Saturday, January 19, 2008

Canara Bank: new identity

Together can we?

My association with Canara Bank started 25 years ago (I am 26 now). A year after my birth, my dad got a job with Canara Bank. It was a big deal getting into banks those days, and I am pretty sure that he was almost as happy with the new job offer as he was with my birth.

He was a committed employee (retired recently) and was awarded a transfer every three years. Today I have friends in places like Kakinada (costal town in AP), Vijaywada, Hyderabad, Agra and Aligarh because of his postings in these cities.

As a child, for many years, this was the only business entity that I was aware of and idolised it as the best bank in the world.

Eighties was an interesting time to take birth in India. I have seen our economy literally opening its doors to the world. Customer became the king and choice became his prerogative.

Like many other sectors, this was true for banking too. With foreign banks coming in and few financial institutions (Like ICICI and HDFC) entering into retail banking, the dominance of the nationalized banks was challenged. These new entrants brought with them the power of technology which changed the way we Indians did banking and other monetary transactions (ATM, phone banking, online banking and what not).

When for the first time, my education separated me from my parents; there was a need for me to have a bank account to make possible fund transfers. I remember how upset my father was when I cheated on his bank and opted to have an ICICI account. Finding it hard to conceal his anguish he warned me- “these private banks rob you with hundred hidden charges. These people are fooling young people like you”. I was adamant, “but papa, your bank hardly has any ATMs. ICICI has one in each lane. Let me take it na, it would be much easier”. Like always, poor guy relented.

My dad was very happy when I got my first job (campus placement); more so because the company banked with Canara Bank and by default our salaries got credited there. He didn’t know much about the company but the fact that it had an account in Canara Bank was a reassurance for him that the organization is credible.

On the other hand my experiences as a Canara Bank customer range from just mediocre to terrible. The bank (I have visited a couple of their branches) looks uninviting and the employees look completely disinterested (They are men (or women) of few words and reply to your queries mostly in monosyllables). The ATMs are in minority and at mysterious locations; moreover, they are extremely moody (Hardly work. Actually I remember an instance when the ATM got so pissed with the customer before me that it ate the card and refused to spit it out).

I wanted to avail a personal loan but their eligibility criteria can only befit a person who will never need a personal loan. I have deposited an outstation cheque some two months back but the funds are still pending and unlike a private bank you don’t even have a customer care executive whom you can harass on phone.

Not to forget, I am still trying to find someone who does online banking with Canara Bank (Online and Canara, they simply don’t go together)

If you ask me where these banks have gone wrong- my answer would be- they failed to identify the emergence of youth as the new age wealth creators or probably they underestimated the earning and the buying power of this evolved consumer who doesn’t preach saving.

But private banks were smart enough to align themselves to the needs of these youngsters. They recruited young people and made all attempts to come to you than you going to them. Technology made it possible for them to do so and in true sense they were able to give a retail dimension to this industry.

So if you look at it, the average customer and an employee of these private banks would be much younger than the average employee or the customer of a nationalized bank. But how long could they (likes of Canara Bank) ignore us, also the fact that we are great influencers on our parents (and elders) and they are making an effort to adopt our way of doing things, now- even they are giving these private banks a chance.

I was pleasantly surprised when my dad said- “Give me your ICICI account number; I will transfer funds online from my ICICI account. It’s quite simple”.

So you see SBI painting the city with a campaign alluring the youth, then you see a Bank of Baroda and then you see a Canara Bank, all fighting for our attention. They seem to have woken up from their long slumber, making tall claims that they are changing for us.

But a simple logo change will not do much, it’s only when you deliver a consistent experience at all the customer touch points, that we would be with you.

Till then we will regard this (logo change) only as an announcement that you have decided to undertake a series of steps to make banking with you, easier for us.

Dad, I am watching your bank.