Saturday, November 9, 2013
The good old Savings Bank Passbook makes a comeback ! In the 21st century upmarket Private Sector Banks !!
Just a few days ago, I received an envelope from a leading private bank in which I have a savings bank account. To my surprise, the envelope contained a new Passbook. There was a covering letter which stated that the bank would be doing away with quarterly or periodical (paper) account statements and from now on, transaction entries will have to be got made in the passbook at the branches of the bank. I could not believe my eyes ! Passbook is supposed to be the old world practice, right? Right, at least in the eyes of those private banks who made a dramatic entry into the Indian banking sector 10 or 15 years ago. Only the slow-moving, lethargic PSU banks with pan-eating and perennially gossiping staff managing the counters are supposed to use the outdated passbook system. The new-age swanky private banks with their clean and posh environment and fresh-out-of-university employees are supposed to be different from the PSU banks. In every thing including the way a record of transactions is made available in the hands of the customers! Be it the exorbitant minimum monthly balance requirement for Savings Bank accounts, the charges for asking extra accounting statements, charges for this service, that service and for every service which is really not much of service, penalty for this unintentional mistake on the part of the customer, that insignificant error by the account holder and a dozen other reasons which are no genuine reasons for penalty etc., these private banks boasted that they were different; in fact, several cuts above the PSU banks ! And now, these private banks are coming to the conclusion that a time-tested passbook is a better system to record transactions than loose sheets called quarterly account statements. It is an indirect compliment to the PSU banks who have stuck to the ubiquitous passbook either due to inertia or out of better understanding of ground realities. I for one have always found the quarterly account statements as any thing but practical. One has to file them carefully and keep them safely for future reference. Chances of losing a couple of them are high. A passbook with a thick cover is much better for preservation. To get the entries done in the passbook once in a quarter by going to the bank is no big trouble. A passbook with the photograph of the account holder affixed and complete residential address mentioned , in addition, serves as identity proof or address proof in many instances when such proof is required to be submitted. So, one private bank has already reverted to the old system of Passbook. The others may follow suit. This makes one thing clear. Do not throw away the baby with the bath water, in the name of modernity or innovation or the urge to be different ! Some practices which are old may still be worth conserving, when seen through the prism of practicality and simplicity. Lastly, the PSU banks, with warts and all, may still be having their ears closer to the mouths of the customers than the private banks.