After bringing the internal work under control by locating all the balancing differences, BGR started focusing on deposit mobilization. The toning up of service at the SB counter saw substantial inflow of walk-in deposits. Simultaneously the term deposits (FDs & KDRs) also witnessed a steep growth. Even though there was a huge gap in the year end targets, when BGR arrived on the scene, the branch could achieve both average and year end targets comfortably by the first week of March 1990.
The bank introduced the concept of personal banking branches (PBB) in the year 1990 and the Langford Town branch was one among the identified branches. The PBB branches were asked to transfer all the major borrowal accounts to nearby non-PBB branches to enable them to focus only on deposit mobilization, retail loans and customer service. About 20 borrowal accounts were transferred from BGR’s branch also.
It was felt that the branch needed a facelift to create the necessary ambience. The counters were redesigned, vitrified tiles were laid, new curtains were fixed and flower pots were placed to give a pleasing atmosphere and environment for the customers. There was an active involvement of employees with some of them actively canvassing for deposits. Soon the results became apparent. The branch witnessed an accelerated growth in deposits. Professor U R Ananthamurthy who won the Jnana Peeth award was one of the customers of the branch. He was the Vice-Chancellor of Calicut University at that time.
BGR started focusing on personal loans as the branch became a personal banking branch. He sanctioned small loans to different segments of population. He also disbursed education loans to students going abroad for higher studies. In one particular case one of his reputed account holders brought his relative, a Christian widow, for an emergency education loan. Her son had secured the Visa to go to USA for studying MS. The family had tied up the necessary funds. But at the last minute they found that they were short of Rs1 lakh. The student was to leave for US in two days.
BGR scrutinized all the documents and found them perfectly in order. He asked them to open an account and submit the loan application immediately. He sent his recommendations to RO by next day morning and requested the official to place the proposal to AGM for sanction urgently. He secured the sanction over phone by 1 pm. He asked the Accountant to obtain all the loan papers and to guide the student to collect the foreign currency from the Foreign Department. The next day the student took his flight to US! His mother was so pleased that she telephoned BGR and thanked him profusely for his timely help. BGR simply told her to thank the Canara Bank and its founder Shri Ammembal Subba Rao Pai! He told her that the bank was a pioneer in the field of educational loans and had decades of experience in this segment.
The Landmark Event at Langford Town Branch: The Visit of M R Pai - The Chairman of the Forum of Free Enterprise
One fine morning, during July 1990, BGR received a telephone call from RO informing him that Mr.M. R. Pai, the Chairman of the Forum of Free Enterprise, who was a member of the Customer Service Committee appointed by the Finance Department, will be visiting the branch next week. He also received similar phone call from CO Bangalore. M R Pai (Mangalore Ranga Pai) was a crusader and great critic of customer service in the banks. BGR had read many letters to the Editor written by him in newspapers – particularly in financial papers.
Subsequently, BGR received instructions to keep all the records and information relating to customer service up-to-date including display of time taken to render various services as also payment of interest for delayed collection of cheques. Then some officials visited the branch and checked whether all the things are in place. BGR also received several phone calls from the Executives from DO/CO advising him to be careful in talking to Mr.Pai as he will be submitting a report about the Bank’s customer service area to the Central Govt. BGR immediately convened a meeting of the staff members and told them about the visit of Mr. Pai and the purpose. He advised them to be positive in case he asked any questions/clarifications.
On the date of Mr. Pai’s visit the branch was kept spic and span. Around 11.30 am Mr. Pai arrived along with Shri K. Laxminarayana, Executive Director (ED), AGM/DM of RO, DGM/AGM/DM of CO and some other Officers. BGR welcomed them. First Mr.Pai went round the branch and commented that the branch looked special with its location, interior design and size. Then ED asked BGR to take Mr. Pai to his cabin and he accompanied him. Both of them sat in front of BGR. BGR told Pai that he had read many of his writings as also bulletins released by the Forum of Free Enterprise while he was working in Bombay. Mr. Pai was quite pleased. Then he started putting questions about customer service. He asked BGR to get Locker Register, cheque collection register as also some SB application forms of customers who had their accounts in the branch. He went on asking questions one by one and it was BGR’s turn to answer in the best possible manner. ED was observing closely. The discussion went on for about half an hour and Mr.Pai was noting down some points. He then wanted to know about customer service and complaints. BGR showed him customer complaints file that had two complaints that had been resolved to the satisfaction of the clients. Mr.Pai also asked the time taken to encash a cheque for which BGR told that more than 90% of the cash cheques are paid within 3-5 minutes of issuing tokens.
Meanwhile, all other Executives who were outside the cabin were eagerly observing the discussions going on inside the cabin. BGR then requested Mr. Pai to observe how exactly the customers were being serviced in the counter. Mr.Pai readily agreed and came out along with ED. He went to the counter and discussed with a couple of customers. Some of them were retired top Executives of Public/Private Sector Companies. Fortunately, all the customers gave good account of the service at the branch. Then BGR introduced Mr. Pai to all the staff members. He told Mr. Pai that they were the backbone of customer service and the development of the branch. Mr. Pai spoke to them freely and was happy. Then he asked BGR to show the Locker room. He also asked him to show the waiting list which the Sub-Manager had maintained. He then came out and met other Executives and told them that BGR and his team were doing an excellent job. He then thanked BGR and left the branch along with ED and other Executives on a good note. Even though BGR was confident of convincing Mr.Pai about the excellent customer service at the branch he heaved a sigh of relief when he left. Staff members were all curious and eager to know about the questions put by Mr. Pai. BGR briefed them fully later.
Devadas Shenoy, the Special Assistant, was a senior employee and was keeping his work area up-to-date. He was also extending excellent customer service. However, he was reluctant to appear for the promotion interview as he feared transfer outside Bangalore. BGR counseled him and persuaded him to appear for the interview. He appeared for the interview and was promoted as an Officer. He was posted to Channapatna branch on promotion. After two years he was brought back to Bangalore and he retired in November 2000.
The deposits of the branch grew fast and the branch achieved all the targets as on 31st March 1991. The balance sheet and the P& L Account were submitted on the same day at 5 pm. The all round progress achieved by the branch was appreciated during the Branch Managers’ Conference. BGR was looking forward for securing ‘A’ gradation in the ensuing branch inspection.
The branch was allocated very ambitious target for 1992. But with the core deposit base showing substantial growth, BGR and his team were quite confident of achieving the same. But to the utter shock and disbelief of BGR, he received the transfer order in May 1991 posting him as Senior Manager at the Shopping Complex Jayanagar, Bangalore branch.
BGR was wondering why he was being transferred every 18 months. But when he spoke to CO, he was told that considering his excellent performance, he was being posted to a car branch! But BGR came to know that the internal work at the Shopping Complex branch was in a very bad shape. With his replacement reporting at the branch, BGR had no alternative than to get relieved from the branch in June 1991.
BGR was given a very hearty and warm send off by the staff. All of them were very happy that the branch could show tremendous progress under his leadership. They assured him that they would maintain the tempo set up by him. Mrs. Marjorie Lobo compiled a special poem in honour of BGR and sang the same along with Mrs. Lorona Jacob. The occasion turned out to be very touchy and emotional.
The Langford Town branch had shown tremendous progress under BGR’s leadership. The deposits had more than doubled to Rs8.25 crore from Rs4 crore within a period of 18 months. The stigma of ‘C’ gradation was removed and the branch was heading for securing the coveted ‘A’ gradation in inspection. BGR left the branch reluctantly without having the faintest idea on what he was to face at the ‘Complex’ branch! It turned out to be quite ‘complex’ indeed!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
6th November 2012