Banks rationalise branch operations to prevent Covid-19 spread

New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Banking operations in the country may be trimmed as major lenders are working out a plan to operate with only limited number of branches to prevent Covid-19 infections to thousands of employees who deal with a flood of customers on a daily basis, sources privy to the development said.

It is understood that a few public sector banks have already operationalised branch rationalisation programme and several others are looking to undertake the operation without causing unconvinced thousands of banking customers.

In a March 22 letter to all its members banks, the Indian Banks' Association has also suggested that keeping in mind lockdown imposed to check spread of Covid-19, member banks may selectively keep their branches open at such locations after due consultation with the local state government/authorities to carry out the basic essential transactions.

It also asked banks to prepare business continuity plan for uninterrupted availability of banking services through alternate delivery channels for the convenience of the public during the lockdown.

Sources said as per contingency plan, certain banks are operating with just 60-70 per cent of their branches. But in this rationalisation exercise, it is ensured that a bank branch is available to customers for service every five kilometres.

Banks are currently exempted from the lockdown provisions being an essential service.

Government officials said that though some branch rationalisation may have taken place during lockdown, more than 90 per cent of operations were functioning normally.

A bank official said that ATMs in big cities are open and they take of major banking transactions that customers are undertaking at this time. If a special banking function is required, then certain bank branches are still open .

In rural areas, however, bank branches would function normally but with 50 per cent staff. Staff would be rotated alternate days as part of efforts to prevent crowding and maintain social distancing.



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