Private Banks and branding

• Check the ICICI bank facebook page and you will not find a single consumer complaint. Now isn’t that fishy?
Axis bank facebook page do have a lot of consumer complaints with no response. Only ‘kind words’ are responded to.
• Axis bank corporate banking user interface online has been so badly designed. For the first time user it is frustrating
HDFC bank has 16 boards 29 followers and 370 pins on Pinterest. What is it doing on Pinterest? Does it need to be there?
• Go to Axis Bank, JM Road branch in Pune. The security guard is chewing mawa most of the time and spitting it into the spindly leafless potted plants at the entrance. The interiors are smelly and forever crowded. Chairs wobble and are stained beyond recognition.

Using a bank prior to the advent of private banks was like entering a government office. Transactions were painful, time consuming and frustrating. A tall glass partition separated the customer and the bank. We just accepted it. As customers we had no expectations either, and those banks did not create any. Neither did they spend much money on brand building. In many ways they were honest and straightforward.
Then came the private banks with their slick packaging. Gracious spaces with relationship managers and all the frills. Using every tool, every platform to create the most warm and emotional image of being perfectly trustworthy and honest. A lot of us got captivated and opened accounts. In their quest to add numbers, they would go out of their way to open accounts. Gone were the glass partitions. Instead there were lounges, tea and coffee served etc. The honeymoon had begun.
It has been more than 10 years now. Some of the private banks have become huge. In their greed for big money, one has seen a distinct change in the way they function. The relationship officers are most of the time peddling gold coins, mutual funds and insurance policies where they stand to gain. There is no sincere financial advice. Also gone is the small talk, tea coffee madam? Instead small customers are classified as cattle class, and they are brazenly unapologetic for their attitude towards them. Other touch points have been worn off their sheen and gloss. They have taken their bigness for granted.
What is most surprising is that there is no integration of customer database to provide value to their existing customers. For instance, if you are a HDFC home loan user, HDFC bank has no clue about it.
Being on various platforms of social media and conducting promotions does not mean that these brands are engaging with their customers.
Recently some of the banks were in the news for wrong reasons. Their corporate communications department immediately issued pretentious statements instead of being frank and admitting to their mistake.
As net banking becomes popular, it would commoditise banking. How do they intend to differentiate and live up to a brand promise.

So what is it that ails these brands?
• Brand’s core values remain on paper
• No brand differentiation
• They are not communicated well internally.
• The brand does not walk the talk.
• Bottomline driven and not customer driven.
• Growth towards volume and not value
• Transactional rather than engagement
• No differentiated strategy for ORM (Online Reputation Management)

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2 thoughts on “Private Banks and branding

  1. I think HDFC Bank is one of the unpleasant banks to deal with. I have had quite a few run-ins with the bank and frankly, everytime someone from the bank calls me I disconnect the call without even talking to them. Here’s why…
    In 2003, when I was in Lucknow I went to HDFC Bank for a car loan. I had a salary account with them and presumed that it would be easy for me to get a loan and ensure repayment of EMIs for the same reason. An official of the bank came home took my post dated cheques, got me to fill the forms and said the loan would be sanctioned asap. I waited a month.
    Then a day before I was supposed to pick up the car, I was called to the bank and after a lot of whispered conversation I was told by a rather embarressed official, off the record, that I could not get a loan I was on the blacklist?” It seems the bank did not extend loans to journalists, politicians, lawyers and police officials.
    When the Maruti salesman heard my story he called up Standard Chartered Bank who accepted my cheques without a murmur of protest and I went home with my car, in a couple of hours.
    After I sent a stinker to HDFC head office I got a long-winded apology reply that claimed there was no ‘blacklist’ and that would send an official to speak to me and clear the air. No one came.
    The second time, I was in Pune and went to deposit a cheque in my savings account. The teller said I could not deposit the cheque as my signatures were not matching! I told him the cheque was in my name, so it didn’t really matter whether my signature matched but he refused. The next day my wife deposited the same cheque through an office boy at her workplace at another HDFC branch!
    The third occasion was actually quite funny because the people working in that branch can only be certified as DUMB. I was asking various banks for a housing loan and HDFC was one I turned to just to compare the interest rates. I was asked by one of the officials at the bank where the rest of the capital was. I told them it was in a savings accounts and it was from a property deal, for which I had all the bank statements.
    This smartass says he had to see the original documents of the sale. I told him that wouldn’t be possible since they had been submitted to the registrar in another state. I, however, said I had the bank statements with me and anyway it was in my savings account, it meant income-tax to be paid!
    Then he came out with another gem: How do we know it is not black money?
    I decided I had had enough. My present company, which also banks with HDFC asked me which bank I would want my salary in. “we have three – HDFC, IDBI and Bank of Maharashtra”
    I chose BoM, because as I told the lady that hopefully, I would not like to step into another HDFC bank branch till I die!

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