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Monday, May 19, 2008

SBI finally accepts me as a customer

Country’s leading Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), has finally accepted me as its customer.

My first contact with SBI dates back to year 2001, when I approached NR Colony Branch (Bangalore South) of SBI with my uncle (who had an account there) and we met the branch manager with a request to open an account. I had just joined an engineering college then and was new to Bangalore. The branch manager refused outright to open an account in my name. His reason for rejection was this-“Students don’t keep any money in their account-it is not economical for us to operate such accounts. We already have hundreds of such dead accounts. Sorry we don’t want another one”. Despite my assurance that I would maintain the required minimum balance he was not willing to listen and we had to leave. May be he was right in his views, but what he forgot was that students of today will be professionals tomorrow and some of them would even reach the status of HNI (High net worth Individuals). Allowing children to open an account is an easiest way to catch them young and treating them well would ensure a customer for life. Unfortunately that respected branch manager wasn’t trained to understand that.

SBI Logo

SBI is not the only bank in town. Eventually I opened my account in the newly opened Bsk 2nd stage branch of AXIS Bank (then UTI Bank). I was one of the first few customers for that branch and bank staff used to remember my name and welcome me with name every time I visit the branch. I hardly had Rs 1000 in my account but they treated me as if I have kept millions there.

An experience: One evening 7 pm while buying some books I swiped my debit card, but no slip came out. Shopkeeper told there must be some problem and I paid in cash. On my way back I checked in ATM, money was debited. I panicked and asked the security guard outside the bank to let me in so that I could complain about this to the bank staff. It was 8 pm and those guys were still working in the bank. After checking with the manager security allowed me in. In full tensed mind (as I had lost around 800 Rs) I explained them that shopkeeper swiped my card, but no slip came out and I had to pay in cash but now money is debited… The bank staff calmed me down (I really feel sorry I do not remember their names now to give credit) and explained me that if I have not signed the slip no payment will be made to the shopkeeper and transaction will be reversed. I felt relaxed and had a peaceful sleep that night.

Unlike traditional banks there was no need to run from counter to counter and one executive would address all requirements at his desk. It was a really great experience dealing with that bank (though after few years the staff changed and with thousands of account holders personal attention is a history now)

Couple of years down the line (me still ‘student’) my cousin opened student account at NR Colony SBI branch (may be the bank changed its policies or the new manager was liberal enough). Because national banks charged much less fee for Demand draft and outstation cheque clearances, it was still economical to operate an account with a traditional bank, despite the inconveniences, vis-à-vis modern banks (I am speaking of year 2003-At par clearance was nonexistent then-Once I submitted Rs 2000 ICICI bank cheque issued in Mysore for remittance in UTI bank Bangalore-UTI Bank charged Rs 125, ICICI Bank ate Rs 50, I lost 9% of the cheque amount- Rs 175 for no fault of mine-Nationalized banks charges much less for such services).I had another account at the Vijaya Bank extension counter in my college but they used to take 2 working days to deliver a DD (as they have to get it from main branch). I decided to try my luck again and went to SBI Padmanabha Nagar branch. The branch manager there was willing to let me open an account but only if I can get reference from a person who holds an account at that branch. I didn’t know anyone having an account there(May be I should have sought reference from Ravi Belgere or Devegowda who live nearby), so opted out. I could have gone back to NR Colony branch and tried my luck again, but I didn’t feel like going there or to other traditional banks which wouldn’t let me open an account with respect.

Next couple of years I managed without depending on SBI or any other traditional banks. After I got my job, Salary account was opened with ICICI and everything is running smoothly since then. Each time a DSA tried to sell me a SBI credit card all the above would flashback in my mind.

Recently I felt like opening a PPF (Public Provident Fund) account. Opening this account gives some unique advantages like tax exemption etc. Unfortunately one can’t open this type of account in any bank-one needs to go to certain designated banks only. For TamilNadu this was SBI Bank, so if I had to open a PPF account I had to approach SBI. With erstwhile memories intact I visited nearest SBI branch. I didn’t have much expectations and expressed my interest of opening a PPF account. The lady at the counter gave the forms with a smile. After few days I went back with necessary documents and the same lady asked if I wanted to open a Savings account also. I told her SBI has rejected me twice from opening an account years ago citing sundry excuses. She smiled and said anyone above 10 years of age can open an account and mantra of the banks these days is to focus on younger generations. (not that I didn’t know that) I said “OK, let me open one” and she held out another set of forms. I filled the forms, made some deposit and in 20 mins I was their customer. No reference, no waiting for weeks, no bad treatment as if they are doing me a favor by allowing me to open an account there. Single window service with a smile, quick and efficient.

This is the saga of how country’s top bank finally got a chance to serve me…LOL. It was a good feeling experiencing the changes in Banking sector.

I just want to meet that NR Colony ex branch manager and show him my welcome kit. Where is he?

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11 comments :

sai thilak said...

Banking in India is coming of age. A decade ago, to get a loan, one has to spend a lot of time and energy to convince bank managers. But, now, loans are just a phone call away. I think, banks will innovate drastically in coming days, given the fact, banking in India will be more opened to all foreign banks soon.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Fully agreed...

Thanks

backpakker said...

Finally things have changed ..and even the attitude of the bankers..thanks for dropping by at backpakker and your comments there
lakshmi

Shrinidhi Hande said...

HI Lakshmi,

yes, most of the banks have changed...

Thanks for dropping by.

Shrinidhi

hari said...

SBI is still one of the best networked banks with a great infrastructure.

Private banks are no match for the sheer coverage of SBI.

And even in terms of service, I don't think that private banks are really superior to nationalized banks. If anything, they're slightly worse.

Bhupesh said...

Banks have changed a lot specially public sector banks. Another reason you were able to open account in SBI because your profile has changed since your school days.

Private banks does not mean a great experience. As bank grows and staff move consumer experience changes,

ICICI: branches has bazaar like atmosphere. They have four level of customer privileges programs silver, gold, platinum etc .. openly write about it in branch,
counters are cramped .. employee does not know process .. it took four round of the bank to get my demat account address changed with ICICI and so many bad experience with it.

HDFC: Good service, but always peeks into account if they see you have some extra money in account .. will always ask if you are interested in some investment products .. relationship manager will ask you to churn your portfolio. Interested in generating some service based revenue.

Kotak: Not much experience, got annoyed when they said courier firm says they can not deliver welcome kit to my address on OuterRing road in Blr and asked me to collect it from the branch. I was not bothered as it was zero balance account. Finally they delivered it at my house through office boy after two months.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Hari

Agreed. Traditional banks have an in depth coverage in rural areas where modern banks haven't bothered to open a branch.

Service: It might be tought to generalize.


@Bhupesh:

Yes, I know- my profile change has made the difference...May be I should pose as a student and see if they give me account opening forms.

Thanks for sharing your experience with 3 banks.

Shami said...

I had really bad experience with SBI regarding collection charge of Multi city cheque. I checked with 3 executives of SBI in one of Chennai branch, and all said the same answer, there will be charge levied. But after several follow ups, I got my charge reversed. Not only this, they give trouble in everything. One of the branch told me that they don't have the account opening form for trading account and asked me to come for another day. SBI has very good facilities in terms of banking, but the executives make it lose its customers. You need to know all the facilities and charges before banking with them, that too after opening an account with them.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Shami,

Charging customers for various services is one of the easiest ways for Banks to make money. These days there're not much takers for loans and credit cards and those who have taken loans are defaulting. Now to gain more revenue banks are likely to start charging for services that were hitherto free.

Yes we need to keep ourselves updated on what all are the charges applicable.

But I still feel public sector banks are a bit liberal in charging compared to private sector banks. Public banks are catching up fast with private counterparts in terms of technology and services.

arun said...

Really surprised to hear this about SBI. May be we won't get the same level of quick/efficient service from every SBI branch !!!

Can you please let me know which branch you actually visited to open your PPF account ??

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Arun,

why do you need that info?

PPF branch was fine-no complaints