Coronavirus impact: Banks revise branch timings, push use of digital transactions

Indian banking services, apart from basic payment and transfer operations, are likely to come to a halt as lenders impose restrictions on the movement of employees and their interaction with customers to protect them from Covid-19.

AFP
The RBI and the government have been urging customers to use digital channels as much as possible to carry out their banking transactions.
With the nationwide lock down imposed across the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus, banks are taking steps of their own to ensure safety of their staff and customers. Banks have changed timings of their branches, reduced staff, and are pushing people to use digital channels instead of visiting the branch.

As per Economic Times report, Finance Ministry has told banks to keep all banking channels open and ensure branches and business correspondent function throughout the lockdown period.

Here is a look at what various banks have announced so far.


What banks are doing
  • Federal Bank: On March 23, 2020, announced that it has revised its business hours at its branches. According to a press release from the bank, "Business hours of our branches are being revised for the period from 23rd March to 27th March 2020. All our Branches except those in Telangana will be working from 10 am to 2 pm on these days. Branches in Telangana state will be working from 10.30 am to 2.30 pm. As advised by Indian Banks' Association, only essential services viz, cash deposit and withdrawal, cheque clearing, remittances and government transactions will be rendered on these days through our branches." It further stated that the daily cash withdrawal limit in debit cards has been enhanced to Rs 1 Lakh. As per the Federal Bank's website, the cash withdrawal limit for its Rupay Classic Debit card is Rs 50,000 daily. "All our digital banking services will be functional round the clock," it added.
  • HDFC Bank: According to a PTI news report, HDFC Bank has changed its working hours and will function from 10 am to 2 pm till March 31, except on Saturday. The news report also stated that the bank has temporarily suspended passbook updates and foreign currency purchase services.
  • ICICI Bank: ICICI Bank, via SMS, has informed its customers that its branches will remain open albeit with reduced staff. "For same reason, our contact centre will also function with reduced staff. We urge you to stay safe and bank from home using iMobile/Internet Banking for all essential banking services." Further, ICICI Bank has informed its customers that there might be delay in delivery of cards, cheque books etc.
  • State Bank of India: According to PTI news report, SBI in many states are operating the bank branches in the staggered manner. In some states, branches are operating at 7-10 AM, in some states it is 8-11 AM and in some states 10AM to 2 PM.
  • Yes Bank: The bank via SMS has said that its branches will operate from 10 AM to 2 PM between March 23, 2020 and March 31, 2020. It has also asked its customers to use digital banking services.
  • HSBC: This is another bank that revised its branch timings due to COVID-19. From March 23, its bank branches will operate from 10 AM to 2 PM. The revised timings will continue till further notice, an SMS from the bank stated.
  • Axis Bank: According to an Economic Times news report, Axis Bank will be waiving off charges for savings account, current account and prepaid card customers towards online payments and ATM transactions. This leeway will be valid till March 31.
  • Bank of Baroda: The bank via newspaper advertisements has announced that will be no charges on digital transactions. Bank of Baroda, like a lot of other banks, is encouraging it customers to avoid the use of cash or visiting branches in the wake of the pandemic.
  • Kotak Mahindra Bank: The bank has revised its branch timings; branches will now be open from 10 AM to 2 PM. It has also informed customers about the reduction in staff at its branches. "We encourage you to use Mobile/Net Banking for 24x& access to accounts," said an SMS from the bank.

How banks will work for the next few weeks
Indian banking services, apart from basic payment and transfer operations, are likely to come to a halt as lenders impose restrictions on the movement of employees and their interaction with customers to protect them from Covid-19, another Economic Times news report stated. (Read the full story here)

Indian Banks' Association (IBA) issued a press release in which it stated that only essential services, i.e., cash deposit and withdrawal, cheque clearing, remittances and government transactions will be rendered by the bank branches with effect from March 23, 2020.

"Most of the services that the bank offers are available online. IBA requests customers to avail non-essential services through the mobile and online banking channels. IBA is working round-the-clock to ensure all digital channels are up-to-date and have all the information that customers may be need during this period. In case any customer needs further assistance, they can call their bank branches or use the IVR facility through their call centres," the IBA release stated.

It is not just the IBA, but the Reserve Bank of India, the government, and various banks have been urging customers to use digital channels as much as possible to carry out their banking transactions. Click here to read.
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