SBI Sees Drop In Transactions During Lockdown, Says Most ATMs Running
Pedestrians and an auto-rickshaw pass a State Bank of India Ltd. (SBI) branch in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

SBI Sees Drop In Transactions During Lockdown, Says Most ATMs Running

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The nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus outbreak has led to a decline in banking transactions at State Bank of India but customers are using online and digital modes, as usual, a senior official of the state-run lender said.

Online transactions are going on but overall there is a decline in banking activities, PK Gupta, Head of Retail, Payments & Digital Banking, SBI said.

He said that amid the lockdown, the bank is coordinating with state and district authorities on the opening of branches and the time period of operations. "What our people are doing at the local level is that in consultation with the state governments or with the district authorities, they are deciding on which branches to open, how many to open and for how much time to open," Gupta told PTI.

He said in the last two days, most of SBI branches were open with a staggered time slot and transactions were witnessed on both the days. "The number of transactions which we did on Monday was about half of that on normal days, and at branches, the number of transactions is even one-fourth actually," Gupta said.

He mentioned that SBI is giving banking services to whosoever is able to reach its branches. "We are able to provide most of the services at branches," he said. The government has announced banking services as "essential services" and would continue amid the lockdown to contain Covid-19 spread. It has asked all the banks to keep only the desired number of staff at bank branches alongside promoting customers to use digital mode of transaction to the maximum possible extent.

Gupta also said that ATMs of SBI are running as usual and the ATM availability is close to 90 percent, which means most of them are operational. "So transactions are happening there also. Apart from that, we have our banking correspondent channels, close to 55,000 of our BCs are operational as on date. So whatever channels are available to the bank, all of those have been activated," he said.

SBI is operating through all these means in consultation with the local district authorities and state government authorities. "In many states, they are restricting the time slot of our branch opening also. Like in some states, it is 7-10 A.M., in some states it is 8-11 A.M. and in some states, it is 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.," said the SBI Managing Director.

He said as most of the transactions can be done digitally, people at large are using the digital channels. He exuded confidence in keep providing the banking services to the needy at this hour even as the bank's own staff are also facing challenges to reach their offices due to the travel restrictions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night announced a nationwide lockdown on all kinds of activities for the next three weeks, barring essential services, in a bid to prevent social contact and curtail the spread of the deadly coronavirus which has infected over 550 people and claimed 12 lives in India.

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On asked whether there has been any early assessment of financial loss to the bank due to the lockdown, he said it is too early to take a call on that as the primary goal is to save lives than to count on financial losses. However, there will be some kind of pinch as the bank has already announced a waiver of charges on the minimum balance requirement.

When asked if the bank's quarterly earnings for the last quarter ending March are expected to get delayed, he said the call has to be taken by the government. Time has already been given by Sebi for the delay in earning announcements by listed companies. "It all depends on when the situation becomes normal. So when that happens I don't think declaring the results should be a big problem," Gupta said.

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