ser­vice? They earn mostly from such lapses and over­sights by cus­tomers who don’t even re­alise how they are be­ing charged.”

Pub­lic sec­tor banks list all the ser­vices, charged and free, as laid down in rbi guide­lines. it takes just an rti ap­pli­ca­tion to ob­tain de­tails. Pri­vate or multi­na­tional banks, on the other hand, put such queries through a maze of in­ter­nal pro­ce­dures. The cus­tomer of­ten gives up. it’s this at­ti­tude that makes many wary of pri­vate banks. There’s also a well-or­ches­trated si­lence over hid­den charges and in­ter­nal pro­ce­dures meant to max­imise prof­its and fur­ther man­agers’ ca­reers. This of­ten trans­lates into de­fi­cien­cies in ser­vice, which cus­tomers are forced to take up with con­sumer fora and courts. in many cases, con­sumer courts have awarded both re­dress and com­pen­sa­tion. in 2016, the na­tional con­sumer dis­putes re­dres­sal com­mis­sion even cen­sured one pri­vate bank, say­ing it had “no love and respect for in­dia”.

against that high-hand­ed­ness, pub­lic sec­tor banks are steadily ac­quir­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing ami­able. Here’s what se­nior man­ager Sanjay gond­halekar of the pub­lic sec­tor dena Bank says: “We’ve been of­fer­ing doorstep bank­ing fa­cil­ity not just for se­nior cit­i­zens, but also those who are un­able to visit the bank for some rea­son. We’ve been do­ing this for years, even be­fore the rbi no­ti­fi­ca­tion. We of­fer per­son­alised ser­vices to all cus­tomers who have been bank­ing with us for over gen­er­a­tions. it’s trust and good­will that we value more than sheer profit.”

gen­er­ally, the pri­vate sec­tor re­sponds bet­ter to com­pe­ti­tion. in bank­ing and fi­nance – un­like say, in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try – the re­sponse has fo­cused on in­no­va­tion and prof­itabil­ity. Sur­pris­ingly, pub­lic sec­tor banks, in their drab yet ge­nial way, have one-upped the pri­vate sec­tor with good ser­vice.

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“We’ve been of­fer­ing doorstep ser­vices to cus­tomers – not just se­nior cit­i­zens – even be­fore the RBI di­rec­tive.” Sanjay Gond­halekar Se­nior man­ager, Dena Bank

Vinod Solanki says when he is un­able to visit the branch, his PSU banker sends a staffer to his home or of­fice – no charges

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