Hello banks, I’m your customer too. Why do you charge me for everything I do? Why do you deny me the services that I require?
The first time I walked through your doors to open an account, I underwent stringent due diligence by your representative who conducted a thorough KYC (Know Your Customer) process on me. I shared all my financial details, down to the last rupee I spend on the chai I drink with my friends at night.
I was impressed. In fact, I was reassured that my financial future would be secure with you. I could see greener pasture across the fence; my savings would grow manifold over time. I would be able to lease my favourite car, build my own home – oh and if I ever needed cash urgently in you would provide it to me at ‘affordable rates’.
I have been your customer for five years and as I am still standing across the same fence I thought you would help me make my way across. Now a barren wasteland lies beyond; one where each passing wind has drained me of every rupee in my pocket. You have charged me for everything. For not maintaining Rs. 5,000 in my account. For using a different branch to withdraw money through an ‘online’ transaction. For having had my ATM card stolen and daring to apply for a replacement. The list goes on.
I understand you have limitations; I may not meet your requirements for a loan. I am unable to deposit enough to earn a substantial profit. I don’t use my internet portal regularly to qualify for that Samsung Galaxy Note you are giving away this month. But I am still your customer, and here is how I fare along with your other ‘valued customers’.
You use MY money to lend to other customers. You use every hard-earned rupee I leave in my account, to lend to the government for a ‘risk-free’ return.
Mind you, it is only risk free because if the government defaults, our central bank will step in, print more currency, or our ministries will borrow more from international agencies to repay the debt. Who bears the brunt of such activities? ME! I will have to pay higher taxes and face exorbitant price hikes to clear this debt.
Here is my suggestion: lend me the money. It’s less risky, especially as my new car or home will be pledged to you and your team will harass me to repay my loan instalments even if I have to starve. In either case, the debt repayment will be borne by me, why not let me drive the new sedan whilst doing it?
You CHARGE me for all my transactions. I pay to subscribe to your internet banking portal. I pay to transfer funds online. I pay for my withdrawal instruments. And yes, I also pay taxes on the nominal amount (if any) that is credited to my account as ‘profit’ on my savings. And yet, you offer free instruments and services to large institutions, to individuals with sizeable deposits in their accounts; basically everyone who falls in your “high net worth” category.
Cut me some slack too. My earnings are not illegitimate, so why should I pay more for everything? Offer me a few free services, and watch how my account usage will increase. Watch how I use your cards to make more transactions. Watch how I save more with you to shore up my own wealth.
I too should be labelled as a ‘high net worth’ client. Everyone should be labelled as such! Don’t discriminate.
You know everything about me from the day I asked for that application form. I’m your customer too! Don’t treat me not as a source for a quick buck every time your revenue chart dips. Treat me as someone who will grow with you, who will trust you with my lifelong earnings, who will turn towards you in time of financial need and help you earn much more in the long run.
Be wary of one fact. My kind run in millions; collectively, we are the customer base you seek!
Saad Niaz is CEO and Co-Founder, MyBankersOnline.