When it comes to banking, the young and the upwardly mobile prefer hassle-free, time-saving operations, says SUDHA UMASHANKERTime was when a weekly visit to the bank was routine, be it to draw cash or deposit a cheque or to have one's passbook updated. Cut to the present. It's the electronic era that Gen Y swears by. All their banking is done at the friendly neighbourhood ATM (cash withdrawals, balance enquiry, etc), and the rest (online account statements will do quite nicely) over the Net. Not for them the hassles of physically going to the branch if they can avoid it.
Says Mumbai-based Madhabi Puri Buch, Head Operations, ICICI Bank, "In 2000, 95 per cent of all transactions were in the branch. Now it's down to under 20 per cent. This big shift can be attributed partly to the changing age profile of customers what with a lot of young people who have just joined the work force opening accounts and also to the conveniences offered by the electronic channel almost 24x7 (ATMs, Internet, call centres, merchant terminals and card based transactions)."Says Srikumar Raman, Group Head, HR Service Delivery, Standard Chartered Bank, "Time is at a premium for these youngsters. If an ATM is crowded they'll make a dash to another ATM that is free. They don't want to waste time on non value added services."Most youngsters one spoke to visit the bank once or twice a year at the most. Any visit to the branch in Avanti Susan George's case is usually to run errands for her dad. Arnab Bose recalls that the last time he went to a bank was for a change of address consequent to relocating from Gurgaon to Bangalore. Bhargavi Shankar says the "rare" visits to the bank have been for operations that cannot be done over the phone or the Net like closing an account. "I don't spend my weekends updating passbooks or standing in queues for a cheque or a draft or for paying my utility bills."Extolling the benefits of the ATM, V. U. Niranjan says, "It is much faster, no long queues and no `going to the right counter.' There are many more ATMs than bank branches which make them more accessible. I don't receive a pay cheque, my salary is electronically transferred to my account. Only when I need to deposit high value cheques as from an old landlord do I go to the bank and get an acknowledgement. I only had a problem once when the ATM ran out of cash."Asked how they are gearing up for the future, Madhabi says, "We are adding to the services more ATMs in convenient locations with parking facilities (ICICI has 600 branches and over 2,400 ATMs across the country), increasing the number of things one can do and actually encouraging customers to move to an electronic channel."Is this trend confined only to the metros? Madhabi says, "People in the metros are the early adopters but there is a phasing that happens naturally and seamlessly and soon the mini metros and smaller towns follow suit. An ATM in Gobichettipalayam does as much business as an ATM in a metro." What else do youngsters expect from banks? Niranjan feels more ATMs at railway stations and airports would help as you often run out of cash while travelling. And customers should be able to choose the denominations they want. "Only once did my card get swallowed and if it's a holiday it becomes a problem," says Vishnu Balchand.Security while conducting online transactions can also be improved, says Dipti Garg.Arnab Bose suggests implementation of password protected online money transfer where payments will be denied if the person cannot furnish the correct password. Girish Redekar insists on complete transparency (no hidden charges) and demands more information about transactions such as the charges involved.While Ambica Suresh hopes that banks don't charge exorbitantly for every service they offer, she adds that the calls customers keep getting from banks for loans are terribly annoying.And not all banks are the same when it comes to service. "Some are more customer friendly. Customer service reps should be ready with answers to pertinent questions," says Avanti.Where youngsters need help is with investments. "Since people of our age are not too savvy when it comes to investments, if banks are more proactive without being too pushy, a sizeable chunk of investors could be tapped," says Vishnu.