Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bank Notes

I recently had to deposit money into a friend's account. He has an account with State Bank of India, Trivandrum branch. For those of you not from around here, that branch is in a city in a different state. All I had to do was:
  1. Locate the nearest SBI branch
  2. Make the deposit
I tried to locate the nearest branch using SBI's Branch Locator. After a few minutes of fiddling with the unwieldy search interface I located a branch using - what else - Google. According to the page the branch had the following "alternate channels" (facilities?) : Internet banking, Core banking, ATM(s). Great, that is all I needed.

Armed with this information I visited the bank and presented my request. I was promptly informed that this particular branch would only let me make deposits if the target account belonged to this branch. So much for "core banking".

All was not lost yet. I recalled another branch located in St. Marks road and asked if visiting that one would help. Unfortunately, no. That particular branch was for "specialized personal banking" whereas I needed a "general branch". The nearest one was a good 10 Km away. I later found that "general branch" is a vaguely defined concept; the "advanced options" section of SBI's Branch Locator does not include it among the more than a dozen 'branch type' options listed.

With that I gave up on SBI. Fortunately my friend had an account with Indian Bank. IB was a little more forthcoming with information about their branches. I located the nearest one and went over. I found the printed pay-in slip a bit confusing in spite of instructions written in three languages. Luckily one of the employees hinted that what mattered was the inclusion of relevant information in the form; the "where" did not matter. So I filled up the form as best as I could and paid the money.

This episode left me with some questions.
  • What is "core banking"? Does it exclude paying in money to accounts established in other states/cities/branches, especially in this day and age when all banks are touting their internet facilities?
  • Why does a national bank with vast outreach make depositing money to a non-local account so difficult? Particularly in cities like Bangalore where a significant percentage of inhabitants are from other states.
  • Who designs the pay-in slips used in banks? I feel that at least some of them need to be redesigned to make them easier to use. Something akin to usability in software applied to banking.

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