Nationalized Bank: Blind adherence to rules leads to inappropriate suggestions

A blind adherence to regulations today made a bank manager give a suggestion that was, at the very least, inappropriate.

Let me recount how this came about.

My maid, before she came to work for me, opened a savings account. Not being aware of the options, and being barely literate, she slowly wrote her name on the specimen-signature card. She then realized that she would have to sign exactly the same way whenever she wanted to withdraw money; so she started worrying about not being able to.

She therefore requested me to come with her to the bank, and ask them to change her from a signature to a thumb-impression. Since this is not forgeable, I felt that it was a good thing, and went with her to the bank.

One bank employee told me that she had to make a thumb-print on a specimen-signature card, and I would have to sign as a witness.this seemed a reasonable procedure to me.  I went to the bank employee to whom I was supposed to submit this,

 
I have yet to meet a bank employee who does not raise an objection to anything that a customer wants. He immediately said, “This is not the procedure” and took the specimen-signtaure card and the photo to the bank manager’s cabin. I followed with my maid (both of us being genuine customers of the bank.)
 
The first objection was to the photograph. “This is not a ‘latest’ photo,” said the bank employee. I told him that the woman was clearly identifiable in the photo. But by then the bank manager had come up with a better objection. “If she signed when she opened the account, how can she say now that she can’t sign?” he asked.
 
His solution? “Let her get a medical certificate that she can’t sign. Any medical doctor will give it.” I could not believe my ears. “Are you telling me that any medical doctor will give a fraudulent certificate….and that you will accept it, just to keep to the rules?” I asked. The bank manager would not reply to this.
 
I refused to get any such medical certificate which would have been blatantly dishonest. My pleas not to harass genuine customers fell on deaf ears. “She must get a medical certificate or sign each time,” was the only thing the bank manager had to say.
 
Finally, the bank employee came up with a helpful suggestion. He said he would show the specimen signature as registered on the computer, and my maid could sign similarly, on a piece of paper. I could then stick the piece of paper in her passbook, and she could sign looking at that, whenever she wanted to withdraw money. 
 
This method has the serious drawback that  anyone who gets hold of her passbook can forge her signature and withdraw money, but there seemed to be no way out. To prove to her that she could withdraw money, I then made her sign in three places on the withdrawal slip, and she was able to withdraw a small sum of money, to her great satisfaction. The teller also made a helpful suggestion: to stick her photograph in the passbook. I stuck both signature and photograph into her passbook, and I have told her I will keep the passbook carefully (she lives in a large joint family with some predatory male members). “We have many aged people who come, madam, we will help her,” said the bank employee. Yes, I wanted to say, some of you may be helpful, but what if others are not? 
 
I cannot understand why a less satisfactory solution, which observes the letter of the rules, is more acceptable to the bank than something which surely could have been decided at the bank manager’s discretion. Why do we have this kind of blind following of rules even if it means adopting dishonest methods? Why are we so enamoured of certificates and paperwork? Why do banks harass their genuine customers, quoting rules at them?
 
Names of the employee, bank manager and the bank on request. I am writing to the Banking Ombudsman about this. Let me see what transpires.

 

Deepa Mohan
About Deepa Mohan 715 Articles

Deepa Mohan is a freelance writer and avid naturalist.