Friday, April 29, 2011

Private Banking and Senior Citizens

Last weekend I visited my parents and spent some time with my grandfather. As I was about to leave, he handed me a few envelopes and said, " Let me know if these make any sense to you.". One look at the envelope, I knew it was a welcome kit for a savings account from a private bank. I was taken aback that he (at the age of 81) opened a new account. Knowing that I would ask this, he explained, "This guy from the bank came home and said he was referred to me by my friends in the laughter club. They all have opened accounts with the bank and blabbered something about what the bank had to offer. He spoke with such speed that I did not fathom even a single word. Then he asked me to sign at some hundred places on a form and asked for a cheque of 5K. Given that my friends had already done it, I gave in. "

"But ... ok.. so whats the problem now?"

"I dont have anything that says that this account belongs to me and how much money I've in there."

"hmm... ok. So what do I do with these envelopes ?"
"See if it is written any where of how much balance I've and get me to close the account."

Two days later, he called me - "Send the envelopes back asap. I need them."
"Ok. But what happened?"
"I got a call from the bank and the guy is going to come today to collect money."
"Collect money for what?"
"One lady from the bank called me today and said that I've not made any transaction for 30 days so they are going to charge me Rs. 150 and deduct that from my account. $###### ... they never told me this and if they did, are they expecting me to remember this at this age?? Cant they write it in all those crappy papers that they sent? I read every single line in there and it is not written anywhere. Moreover, this lady tells me today that their bank does not give any passbook ! What kind of a bank is this?? How on earth am I supposed to know how much money I've and is the bank even giving me any interest?? And you know what she said? ... Sir, you can get all this information via Net banking or Mobile banking or at any nearest ATM.... now these are even more alien to me ! "

His questions got me thinking. All of them are genuine from his perspective. He always had a passbook that not only told him his balance but also gave him all the rules and regulations of operating the account. No banking transaction ever happened orally or on phone .. forget net ! His insecurity for this hard-earned money is understandable. Can they not take care of these at least in case of "Senior Citizen" accounts? With all banks harping on being customer-friendly, are they forgetting / failing to understand the psychology of their target customers?

It is agreed that India has a huge penetration of mobile and to a great extent that of internet but the consumers using these heavily are not 81 yr olds. Don't we need to get the basics right while we come up with plans like "senior citizen account" and all that?

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