“When lockdown was announced, many people struggled to avail banking services especially elderly & differently abled. As banking services were under essential services, we made sure our customers received timely services. People in my vicinity know me. So, they called me whenever they needed help with banking transactions.” – says, Jivaji Thakor, one of the banking outlet (BO), working at Ludara Village, linked to Deodar Branch, Gujarat.
People were caught unaware due to the sudden and deadly COVID-19 outbreak, which not only led to prolonged lockdown across the country but crippled the daily public life.
Major hurdles that people suffered residing in the hinterland can be categorised as such:
- Lockdown restricted banking hours at the branches. Initially bank branches were open till 2pm, which was later relaxed to 4 pm. Branches & ATMs were located at distant locations in rural & semi-urban areas, which further aggravated the situation as commute was hampered.
- No additional support was there for cash transactions during odd hours.
- Increased wait time in long serpentine queues for hours at branches/ATMs of PSU Banks.
- People in rural areas were not comfortable using digital mode of banking
With our network of 122 Banking outlet & 50 Business Correspondents, we at AU, ensured that the customers residing at the remotest location of rural areas, had access to the banking services seamlessly while following all the safety guidelines like sanitization and maintaining social distance. Even, stretching the working hours.
Standing by the customers: For banking as well as lending a patient ear
In March 2020, nearly 66% of transaction at BO & BC channel were withdrawal transaction, while after the commencement of lockdown, we saw a discernible upsurge in withdrawals. Nearly, 85% of total transaction routed at BO & BC channel in April’2020, were withdrawal transaction, out of which nearly 89% of transactions were Off-Us (of Other Banks) while it was only 76% in March 2020.
The amplification in Off-Us (of Other Banks) withdrawal transactions, testify our intent to serve the people in rural areas without any discrimination. The acute raise in Off-Us transactions, helps to build awareness among people on the benefits of deposit products in AU bank, and hence helped to enhance the relationship with the customer in seamless onboarding.
Since early April, our channel of BOs & BCs, functioned as essential workers helping people to access their bank accounts at their doorsteps and offering a patient ear to their anxieties around COVID-19 crisis. Our bankers not only helped them with their banking requirements but went one step ahead and calmed the customers helping them to deal with the crisis.
AU’s Approach to Doorstep Banking
AU Bank’s robust digital banking infrastructure enabled timely and seamless banking services to it’s customers irrespective of the location. The light weight & interoperable handheld device (TAB), integrated with FI server, secured with biometric authentication & PIN based transaction, functions as a mini bank through which a business correspondent easily serves the bank’s customers at their doorstep.
Role of Jivaji Thakor and many others like him has become crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic as they are acting as a lifeline between bank and the customers. The services provided through these points are, withdrawals, deposits, and account opening. In these trying times, the bank’s agents are also educating customers on social distancing and preventive measures against COVID-19.
We endeavor to provide doorstep banking
by dint of our BO/BC channel, especially elders and pensioners who are unable to step out homes in the current situation.
“Earlier I didn’t even know him but in these difficult times he has become my saviour. For me, he is like my son. He helped me when I desperately needed Rs.1,000/- and I couldn’t visit the branch due to physical hurdles. He came to my dwelling with his MicroATM, and helped me to withdraw my pension amount,” says a 65-year-old woman. She was among the 70 villagers who were served by Rajendra Rathore, a business correspondent of AU Bank.
As a preventive measure to avoid financial duress, the government has extended financial support by announcing the subsidy in women’s Jan Dhan Accounts, and PM Kisan Accounts helping those whose livelihood has been hit by COVID-19 lockdown. Predominantly, the withdrawals from these accounts remain a challenge without the network of robust agency banking model.
Apart from providing basic banking services at the customers’ doorsteps, AU and its employees have taken an extra step to reach out the old age & differently abled customers to provide them with required medicines, rashan, masks, sanitizers, and other essential commodities. The customers are delighted to see the kind of effort AU & its employees are putting in helping their customers.
AU Bank’s banking correspondents are not only bringing cash but also emotional support to the doorsteps of their customers.
“Our commitment to serve the people have been the bedrock of building our reputation through our alternative model of banking,” says Mr. Manmohan Parnami, Company Secretary, AU Small Finance Bank