I was getting restless as I checked my watch for the umpteenth time. I had been waiting for over 20 minutes for my relationship manager at the chic “Private Banking” branch in Gurgaon. This wait was getting rather annoying. Anyhow, I was being served piping hot café Latte from Starbucks as we remained seated in a luxurious waiting lounge. Ever since I had opened an account with this bank almost 10 months ago, this was the first time I had felt the need to meet my designated relationship manager. Up until now, all my banking had happened through their delightful mobile app. Only this time around, to my anguish, the nature of work involved signing some papers; thus, my physical presence was required at the bank.
While I sat sipping my coffee, I stumbled into reverie. As a child, most of my Saturday mornings were consumed at the local bank branch running errands for Dadaji (my grandfather). Dadaji was the finance guru of the family, responsible for managing the household expenses and maximizing the overall portfolio returns, and I was his trusted lieutenant. During those days, we had a single bank branch serving many colonies and this branch was generally teeming with people, more so on Saturday mornings. I recalled standing in long queues that extended far beyond the perimeter of the bank into the hot sun, waiting for the elusive opportunity to speak to the teller.
As I remembered, most of the tellers in our local bank were elderly people, who seemed overworked and rather irked attending to the heavy influx of people at the bank. Mostly, my task would involve depositing a cheque/cash, getting the passbook updated or withdrawing petty cash for the family expenses during the week. On rare occasions, I was asked to make a trip down to request for a cheque book. Dadaji had taught me the trade – basics of debit and credit, interest rate calculations, tax deductions and others of that ilk. Additionally, I got the most important lesson – “Always keep a smiling face in front of the bank executive, they will help us during our time of need”, he would say. So, despite the scorching heat and snide remarks from the bank clerks, I would be at my charming best.
In return for this service, Dadaji would often reward me with an “Orange Bar” (Candy) from the ice cream wala. On rare occasions, the two of us would share a glass of chilled Lassi (it tastes like the Turkish Ayran) from the street hawker.
Suddenly, I felt my exasperation turn into excitement as events and thoughts kept racing through my mind.
As time went by, and Dadaji got restricted to the bed, I used to tell him about the disruption in Banking. Traditional banks were going through a sea change as they increased focus from ‘branched banking’ to ‘branchless’ offerings. Mobile Phones had made banking more accessible and comfortable for common people like us. I told him about the number of new age banks, Mobile Wallet Companies, FinTech’s, and other payment platforms that were shaping the financial ecosystem. Dadaji seemed always interested to hear about these innovations and I used to enjoy having these conversations with him.
At some point, banking apps became ubiquitous and we started using them for our daily purposes – online statements, fund transfers, balance enquiry, cheque book requests etc. In some cases, banking apps offered utility bills payments, e-commerce transactions, domestic & international remittances, loans, insurance and many more facilities. Banks had made huge progress towards simplifying the customer experience.
During this excitement, I felt a light nudge on my left shoulder. It was the bank manager trying to get my attention. He had been waiting to escort me to his office. I quickly guzzled my Café Latte and got up from the comfortable seating smiling to myself. I wished Dadaji was here to witness the modern-day banks. I wished he was here to experience the Latte!