Not so long ago, withdrawing a hundred rupees from the bank meant going to the branch, filling out the withdrawal slip, waiting in line to get a token, and waiting your turn at the counter for the teller to give you your money.
Just the process was so boring, and irritating, that one would do pretty much anything to avoid having to go there too much. As a result, most people made their rupee stretch a little bit further before they were forced to make the next trip to the bank. All other banking activity too was equally cumbersome and time consuming. And to top it all, you had to deal with the supercilious and rude behaviour of the staff. They behaved, and some still behave, as if they were doing you a great favour. Never mind that you were dealing with your own money, and that your custom paid their salaries, you were still made to feel like the beggar. No wonder people hated banks, and having to go to the bank was such a huge chore.
Thankfully, things have changed so much these days that banking is almost a pleasure. With the ATMs that have sprung up all over the place withdrawing money is fast, easy, and hassle free. No more endless queues, no ill mannered tellers, no more waiting. All other kinds of transactions have been simplified too. You can drop checks in the drop boxes at all the ATMs, instead of having to deposit them at the branch yourself. From paying bills to making payments for your credit cards, ATMs, and phone and internet banking are easy ways to accomplish most banking chores. You don’t even have to leave your home anymore. Pick up the phone and call in your need, log in to the bank website and click your way to your banking solutions. And with the advent of money apps and online mapping, you don’t even need a bank account anymore! Even sites like Amazon are getting into the act now, and online transactions for DMAT accounts means you can invest, manage investments, trade, and liquidate, all without ever having to step foot in a bank or look at a Broker or Chartered Accountant!
Even things like loans have become so much easier! You no longer have to feel like you are the supplicant come to beg the lord and master to give you a little piece of their largesse. Customer is no longer the beggar now, and while he/she may not yet be king, they are at least in a position of some advantage. In addition, with private and international banks fighting it out in the arena in India, banks, old and new, have finally realized that they are in the service industry. Unless they teach their employees to smile, and be nice to customers, the customer will take their business elsewhere.
However, all these pluses are not without a few minuses in tow. Banking has become a lot more impersonal now, and one no longer builds up a relationship with a particular bank, branch or employee. While phone and net banking have made life easier, they have also increased your security risk, and phishing and other kinds of scams are on the increase. And, worst of all from the point of view of the younger generation, the easy access, provided by ATMs and apps, has made it a lot easier to overspend. Credit cards are dangerous in the hands of the undisciplined, or the impulsive, and overall, the traps have multiplied.
So that means a few things for both customers and professionals in the BFSI (Banking and Financial Services Industry). Where customers need to learn the proper use of a few apps and sites, and practice caution in spending and in sharing information, professionals have a heavier burden. No longer is it enough to be the “Banker” who sits in the cubicle and lords it over paper and over people. It has become essential to become well versed in the basics of a range of technological platforms, along with mastering the subject skills in finance and accounting. In addition, a hirable, employable, successful banking sector employee today must also be skilled in communication across media, the nuances and differences in selling face to face or over a phone call or online. They must master the art of “hooking” people in 30 seconds or less, learnt to keep pace with this fast moving world, and acquire the specific skill-set for online selling and service. This is no longer the requirement for the future, it is necessary today! The future is NOW!