The country’s second-largest public sector lender, Punjab National Bank (PNB), has bet big on rural customers in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Keeping in sync with its target, the bank unveiled its plans to open 100,000 biometric Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in rural areas by the year 2013 for providing easy access to the illiterate and semi-literate customers.
“We will be targeting the countryside customer who is not yet able to gain benefit from the financial and banking services available in the country. We have offered to open zero balance and no-frills account for the convenience of such economically weak customers,” PNB Chairman and Managing Director, K R Kamath told Business Standard. He was on an official visit to Kanpur to meet large and mid-sized corporate willing to bank with PNB.
The bank currently has second largest corporate customer base in the Kanpur circle. “Uttar Pradesh is on our radar and we have a major presence here. We are especially serious about capturing rural customers, who largely rely on agriculture and Small Scale Industries (SSIs),” added Kamath.
The financial inclusion project will be a holistic approach of providing basic financial services to the hitherto unbanked, poor people preferably at their door step with the help of smart card and biometric-enabled technology alongside arrangements for effective training facilities and financial literacy.
“We have conducted research in association with leading agencies, trying to figure out the factors influencing banking decisions of the common man to meet the exact demand and attain cent percent financial inclusion,” said Kamath.
The bank also envisages utilising services of business facilitator/business correspondent for this purpose. According to officials, the agricultural advances have grown at 20 per cent while the SME loans have registered an increase of 74.8 per cent during last year.
Commenting on the issue of consolidation in the banking sector, Kamath said the process would take time as a vast majority of the country was still under-banked but the bank in its individual capacity was on an expansion and acquisition spree.