This post is written by Veena Krishnamoorthy, an SBI Project Manager in India.
The last couple of years have seen a greater focus on reaching the underserved through the use of technology. Alternate Delivery Channels (ADC) are considered a solution that will bring in efficiencies, bring scale and increase outreach at a relatively lower operational costs. What we forget that ADC is nothing but a delivery mechanism!
When we talk about banking, we all know and realize that following systems, policies and procedures is extremely critical for success of banking. While introducing a new delivery channel, such as mobile phones to provide access to savings or payment platforms, it is important that we do not forget to follow these basic rules. It is important to bring in better control mechanisms to monitor and control the image of the bank. The neighborhood kirana store (local retailer), which is where the banking agent is based, will become the new face of the bank.
For instance, during field visit of a partner bank branch, we were with an agent who was responsible for collecting savings. The customer had a requirement of Rs. 200 that he wanted to withdraw from his savings account. The field agent gave him the money without the customer signing a withdrawal slip. The field agent was trying to keep his customer happy. He did not realize the implications of that simple transaction and the impact on banking. If the bank had given sufficient training and also ensured that the agent understood the implication of each transaction, then this would not have happened.
Let us not assume that the agents know what banking is or what the bank’s policies and procedures are. This is where it is extremely critical to have a well documented policies and procedures manual for an ADC platform, a guideline and a rule book or a Bible, which can be used as reference by field staff as well as an agent. Technology will help only if there are well trained and knowledgeable agents. It is also important to ensure that a fraud and risk mitigation strategy and control mechanisms are in place well so that the agent does not have to worry about risks and issues. This helps in building the agent’s confidence when he is sure that if he follows the guidelines, he will be able to serve his clientele better and thus increase his credibility.
To successfully bank beyond branches, there is a need to have well documented polices and guidelines, and a well trained agent network. Like Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”