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Thursday, April 25, 2013

SBI looking to decongest branches

A number of people arefilling up forms , quite a few milling at various counters wanting to draw money or check balances, and some merely looking to chat up with a friendly face.

A detached observer can look at this picture with equanimity. But if you were a customer at this branch, who quickly wants to draw some money or complete some banking business on your way to the office, you may find the scene a bit depressing.


Crowds may mean more business for the bank, but are inconvenient for customers.

This seems to have nudged State Bank of India, the country’s largest public sector bank, into action. The bank is now proposing to move low-value and high-volume transactions from the branch channel to the business correspondent/customer service point channels to ‘decongest’ branches.

Business correspondents are agents (a post office, a cooperative or an individual) appointed by banks to conduct banking operations in remote areas where they have no branches. They provide services such as opening bank accounts, accepting deposits and disbursing money.

They have/carry point of sale (PoS) machines, a hand-held device, to help customers transact business after identifying themselves by means of finger prints/smart cards.

The SBI move comes in the context of implementing ‘Swabhiman,’ the financial inclusion programme, and the direct cash transfer scheme, as advised by the Department of Financial Services.

Customers visiting SBI branches range from 1,000 to 2,000 a day. Those approaching a branch even for making enquiries are counted as customers, sources in the bank said.

The number could go up in the context of the low-value accounts being added as part of a drive to increase financial inclusion and implement the direct benefits transfer scheme of the Government.

According to RBI data, the average number of customers per bank branch is 13,400. This could vary bank-wise and State-wise. For example, Chandigarh has 4,000 customers to a branch while in Manipur and Nagaland they are around 33,000 and 26,000, respectively.

While the average number of customers per branch has been coming down slowly as banks add more branches every year, the demand for bank services remains high. The need to achieve targets for financial inclusion had compelled banks such as SBI to open more bank accounts in un-banked areas through the branch channel, thereby choking existing resources.

This is now being streamlined and the process for migration of self-help groups or its members and such other account-holders to the business correspondent/customer service point is being notified to all its zonal offices (circles).

Source: thehindubusinessline


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