Many complaints on Bank Services have been made this year without satisfactory resolution. Yet charges and costs using the services have increased, irrespective.

I obtained some cash from a Bank ATM a few days ago, and was charged an extra 4.00 USD ($450)  with no reason declared, except the machine signalled that it required permission to allow the charge  to which I agreed; so it is this incident that touched the chords of my memory.

The first item I rechecked were facilities and amenities available to customers. As I expected, the additional rest rooms and other amenities which were deficient as pointed out in previous correspondence were still not installed in existing branches; yet the branches that would take up the excess persons remained closed. Perhaps the only Banks that could accommodate clients are the newer branches, NCB Constant Spring, and the new BNS Centre in Montego Bay, yet to start construction. I do believe NCB HWT branch is adequately serviced.

I realize in 1969 onwards  one of the growing Middle Eastern nations realized they were not being served properly by their banks (thereafter many other banks worldwide found it as well). For reducing costs the Banks decided to close their rural branches, and recommended to clients that they be served closer to the nearest city branches. Accounts were closed and moved without further reference to customers to city branches (nearest Cities), similar to what has happened in Jamaica.

I suppose this would have emerged as a final solution, except that rural farmers became larger, schools and colleges relocated to new districts and there was an immediate need for more rural and distant branches. New factory and commercial space were also placed rurally, though the charges for main branch and distant branch (of the same bank) differed; and a study concluded by a well-known statistician show that several banks discriminate in the way they treat home branches versus rural branches, and uniformity in banking policy did not survive.

The study further points out that charges for cash deposits also varied in much the same way. ‘H” Bank for instance, allowed one each cash deposit per month; “S” Bank capped the number of free transactions to five per month, making a deposit charge thereafter. “P” Bank places restrictions on the number of transactions in a distant branch, and differentiates charges made at a cash machine within a home branch and charges on a cash machine at a distant bank.

The study is known as “The Myth of Any-Branch Banking,” and recommends that such disparity be referred to the Central Bank to ensure that bank clients are treated fairly at all locations and without discrimination.

To conclude,  1. The branch network improved in all areas, main and distant branches. 2. There was marked improvement in financial and banking services when it was taken to people.3. Banks were more professional when they became less susceptible to promotional incentives.

Eighty five per cent of the Banking Sector was nationalized, and after 28 years, growth was 800 per cent, and the rural farmers who were being exploited by money lenders and agencies had a viable alternative to access funds;, and there were significant savings in Bank costs especially lending to rural and MSME sectors.

(545 words.)

©Ramesh Sujanani

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