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Your friendly neighbourhood bank branch may go missing soon and this could be the reason why

Traditional jobs such as passbook updating, cash deposit, verification of know-your-customer details, salary uploads are going digital increasing job redundancies.

ET Online|
Updated: Oct 27, 2017, 03.04 PM IST
Going to bank, a routine business chore, will soon become part of history, and so will the long queues, vouchers, pins and blue stamps. Banking as you know it is on its way out. Increasingly, banks are setting up digital branches as customers find transacting with machines easier and quicker.

India's largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI), has taken the lead among public sector banks to experiment with digital branches through its offering­ SBI InTouch.

The bank now has over 250 such branches which facilitate instant opening of accounts, printing and issue of personalised debit cards, and also offers expert advice on investments through video conference. Another state-run lender, Bank of Baroda, is currently experimenting on a similar format.

Traditional jobs such as passbook updating, cash deposit, verification of know-your-customer details, salary uploads are going digital increasing job redundancies. After the private-sector banks, even those in the public sector are trying robotics to centralise operations and hasten turnarounds which reduces the need for manual workers.

Soon after, HDFC Bank launched an electronic virtual assistant (EVA) a few months ago, State Bank of India (SBI), India's biggest public sector bank, too is testing a chatbot to handle customer queries and explain to them retail products and services. SBI Intelligent Assistant, SIA, might also be a modest beginning that can emerge as a wide phenomenon a few years later. In future, SIA might handle real banking transactions as well.

Branch banking, which just 15 years ago was the only channel, is now the preferred source of day-to-day transaction for very few of urban netizens polled in the ET RICS Retail Banking survey. Forty per cent of the respondent prefer bank websites to branches for routine transactions as against merely 10% who go to the branch for routine transactions. 20% prefer mobile apps while 17% and 10% prefer SMS and ATMs, respectively. 60% respondents prefer digital banking, a reality which was unimaginable just five years ago. The penetration of digital banking has gone deeper than just big cities. Even in small towns with less than five lakh population, 38% prefer to go to the website for routine transactions while only 11% go to the branch.

Banks are realising that branch network is not the only means of reaching out to the customer. New age channels like internet, mobile banking and digital wallets are creating new ways to bank. The governments thrust to bring in the non-banked into the banking sphere and its push to prioritise digital transactions have changed the whole paradigm of traditional banking.
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