Saturday, June 2, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 12

The branch was shifted to a better building owned by D Halappa Sons on the B H Road in the early part of the year 1971. By that time N Gundu Rao had been transferred and C N Nagaraj (CNN) had taken charge. BGR was working with CNN for the second time. The branch had four accountants at that time – the other three being Nagesh Kamath, Dinesh Kamath and P S Kamath. After some time Nagesh Kamath, who was the senior most Accountant, was transferred on promotion as Manager to Sakrepatna branch and BGR became the senior most Accountant. CNN was more of a PRO man and preferred to be outside the branch most of the time. He gave a free hand to BGR to manage the internal work at the branch.
Those were the initial post nationalization days in Canara Bank and the bank was opening a number of branches and making mass recruitments on almost daily basis. The Shimoga district was targeted by the bank for the branch expansion at a rapid pace. In fact, a senior Accountant called Ganesh Kamath was stationed in the branch for the purpose of deputation only.  The bank had two branches in Shimoga and the smaller branch (S M Circle) was originally the branch of Pangal Nayak Bank, taken over by Canara Bank. The main branch had about 25 clerks and most of them were graduates recruited over the past one year. They were young, enthusiastic and ready to learn new things in life. All they needed was an able leader and BGR fitted into the role straightaway.
Till the arrival of BGR these young men were focusing more on idling away the spare time in gossip and visiting the cinema halls in the city on a regular basis. There was no attempt to improve their qualifications or getting exposure to all the departments in the bank. The duty of cashier was attracting special allowance; but not all the clerks were getting the opportunity. Again, the work of preparing various returns (statements), monthly salary bills and handling of advances was the privilege of only a few senior clerks. There was a system of job rotation on a half-yearly basis. But even after a service of 4-5 years one could not gain exposure to all the departments.
BGR suggested that the change of departments may be made on a quarterly basis. That would have given more opportunities to the aspiring young clerks. But there was resistance for such system from the supervisors and other officers including the manager. BGR could convince them all by his vociferous arguments. The writer of this story was one of the beneficiaries who could get exposure to all the departments in the shortest duration. In fact the only department left out was the Tappal (dispatch) section that was earmarked for the newly joined clerks!
BGR could not appreciate the attitude of the youngsters towards the CAIIB examination conducted by the Indian Institute of Bankers. The bank had started giving additional increments and weightage in service to the employees who had completed the Part I and Part II. The passing of Part I would attract one increment and one year weightage while the completion of CAIIB by passing Part II would make one eligible for two increments and a weightage of two years. But there was no attempt by the youngsters to take the exam seriously. The excuse given was – the subjects of accountancy, foreign exchange, etc, were Greek and Latin to the B.Sc graduates. BGR made them change their mindset by giving his own example. According to him, if a matriculate could be successful in CAIIB, what was the problem with a university graduate?
Over a period of time BGR could convince the young men to make a sincere attempt to pass the examination. The results were highly encouraging. The writer of this story was once again the beneficiary being one among the first lot to gain the CAIIB qualification. That fetched him three additional increments and made him the senior-most clerk by overtaking several seniors (in service). This again meant regular supervisory duties fetching a handsome allowance. The CAIIB qualification ultimately helped in getting the promotion early. BGR was instrumental in the early promotion of several clerks in the branch and all of them remain indebted to him forever.
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The branch had three Special Assistants (Supervisors). I have already written about two of them – K G Bhaskar (KGB) and H C Raja Rao (HCR). HCR was a well known trade union leader while KGB was a master in locating differences in balancing books. Unfortunately both of them are no more with us. The third Special Assistant was H Janardhan Kamath (HJK). HJK was another special personality and the story will not be complete without writing about him.
HJK was also a financial expert. But unlike PAP, he restricted his investments to bank fixed deposits (FD) and recurring deposits (RD). He could have been a model to all those who do not know how to save money. One of the weaknesses in inculcating the savings habit is the tendency to break or withdraw the fixed/recurring deposits to meet the supposed urgencies. HJK solved this problem by treating the savings as expenditure!  He would always say that he spent heavily during the month. When asked for the break up he would furnish the amount invested in the RD and FD also as expenses during the month!
This methodology worked quite well for HJK. As he had treated the investments as expenses, there was no question of withdrawing them any time! While the RD account would be converted to a FD on maturity, the matured FDs would be simply renewed on due dates. This went on till HJK purchased a big site in Shimoga and built a house. The beautiful house was immediately let out as quarters to the Sub-Manager of our branch at that time!
HJK had some inferiority complex with the newly recruited young graduates. He was a matriculate and was weak in the English language. Besides, he had a handwriting that could not be read even by the pharmacists who are adept in reading the doctors’ prescriptions! The branch had a fulltime typist. But HJK was avoiding any type of correspondence with the customers to escape from embarrassments!
But HJK was forced to write a letter in English on one occasion. He had taken a LIC policy and wanted to know its surrender value to avail overdraft facility from the bank. He drafted a letter to the Divisional Office of LIC in Udupi. The letter read as follows:
Dear Sir,
My policy number is………. Please let me know ‘my latest surrender value’.
Yours faithfully
All of us went through the letter with the courtesy of the typist and agreed that the letter could not have been drafted better!
After a week, HJK received the reply from the LIC office in Udupi. We were all anxious to know whether the LIC had advised the ‘surrender value of HJK’! But we could not get the opportunity as HJK refused to show it to us. We presumed the reply as follows:
Dear Policy holder,
We are in receipt of your letter. You have asked us to advise ‘your surrender value’! We regret to inform you that we have no means of calculating ‘your surrender value’. Please appreciate our difficulty in the matter.
However, if you meant the surrender value of your policy, the same works out to Rs….
Yours faithfully
Branch Manager
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
2nd June 2012

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