Thoughts & Ideas

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Some Memorable Experiences with SBI

I recently wrote to the Chairman of State Bank of India, India's largest bank, in the fond hope of getting a reply. I did not even receive an acknowledgement. Maybe I was wishing for the moon. I had taken quite some time and effort in writing this so for my personal pleasure I am putting it on my blog.

The Chairman
State Bank of India,
Corporate Centre, Nariman Point, MUMBAI.

Dear Sir,

Some Memorable Experiences with SBI

While watching the wonderful advertisements being put up by SBI on TV and the print media I was prompted to pen my own very memorable interactions with your esteemed organization, which are enclosed.

These memorable experiences relate to two different branches of your hallowed institution but I request you to please feel confident in believing that they are very representative of the exalted service levels on offer.

With kind regards,

Sushil Prasad


Day 1: I approach SBI branch and introduce myself as the nominee (jointly with my sister) in case of the various accounts held by my late mother at their branch. As such, I request to be advised as to procedures for getting the deposits released to us.

I am advised that Bank’s computer does not show that nomination papers have been filed so I should take a walk. The computer records do not show nomination and nothing else can be done. No amount of requests and entreaties to check the Bank’s records make any difference. Lord Shiva would have come down from Mount Kailash but absolutely no effect on SBI staff.

No one is even willing to explain as to what would be the alternative other than “get succession certificate from court”. I spend the next one and half days running around to find a lawyer who would help in getting a succession certificate. Meanwhile the thought of coordinating with 8 legal heirs living all across the world gives me nightmares.

Day 3: With this profound dilemma on my hands, I spend some of my evening hours sorting out my mother’s papers and diaries. Eureka, Eureka, I find a piece of paper in her hand-writing mentioning that she had submitted nomination papers on a particular date to a certain named official of the branch.

Day 4: Next day I confidently go to the branch assuming that I have solved my problem. Branch officials are not impressed at all. This scrap of paper means nothing to them. If I were actually the nominee I should come with the acknowledgement issued by the Bank while submitting the nomination papers. If I don't have it, I should take a walk (naturally to oblivion).

Day 5: Weekly holiday of the branch

Day 6 & 7: I spend the next 2 days tracking down the official named in that scrap of paper who my mother seemed to have trusted with the nomination forms. I am initially informed that he has since been transferred. But my luck holds and I am able to not only trace him but also find out his cell phone number (thanks to a very kind colleague of his). He responds to my call on his cell-phone on the second attempt and I explain my position to him (very very apologetically). SBI is not short of good kind men (and women). He immediately recalls my mother (even though she had not been visiting the branch lately) and while not recollecting the particular incident (submission of nomination papers to him which happened at least 6 years ago), informs me that if the papers had been submitted I should check the file containing the nomination forms or the nomination register. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Day 7: I return to the concerned official with this piece of information. I am told to wait. After about an hour, he is able to locate the nomination register, but the register lacks an index and he is too busy to search for it page by page (it's a thick register).
I plead with him to let me leaf through the register and that he should trust me not to run away with it or otherwise harm it in anyway.

Finally he accedes to my request and hands me the register. I am rewarded within half hour spent leafing through it with the entry of my mother’s name listed along with details of all her three accounts and my name (along with my sister) as nominees. Incidentally date on which the nomination details are written down in the register is at least 3 years after it was originally submitted. I whisper to myself the slogan which is ubiquitous on all major roadways – “Better Late Than Never”.

I am jubilant and a small wane smile also hesitatingly creeps on the face of the official. He asks me to wait for some time. After another hour of waiting I am given the required forms and left on my own to figure things out. Well I have handled much more complex issues and am confident of handling these forms.

Day 8 & 9: It takes me 2 whole days completing the paper work. Not the least was getting indemnity from 2 existing account holders. What was I to do if I did not know 2 existing account holders – I don't know and in my present situation would also not like to dream.

Day 10: The paper work completed I go and submit the forms with a new request, which I think is quite simple. I also feel that my request would reduce the paper work involved and so should be welcomed by the bank staff. The request is that instead of issuing banker’s cheque for paying the funds in the accounts, the payment could be transferred to my existing account with SBI, albeit at a different branch (and hasn't SBI spent a fortune on CBS). I have also got my sister (and co-nominee’s) agreement to the arrangement. But rules are rules and SBI rules say that payment in case of deceased accounts should be by way of banker’s cheque. I accept the verdict (Do I have a choice?).

I am told that processing the papers would take at least 3 days. My 2 weeks leave is nearly up and I am desperate. I don't know as to by when I would be able to come to Banaras again and I am keen to complete at least this one work. I have spent most of my time running to SBI and all other personal works have been left pending. I approach the Branch Manager once again with request to expedite the payment. The almighty is beneficent and agrees to get it done in 2 days and directs me to come the next day.

Day 11: I am there at the branch by 12 noon, hoping to pilot the papers so as to ensure early resolution. I spend time till 4 pm doing this. Finally, I am handed 3 banker’s cheques representing proceeds for the 3 accounts maintained by my mother. All the 3 cheques have different names of the payees. By this time I am absolutely seething – ready to burst. I barge into the Branch Manager’s lovely air-conditioned chamber and point it out to him. His most exalted highness calls for his messenger who comes after 15 minutes. The messenger is directed to summon the concerned official who arrives within 5 minutes and who in turn is directed to carry out the corrections. I am asked to wait outside. Finally at about 5 pm I get the rectified cheques (they have to be seen to be believed – with round stamps and corrections galore on each of the 3 cheques).

Day 12: I now have to open a fresh bank account in the joint names of my sister and myself to encash the cheques. But that is my problem.

A couple of weeks later: Since I am an ungrateful and thankless creature and bent on finding mistakes, a couple of weeks later I write to the branch manager with another request. I have come to know that SBI’s world famous software does not have the option of not deducting penalty in case of premature breakage of fixed deposit in case of payment in deceased accounts. So now greedy me requests for confirmation that the payment made by SBI has been done without deduction of any penalty and in case any shortfall in payment has been made, they should kindly arrange to pay the difference. I reassure myself that as nominee and not just legal heir I need to give full details to the other 7 legal heirs, so it is important for me to know if I have received full payment.

I am a bundle of nerves by now and just can’t pick up the courage to physically go any branch of SBI. So I resort to the tactic of the weak – attack from a distance through letters.

But I get no reply.

A month later I send a reminder. Another month passes - still no reply.

I wonder what it takes to wake up the giant in Indian banking.

Three cheers for SBI’s nomination facility!


A long time back I had very proudly opened a Savings Bank account with a particular branch of SBI in Varanasi. Only grown ups had bank accounts and as a first year university student I felt that I had also arrived in life as evidenced by my own bank account. But with the passage of time and dictates of earning a livelihood I moved out of Varanasi. However, I continued maintaining the SB account since Varanasi happened to be my home town and I visited it regularly. Moreover, I was nostalgic about the account.

It so happened that I had to visit Varanasi in September 2007 as my mother was critically ill and naturally I required funds and felt somewhat secure in the knowledge that I had kept some funds in my old SB account. Unfortunately, my mother died and for making payments related to conducting her last rites. I issued a Self Cheque for Rs.8000/- drawn on my above mentioned SB account. The cheque was not honoured, inspite of sufficient funds, and the person who had gone to collect the money was advised that since the account had become dormant I (the account holder) needed to be personally present for the payment to be made. Conditions being what it was there was no way I could visit the branch. Apart from arranging for last rites, I had fractured my right leg which was in a plaster and it was difficult for me to visit the branch.

Since I was running short of cash, I requested the person to visit the branch again for encashing the cheque and in case of problems he could explain my position to the branch staff and if required get them to speak to me on phone. The payee faced the same problems in encashing the cheque and so called me from the branch and I subsequently spoke to 2 of the branch staff members on the phone and tried to explain the circumstances. But the almighties were not inclined to listen to anything at all. As a fall back support I had also sent a small note through the person who had gone to collect the payment addressed to the Branch Manager explaining the situation and requesting him to honour the cheque but the note was not even acknowledged.

Later I wrote to the bank informing them of this incident. The purpose of my writing to the bank was neither to press charges against the bank’s staff who failed in performing their duties (but do not ever forget to draw their salaries or go on strike at the slightest pretext) nor to seek damages for failure to honour my cheque. The only desire was to draw attention to the great quality of customer service and great sense of commitment to work not just by the front line staff but by most personnel across the entire SBI organization.

I was honored with 2 replies from the Bank. One was a pre-printed letter acknowledging receipt of my complaint. The other was a much laboured reply by the branch manager of the concerned branch explaining how important it is to protect my interest by not honouring my cheques!

As to my enquiry on whether non-honouring of customer’s cheques only on the plea that it is drawn on an account which has turned dormant is as per the Bank’s operating procedures and whether there are any instructions / laid down procedures on how to make payments in cases such as mine there was deafening silence.

Q. E. D.


  • At 12:05 AM , Blogger Veeresh Malik 2827 said...

    Hi Sushil, filing an RTI on this would be very simple, and I would gladly do this for you, send me the details on my email, and I shall do so?

    At its simplest, it will start with an RTI Application by me to the Chairman asking him what action he took on my friend's letter.

    Beyond that, the opportunities are mind boggling and believe me, it works.

    Do look up veeresh malik vs Indian Olympic Association and others to get an idea . . .


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