Modern banking and tough competition

Dec 06 - 12, 2004

Along with historical modernization of banking sector in Pakistan, 'Bank Branches' are also being reshaped and reconstructed on the modern banking lines all over Pakistan. In future only those banks would take lead in banking sector which will have bank branches restructured and reshaped according to the modern banking system. In past almost 90 percent Bank Branches were set up in the places which were actually constructed for commercial offices, apartment complexes, shops and even for godowns.

Apart from foreign banks, Muslim Commercial Bank started reconstruction of its key branches in the main cities of the country, like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta, they even replaced locations for the convenience and for a smooth flow of maximum output. Later UBL started the same soon after its privatization.

So far about 250 bank branches have been reshaped and reconstructed all over Pakistan and reshaping of about another 500 branches are either started or has been planned. The banks are spending between Rs 1.5 million to Rs. 20 million for reconstruction, reshaping of each branch that depends on the locality, volume of business and availability of land or the premises.

"Reconstructed and reshaped bank branches are grapping historic number of clients in big cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad." Faisal Iftikhar a senior banker associated with MCB Karachi zone said that there are now specialized architects and designers for Bank Branches. "In this period of modern banking and tough competition this is not as simple as it was in past, that you take premise in apartment building put some furniture and start banking," he added.

About 10 security and comfort equipment have virtually scrapped out old fashioned bank branches. The bank branches reshaped or reconstructed have the following facilities and the equipments.

1) A specified location for security guard is now designers have fixed inside the bank branch, earlier that was outside the main gate, that was venerable for criminals. Now security guard has been given a place on certain height where it is impossible for any criminal to get hold of him on the contrary he can target easily the criminal if enters into the branch. Simultaneously he can alert the police and security officials outside with a single touch.

2) The automatic ticket number machine for the clients. As a client enters into the bank branch he presses the push button, gets his token number and secures his or her number in queue, apart from number, the printed token also bears his or her date and time of entry into the bank branch. There are three kind of tokens, one for the cash withdrawal counter, second for cash deposits and third for clearance. Now he or she does not have to face the hardship of constantly standing in the queue for the protection of his right of priority in the line.

3) A digital screen at every counter and right and left side of the bank branch shows the token number and which number is being entertained at which counter this gives an idea to the client about the time he or she has to wait for.

4) Public address system: Soon after a client is disposed off from the counter the cashier or officer at the counter pushes the button, and the next token number is announced through internal public address system for the next number to proceed to the counter.

5) Indoor close circuit video security cameras: this system keeps recording the activities of not only all activities inside the bank branch but it also records the entire process at every counter. At the one hand this video recording software keeps record of entire scene of the client's transition and at the other hand this monitors the performance including timing of the bank officer that he spent at each client, this provides factual position to the senior officers for examining and analysis purposes by the senior officers.

6) Mobile phone frequency jam system: this equipment immediately jams the radio frequency of all mobile phones soon after the mobile phone set brought inside the bank branch. Now neither a call could be made nor received. Earlier notices and warnings were pasted on the walls inside the bank branches prohibiting use of mobile phone for one of the security measure. But clients used to violate the instructions resulting arguments and exchange of hot words.

7) Greeter Counters: a special desk is also set up at the entrance where a senior bank officer is posted. He examines the problem comes to him or her and give full support if a client with low literacy rate enters into bank branch. He has the total guidance from filling the new bank account to any serious matter the client is facing. He is also ready to support the clients facing problems of mistakes of human factor.

8) Hot line: a hot line telephone within the bank branch is available if a client is not satisfied with the service of the bank branches. The time client picks the phone cradle, a senior officer is ready to listen to him or her for a quick response or solution. This facility has also been provided by the UBL at its ATMs machines so that the clients could be provided best services.

9. Comfortable desks: there are comfortable desks for the writing the cheques, pay-slip etc with the complete privacy.

10. All the counters of cashiers and clearance officers have also been replaced with good comfortable heights and visibility between the client and bank officers, this also gives a sense of respect and honor which were only in slogans and pamphlets in past.