Here comes another one

And bites the dust. India's nationalised banks are a troubled lot these days. With some 'foreign' players slated to come in, newer technologies, and younger customers, its time for them to change.

No one talks about the fact that they are in it, becuase everyone else is. Bank of Baroda started the trend in 2005 with their highly publicised logo and branding change. The 'sun' logo created by the bangalore-based Ray+Keshavan, who've helped other banks and brands since then. While R+K helped consumer brands such as Himalaya (earlier Ayurvedic Concepts) and Bru with their brand change, Bank of Baroda was their entry into the big league. The brand reportedly spent over Rs. 100 crores on the branding change.

Since then, its been a mad race to the bottom. SBI essentially remained the same but smartened up. J&K Bank got themselves into a multi-colored bird. Then, Canara Bank came in with their triangles. And UTI bank changed to Axis due to licensing-related issues.

All this has resulted in upwards of Rs. 1000 crores spends on signages, Branding and ATL activities. The OOH coverage meant entire metros were plastered with high-quality graphics, branches with refurbished with shiny formica. And the service, well, it remained the same.

The only technology change in these banks have been core banking services. What that basically meant was that one could bank anywhere, any time. What others like HDFC, ICICI et al have provided for donkeys' years. And customers abroad have had for granted for just about a decade longer. The people and the service look and feel and do the same things that they did for their customers. Disappoint them with indifferent attitudes towards everything that they do.

They think the customer is young. Well, yes, he is. The thing is, he's not banking with them. He's banking with the aforementioned ICICI's, HDFC's of the world. Because their employer has signed corporate account deals with them. Wait, they must be giving out cheques to people who operate in these banks. Fat chance, they spend most of their salaries paying EMI's for loans they've taken from these very banks. But there must be some cash left. That's spent through merchant terminals on points-of-purchase at various places of interest (read Baristas, Levis' outlets, PVR's).

Ok, so we exaggerate. Inflate our argument to a level which is unrealistic. But there's some truth to it. May be a little. May be too little for these bank's brand custodians (various senior, aged bankers) and their new fangled brand agencies (Ray+Keshavan, Elephant Strategy+Design and now the new entrant, Water, from Mudra) to realise.

Well, the agencies, their coffers fill through these campaigns. The bankers, this is what they can present in their next annual report, if, just in case, someone asks them, why new relationships are growing at a sluggish pace (relationships in our jargon mean anything that the bank establishes with their customers- our jargon is pretty simple, eh?).

Maybe we have a grouse to settle. Because this writers parents' have banked with Canara Bank since he was a little kid. And his family business has had a relationship with Bank of Baroda for a similar amount of time. And being a responsible young adult, he's visited both of them for atleast more than a decade. And that the bank officers remain as grouchy or personable as ever. The clerks still scoff if you visit them from another branch. Just because the core banking service has been put in by their higher ups, doesn't mean that they've been paid more to be nice to customers.

Our wishlist-

1. These funds were directed to more plausible issues,so that the cashier doesn't have to receive a ledger book each time you decide to withdraw cash through a cheque.

2. To increase capacity in unmanned interactions (ATM's)- Don't you just hate the queue a la the ration shop queues of yore.

3. To make their office-bearers a little more skilled with their interaction skills.

May be this piece makes you think of an urban nincompoop, who thinks nothing of these banks' service to the nation. Of how they have changed the face of the nation with their centuries worth of business relationships with customers across the country.

Sample this-

With the new logo and branding, Union Bank of India promises to the customer value for money service, a variety of channels through which the customer can choose to carry out banking activities, a timeline with all services offered, and absolutely no opaqueness with respect to the services and products offered.

promises to the customer value for money service- If they weren't doing that already, we have some issues.

a variety of channels through which the customer can choose to carry out banking activities-yeah, they've managed to get ATM's and a website in places, just about a decade after everyone else.

a timeline with all services offered- Well, ISO certifications demand that, no issues if they are just for those stale signboards within the branch. Its a fact that it still takes upwards of 3 hours to get a draft made in any of these banks.

absolutely no opaqueness with respect to the services and products offered- Yeah, being a customer service business demands that as a basic communication objective.
You mean they were opaque? What is it?


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