Thursday, January 10, 2013

Banking for Dummies ?

As a child, for a long time, I used to think banks printed money, and you went and got some whenever the need arose. Then, when simple interest/compound interest  happened in school, someone explained banks to me, how they offered to keep your money, and paid you interest to use it. I used to think it was pretty decent of the banks to pay me interest to use my money, and yet,  still have it there when I needed it.

 I also learned that you could not print money at will. And there was a government mint that did that.  In those days, banks invited you to open accounts.  Staff was limited. They almost knew all the customers. I still have one such account courtesy my late mother, who, some old timers at the bank, now retired , still remember. For her ability to call a spade a spade where banking functions were concerned, and for insisting on certain clear documentation in passbooks. 

Today, banks behave as if it is all their money, and they are doing a favor by allowing us to withdraw cash.  They charge you for chequebooks, for using your own money, even though the computers now do the calculations and reconciliation.  Sadly, I find them wanting, where integrity of the data is concerned.

I am told that my pension account must exist on a single name. I can have a nominee. The bank  decrees who it can be be. That, is an intrusion into my personal space.  And one day, when I ask for a new chequebook on that account, I get one , with the name of the spouse (still in service) on each chequebook leaf. 

It takes me 3 people, and 3 repetitions of the problem, and a week, to rectify this.  Why their static/master  data should show my name as my spouse's on a single name account, has no explanation.  There is simply no data checking and verification. Or possibly, no protocol on who can see and change what data. Or possibly careless implementation of hitherto strict rules.  As I leave , I am told I must pay postage for the correct chequebook again.  Some banks have no grace at all.

For several months  one has been seeing a certain , non trivial sum being credited to one's account on the 15th of a month, and debited the next day.  When this happens a lot , I ask. (In retrospect , it might have been a great idea to study this and actually withdraw sums before they could debit. That would have woken up the folks. But then I do not accept what is not mine).

 I am told the CD for monthly transactions comes from the head office, and I should check there. I go there . Turns out, the CD is received from the municipal authorities, and pertains to monthly salaries. A perusal of the data (how it was perused, is a subject for another blog post) , with the same "amount "  and date  indicates, that someone has a similar account number to mine.  (This account which is now mine has existed since 1950, with no problems.).

The manager has no explanation, but a lot of jargon. It seems they "reverse" transactions when something like this happens.  I am alarmed that someone else other than me can debit things .  Then it turns out that the person whose salary is being credited and debited into my account is actually an account holder at an extension counter elsewhere , of this branch.  The manager has simply allocated certain numbers  from  1 to n to this extension branch. And unfortunately, not indicated that it is an account at the extension counter, with an appropriate code, different from that of his branch. 

There has been no training in codification of accounts, the various types of concatenated data that make up the key . I ask if they have a users manual for the software in use (they claim that they do not),  and the matter is resolved  by changing the account number of the municipal person appropriately.  I cannot but help wonder if some of my credits have been posted against  this person's account instead.

I check my statements. I promise them that I will be writing to the head office. They need a refresher course in codification of maybe a newer software version that highlights such discrepancies and ambiguities.  

I have spent 2 days and several hours a day solving this, and some of the old timers who now sit in FD section on the ground floor, have seen me going around, fairly agitated.  One of them stops me on the way out.  Asks me if I am my mother's daughter.  I reply in the affirmative , and he says , "You are just like your mother. She too never tolerated shoddy work" .....:-) 

I guess although my  name is now different, similarities exist.  In more than looks.  
It isn't always computers. Sometimes it is people. Sometime in the late 80's , it was required to send a large sum by telegraphic transfer. Petrol was then Rs 3.50 a litre, Rs 1000 was a huge amount. The telegraphic transfer amount , several times more, was related to a government housing loan.

They said it would reach the next day and charged me for it. It took 21 days When I asked the bank to pay me interest for "using" this amount for 21 days, when it should have reached overnight, the manager gave me a superior look , and rudely asked why I was making such a fuss. As if the amount was huge. I expect banks to treat a ten rupee interest with the same respect as a 10 lakh rupees interest.

 And I had to tell him that (a) in 21 days, even I would have reached the destination, walking backwards with eyes closed,  with the amount in a bag, and returned with a receipt, and (b) Anything above  four zeroes after a digit had me going into a dead faint.

Maybe he was used to dealing in lakhs and crores****.   As a customer, I am too small, and can be brushed off.   Hundreds were too small for him.  Nevertheless, I mentioned about banks making a living off peoples' deposits, with nothing really of their own to start with. Someone clearly had great fun with numbers for 21 days.  He didn't like that.  

Today, crores is the buzzword.  One hears of scams in banks. In crores.  Scams elsewhere, by those close to centres of power. In crores. Scams by those who idolize the wrong folks. In crores.  Scams by shameless  greedy types  siphoning of stuff meant for those with nothing.  All in thousands of crores.

Many more stories  about banking. For some other time.

I just saw this news about an individual offering Rs 1500 crores to develop the pilgrim town of Pandharpur. Something  that needs to be done. Something like simple amenities like toilets and washrooms for the Warkaris that converge in thousands  as they come to the grand finale of their pilgrimage, each year.  Something, that regrettably,  has still not been done by our government.  Busy as they are erecting statues in the Arabian Sea..

As is my habit, not being on backslapping terms with crores,  I start counting the zeros.

Till now, thanks to newspapers, I have basically associated such amounts with scams.  I mean I've heard of double digit crores spent on posh bungalows ,weddings and such stuff. But the irony is,  thanks to the massive scams unearthed, one conversely thinks, any person associated with such amounts to be a scamster.

It is such a telling fact about what we have become as people, that a donor of a big sum like this, is automatically suspected as a scamster, unless proved otherwise.....

*** 1 crore = 10 million ,  1 lakh - one hundred thousand


  1. I remember my mom taking me to the bank to open an account for me. i had the opening amount (something in 2 figures) clutched tightly, and wanted to know where my money would be kept. my mom told me patiently of how the bank would keep my money and also give me some more money at the end of the year, and i remember being so excited. all the time, the lady at the bank was smiling, and she took the story further, telling me that so many more things could be done at the bank, like sending money to others.. she showed me a cheque book... and i couldnt wait for the day i would get my own!! after that, every time i went to the bank with my mom, there were smiling faces all around, people we spoke to, and things just seemed to get done. how easy it appeared then. today, i make the rounds of another bank, because i use the internet banking services, and some trouble or the other has cropped up. most of the employees seem to have no idea of what went wrong, and cant seem to understand why i want to do everything over the net in the first place. there is a select grp of ppl involved with the internet banking, and even from them, i hear things like "Oh! I had no idea that could happen when you apply for XYZ from the internet banking site!" the last time i complained about something, it took almost a week for the issue to get resolved, and at the end,the officer told me, "Ma'am, you are one of the few ppl who actually seems to use all these services. Please let us know if there are any other issues! " I told him they shd pay me if they expected me to be the tester for their services... but thats what its like at most banks, esp the nationalised ones

    1. Anuradha, this happens all the time. There seems to be a great hurry with which lots of software has suddenly been introduced, without proper training, and you and I end up being the guniea pigs. Thank you for the wonderful comment !

  2. Hi,

    Nice post. Reminds of my childhood days when every bank employee knew every customer. My mother passed away recently & when I went to the bank for some formalities, the employee immediately said "Ah, u just look like ur mom...u used to come as a kid to deposit ur piggy bank amount" I became so emotional. But the stuff u have mentioned happening in banks today springs up from the immense competition, a constant fight to hold on to liquidity, huge capital flows and a never ending rat race...Life has changed since globalization...and v have more banking licences to come...

    ANyway, since u hv mentioned about being taken fr a ride, here's a post I wrote about being actually taken for a ride....u might like...


  3. What a post!

    Banks make me so angry now a days...there is hardly any personal interaction adn you have to keep talking to a machine on the phone..and if you go there, they treat you as if you are some creature from another planet :(

    now a days, I leave to RD to talk to them...some advantages of being married eh?

    Whats the logic of putting in and taking out money like that...I mean, with all this technology, how safe is our account then eh?

    1. R's Mom, Thank you ! Actually I have so many Bank stories. Someone can actually write a play or movie on all the happenings. :-)

  4. My mother opened a joint account in a pvt( now scheduled bank) 43 yrs back.
    Money needed to open the account was then Rs 10. She used to deposit amounts varying from Rs 5 to 15 at a time.
    Each employee of the bank recognised us.
    Those were the days.
    True,these days,one hears of huge sums running into 10s of zeros

  5. please tell me which bank is this !?

    1. Dhiren, it is 2 different banks. Both Nationalized. Abhi Guess. Ofline. :-)

  6. That is absurd, THe bank here CANT take money or Reverse anything without informing me and my permission..

    although saying that I have no idea how to do banking , my salary comes and i use it thats it .. simple .. people make so much money by changing accounts and moving the money , one of my friends keeps telling me do this but i just cant be bothered ..

    but my local bank manager knows me BY NAME, and although i go to the bank once a year for the annual review, he rememberes me .. always