Exclusive: Co-op Banks embracing digitisation to attract the millennial, says Milind Varerkar, GM-IT, Saraswat Bank

Going forward into the digital era, Co-operative Banks also want the millennial to choose them as their banks. It has now become the need of the hour and the ecosystem to adapt the digital modes and we have been deploying digital channels, said Milind Varerkar, General Manager -IT, Saraswat Bank, during a Live Webinar hosted by Elets Technomedia.

Milind Varerkar

He further said, “Many channels other than mobile banking and internet banking, which are provided by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) namely, UPI are adopted by us.”

“To ensure that all our customers are onboarded into these channels, we, on a regular basis, do educational programmes. Across our branches, we have created a goal pertaining to the digital evangelist. This digital evangelist ensures that every customer makes proper use of digital channels. With this, over a period, we have seen good growth in terms of digital usage.”

Talking about the unique customer requirements in the Co-operative Banking, he stated, “Co-operative Banks have a unique advantage. We Co-operative bankers are known for the personalised service that we have been offering to our customers. We are a 100-year young banks and we have customers for generations together. We have customers who have their grandfather’s account. That way the generations have stayed with us.  The forte of not only our bank but all other co-operative banks is ensuring the personalised services.”

Commenting on the adoption of digital payments mechanisms across the Co-operative banks over these years and the role of UPI in ensuring the same, he said, “With digitisation, the power of transaction has gone to the customer. Earlier, the customer was solely dependent on the bank or the branch to do the transaction on his behalf but with digitisation and particularly with mobile banking the transaction processing and initiation have gone into the hands of the customer. They can now transact at their will at their time 24X7 without bothering whether it is a public holiday or weekly off. UPI particularly is a gamechanger for small-ticket transactions. Because with it there is a surge of small-ticket transactions using UPI because of the simplicity that it provided. Also, some of the wallets came and started offering various cash backs and several promotional offers on the UPI channel added to the spread of the usage.”

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Explaining Sarawat Bank’s unique offerings in this regard, he said, “Particularly, we have also reported traction in QR code-based transactions. We have been issuing QR codes and the usage of QR codes through channels are also provided.”

“In mobile banking also we provide not only the traditional transactions but we also offer scan and pay option for Bharat QR. Besides, we have enabled digital cards. So, you don’t need to carry a physical card. “

“If you are carrying my bank’s mobile banking, you are carrying a digital card and therefore can transact at any channel.  We are also offering cashless ATM withdrawals through mobile banking.  With all these, we have reported good traction and usage from the user’s side.  Today, out of the total transactions, almost 60-70 percent of transactions reported by our banks are through digital channels,” he added.

In reply to an audience question asked during the webinar on the significance of one-on-one customer relationship and trust with digital banking, Varerkar, said, “As you go on building your digital platforms, the customers are more and more independent to their transactions. At the same time, banks also want to maintain the relationship for the simple reason that we expect our business to grow through our existing customers as well as build on more relationships with them. Based on this point, last year our chairman had launched operation Sparsh where we are using Artificial Intelligence to build the used cases to get back to our existing customers.”

“We are sitting on a pile of information and we must use that to get back to our customers o find out what more they require.  From that point of view, we have created a separate department to maintain the customer relationship where we are using AI to channeling the data and generate leads. It is also given to the branches through a lead management portal and we are witnessing a good traction and business through that,” he added.

Sharing his advise pertaining to preparedness and business continuity during Covid-19, Milind said, “Post COVID, customers would be coming back to the branch. So, we should have a strong people management policy in place, as well as employee-friendly policy where they will feel confident and safe to come back to their work stations and customers, should also feel secure to visit the branch.  Besides,  we will have to explore the area of convergence with Fintech for the deployment of better technologies and API would be on the priority list to capture the customer information.”

“People would also be hesitant to visit the branches and in that case how should we reach them to complete their demands on loans and advances. So, in that case, there should be a system in place where they can submit their documents such as Video KYC and others. Additionally, we need to have a robust cybersecurity infrastructure in place to deal with threats,” he added.

The Banking & Finance Post is an initiative of Elets Technomedia Pvt Ltd, existing since 2003.
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