Friday, February 13, 2015

Why I prefer ICICI bank for Online Banking rather than the SBI ?

For the last few years, I seldom need to go to the bank as an individual retail banking customer. My salary comes to one bank and I spend or save it using bank transactions. 

Some years ago, visiting the bank and making personal rapport with the bank officials was some thing which people like us could not have avoided. If the bank officials who manned the front desks were annoyed with your face for some reason, you were bound to have some tensions due to the problems some of them could have created for you.

Not that all banking officials were bad. Some of the officials used to be friendly and helping. But there always existed a few who took some occasional sadistic pleasure in creating problems for their customers.

At times they used to come up with rules that you never knew as existing only to enhance your tensions and headache. No doubt, banks had become a necessary evil of the society and it was the era of the nationalized banks!

I remember a case where I deposited a cheque from one outstation bank branch to my account in another bank. It was equivalent to a bank transfer. The money got debited from one bank but never reached the destination branch. I remember visiting the branch and meeting the officials for nearly half an year for getting my money that got 'lost' in the banking procedures!

All such banking nightmares are forgotten things of the past. Thanks to the internet technology and the advent of the private banks which got out of the ridiculous procedures and customer unfriendly culture of the public sector banks.

It was the ICICI bank, if I remember correctly, which brought innovative banking culture to India for the first time. They brought advanced computerization and air conditioned bank branches in all nooks and corners of India for the first time. 

The visionary leaders of this bank also realized the risks of customers losing faith in banking. So they incorporated 'the six sigma' practices of quality mandatory in their banking system practices. It was not an eye wash. As far as I know, the management of this bank was serious and honest about it.

That means the compulsory evolution of a banking process where errors are not acceptable. Customer complaints are taken up seriously and settled within a short time. The bank employees were not allowed to be complacent with customer complaints as used to be the practice elsewhere in other banks.

For maintaining the computerized banking, this new private bank also went in for the best available banking software and also went in for the best available manpower to handle the complex situations efficiently. More importantly, they ensured to have a more or less efficient work force who were homogeneously competent to handle the work systems at all levels. The efforts paid. Soon ICICI bank became the No.1 private bank in India and also the No.2 among all banks. Nothing surprising that its first CMD Mr. K.V.Kamath and its second CMD Mrs Chanda Kochhar have become world icons in banking! It is noteworthy that no other private bank in India could grow to the extent of this bank though all of them started almost at the same time with same rules.

I have been an Individual customer of the State Bank of India for the last over three decades. I have seen the culture of this bank earlier and the somewhat changed culture of this biggest nationalized bank of India in the later years after the emergence of the private bank culture. 


Now I am a customer of both SBI and the ICICI. The new banking game has almost reduced the need of me going personally to the banks. I am almost relieved of the tensions of the past.

If I make a comparison of these two banks from my personal experiences, I would say ICICI bank is better as far as internet banking is concerned. Of late SBI has also improved their systems, but I am not so confident about their ability to sort out any difficulties that one might encounter. If you do not land into trouble, well and good. But if you face some problems, ICICI would be in a better position to solve it because of their Six Sigma quality policy. The ability of SBI to solve the problem actually depends on the individual officer or staff with whom you have to interact.

The security aspects of the internet banking might be more or less similar in most of the banks now due to the intervention of the mandatory supervisory systems. Yet, the internal systems that one may have to encounter while doing internet banking is different from bank to bank.

Fortunately, I have not faced any problems with internet banking so far from either of these two big banks. Yet, I think, the ICICI system is superior and more reliable. That is due to the following:

In the ICICI bank, it is not essential to keep changing your password quite often, a botheration for people who cannot remember many passwords. Instead they rely on advanced systems like the use of the debit card with random grid numbers. Their systems also take note of the usual IP addresses of the computers which you normally use. Their system use one time password (OTP) send through your registered mobile phone occasionally when there is a change in your normal use pattern. In case of some transaction errors, they set it right without you going after them within a few days. If you lodge a complaint online, it is invariably addressed.

But with the SBI internet banking system you cannot be so sure. Their systems appear vulnerable and prone to mistakes or errors. While transacting, they always rely on OTP send to your mobile. To make the OTP delivery by SMS doubly sure, they send it from two central servers. But, I have faced problems when the OTP never reaching me for more than half an hour only to compel me to abort the transaction. When you attempt a transaction at a later time, you might get OTP SMS pertaining to your aborted attempt, making your transaction failing for entering a wrong password. You get totally confused. To add up the complications, the SBI staff in most branches are mostly ignorant or incompetent fellows who would be of no use to solve your problems. 

It is a wise decision to avoid SBI when it comes to online banking transactions. Of course, you may view your account and other such mundane things. 

A final word about mobile internet banking using android phones. I have not yet got the courage to do it. I have preferred to avoid it. Perhaps it is a good technology. Perhaps your mobile set and the banking app that you have downloaded in it from your bank could be of advanced features. But mobile phone and android systems are prone to physical thefts coupled with digital hacking attacks. As I am not a person who would use money transactions on the move, it is not for me any way. At least for the time being!

To sum up, this is my opinion. ICICI bank is more of a system oriented bank while SBI is more of a staff oriented bank. In the former, the systems make it perform better while in the latter the performance depends on their persons. For those who do not want to make banking a complicated part of life, the former is the best choice. 

A last word of caution. If possible avoid taking loans or using the credit cards. If at all these are to be used, use them after knowing all the rules of the game and following the rules. If you are sure of not becoming a defaulter and like to do things fully as per the rules, ICICI would be a better option because they provide the better banking service in that case. Better banking service does not mean that they will help you to come out of your insolvency or your defaults!

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