As SBI plans to merge, developing into an elephantine empire, has it got an iota of benefit to offer its customers in return? Or is it ready to lose them?

With the recent merger of 5 associate banks on 1-4-2017, SBI has inflated into a dinosaur of a bank with a balance sheet size of a whopping Rs 37 trillion rupees!But,that amount may not amount to anything but be  like a smurf size for global giants  with asset size in the range of  3574 billion USD of ICB of China. SBI,however, fondly hopes to enter the top 50 global banks soon with this merger. Also, SBI recently had a bounty of 3.5 lac crore deposits freely without any effort on their part,after the demonetisation move ,thanks to PM Modi.

With the recent merger and unworked- for bounty of free deposits,customers were justified in expecting some kind of ‘bonus’ for them from these developments.Is there any good news for the crying customers of SBI in these developments?Does bigger size offer better efficiency and lower costs to customers?Will customers get,say,better customer service,lower fees or at least a little wrinkle of a smile on the other-wise grim face of the  staff at the counters at SBI?

sbi after merger SBI Now A Big Financial Dino Without A Helping Heart

The answer ,unfortunately,is a big ‘No’!

SBI levies penalties on customer,but who levies penalty on SBI?

I visited SBI branch ATMs (2) housed in a erstwhile SBH now turned into SBI  with thick blue letters adorning the newly painted name board,soon after the merger.After trying out a few times for cash,I got an indication of ‘no cash’in the panel, not so clearly but could make it out.Behind me were a crowd of curious customers trying to find if I was one lucky customer to draw cash.I turned back and made them happy by acknowledging my grand failure! Then I tried the 2nd ATM. SBI  is always uniform in their customer service!Unlike the SBI staff,the 2nd ATM seemed to work as a team with the 1st ATM!Yes,no cash there too!!More than not getting cash,I  was angered by SBI’s lack of customer concern.Why not atl east display a board outside ATM cabin’No Cash’as a small gesture of customer service? I returned home angry and disappointed.

no cash sbi SBI Now A Big Financial Dino Without A Helping Heart



Now,the question is-if I don’t maintain minimum cash  with SBI,they levy penalty on me.If SBI does not maintain cash in ATMs ,who fines them? RBI? Should not SBI  follow the same rule it has for customers and compensate me with atleast Rs 100/- for every cash out position?If I can’t have excuses,nor can SBI  have!I am taking this suggestion up with RBI for implementation.

Secondly, I ask for 10000, ATM cleverly makes me downgrade to 2000,by a series of messages like’incorrect denomination’etc.Now,I am finally forced to draw 2000 instead of 10000 for no mistake of mine.If that’s the case,am I not entitled to draw 5 or more times more than the permitted free times,till I get my desired amount?Then why charge for ATM withdrawals beyond the permitted free number? What’s SBI’s excuse for this?

Customers pay for the SBI merger?

Soon after merger,SBI increased all its service charges.Here is the Chart of latest Service Charges.

Link: Click here

You would find that SBI has increased many fold ,service charges across all segments, thus confirming that merger may mean ‘more costs’ to the already crying customers.Or ,is it that SBI has made its customers fund  the merger decision?’.Does  any ‘Merger ‘mean  more costs to customers?

sbi merger SBI Now A Big Financial Dino Without A Helping Heart

SBI-Returning to Imperial Bank days!

Earlier ,when SBT was SBT,its customers had an affinity with the Bank that spoke their language Malayalam.Similarly other associates like SBH,SBM etc,had their State faces.Now ,with the dissolution of individual personalities of those entities, SBI emerges as a single dominating giant Hindi speaking ,imperial SBI .This entity is BIGGG, but  is totally insensitive to State languages,local feelings and sensitivities.

At SBT ,there was ‘Onam’ but now,as Hindi SBI,’Onam’ is replaced by northern ‘Holi’ unknown to Malayalee customers.So,SBI is almost returning to Imperial Bank days when it did not bother about masses but only about ‘ruling upper classes’.Imperial bank was inaccessible to the masses,located in the outskirts,reachable only with a car.So is the BIGGG SBI now,with their big service charges.So customers are slowly leaving the local banks; like in TN,Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank which greets them not with ’namaste’ but with Tamil ‘Vanakkam’.

SBI is keen on Hindi option in Tamil Nadu ATMs ,knowing pretty well that  customers of TN don’t know Hindi at all.Rural customers don’t  even know English and know only Tamil .While Canara Bank,a Karnataka based bank, has Tamil in their ATM panel,SBI  is not providing Tamil in their ATMs in TN.They are more keen on serving OL Policy than serving its customers.Many customers are closing their accounts with SBI,on its linguistic insensitivity.Why  should I have my money with a Hindi Bank,a Kannadiga feels naturally and shifts his account to Karnataka Bank.The increased service charges motivate this move as well.

SBI should change its policies.Otherwise….

Here was what the minimum customers expect from SBI:

  1. A little welcoming smile on the face of the staff.SBI can consider paying a ‘Smile Allowance’ to its staff,if necessary!
  2. Assure minimum courtesy to women and senior citizens.
  3. Reduction of service charges to acceptable levels
  4. Cash out compensation for ATMs,atleast Rs.100/- per rejected transaction.
  5. Adoption of State Languages for Schemes,ads and interactions.OL is not for ‘Public communication’ as per Constitution.Please click here for clarification on this point.If necessary ,SBI can convince Centre that Customer Service is supreme for a commercial bank and OL Policy is not binding for customer interface and communication.

If SBI does not respond to this concern and consign this to dust bin,as they normally do,a silent exodus of customers is not ruled out.For SBI’s obese size ,what happens below the belly may not come to the Chair Man’s notice even after a year! By the time ,it comes to notice that the damage would have already been inflicted.

By Alvaro Hans

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