Trust and access: Why nationalised banks are much more than their unfriendly image

Privatisation of the nationalised banks would anything but rob the people of their choice, to choose which kind of bank they want to keep their money in.

Credit : Resolver News

While the public sector banks in India are hailed by their customers as being trustworthy to put their life savings into, they are often criticised on various platforms for their inefficient customer service. In fact, social media debates around the Central Government’s plans to privatise national banks often point out the inefficiency and impolite attitude of the public bank staff. Will this unfriendly image of the public sector bank employees haunt them amidst the ongoing chaos?

“I have been waiting outside the bank in a queue for over half an hour now. It’s hot out here. When I asked them why they don’t have a separate queue for senior citizens, they didn’t have anything to say, but just asked me to wait in the common queue. I don’t have a cash transaction to do, just want to talk to one of the customer service providers,” said a senior citizen waiting outside the SBI branch in Bavdhan, Pune on Wednesday afternoon.

The inefficient customer service has not really robbed these banks of their customer base. “We trust this bank more than any other new private banks. That is why we still have accounts here. Otherwise, there are private banks where we have accounts, and we get much better treatment there,” said another senior citizen waiting outside the SBI branch in Kothrud. The public sector banks in India reopened on Wednesday after their two-day strike at the beginning of this week. The strike was called by the bank unions across the country against the Central Government’s plan to privatise the nationalised banks. While the queues outside these banks were proof of the place the public sector banks still hold in the economy, the irk on the faces of these people was evident.

However, customer service is not that big a factor that people consider while opening their account at a bank, says Vishwas Utagi, bank employees union leader. “Customers have the choice. And they choose nationalised banks despite the said inefficiency in customer service. This says a lot,” Utagi adds.

He further explains, “The minimum balance requirement of the private banks is not affordable to the common man. That is why they go for the nationalised banks. And as far as the technology used at the public sector banks is concerned, it’s the same as the private banks. So the time taken to process any transaction as any kind of bank is the same. So there is no doubt that people open their accounts at nationalised banks because they want to.”

"I have been a customer of the State Bank of India for over a decade now, and I have never had any complaints regarding the customer service of this bank. I have definitely heard stories, but it has never been my personal experience, which makes me believe that the experience could change from branch to branch," Pune-based IT professional Shabduli Khokrale shared.

In fact, considering the scope and reach that the nationalised banks have, Utagi states that the customer service provided by the public sector banks is quite good. "To provide service, the banks need to reach people first. If private entities own all the banks, they might choose not to penetrate their network into the remote, rural areas. Nationalised banks don't have that choice, so banking reaches people in rural areas too," he says.

Utagi mentions, though, that there is definitely a need to improve customer service. “But I believe no bank is perfect on that front. All the banks have scope to improve. But the issue of nationalisation is not at all relevant to these plans of privatisation. It's only about the ownership of the country's financial institutions," he adds.

Privatisation of the nationalised banks would anything but rob the people of their choice, to choose which kind of bank they want to keep their money in. "I don't ever want to get rid of my SBI account, no matter how many accounts I have at private banks. I trust this bank the most. I only wish the waiting time outside the bank would be a bit shorter, employees a bit friendlier," the senior citizen outside the Kothrud branch said.