We had to ask women hiding behind their husbands to unveil their faces so that we could verify their identity before opening their accounts,” remembers Ruchi Budhwar who was earlier posted in Rajpur Khurd (near Chhatarpur) branch of Syndicate Bank until last year.
Soon after, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced the opening of public sector ‘mahila banks’ and young female bankers like Ruchi applied to be employed in ‘Bharatiya Mahila Bank’ (BMB).
Today, as the senior branch manager of Nehru Place branch of BMB, Ruchi recalls how women living around the lesser known area of Delhi used to come to her for help.
“Since my predecessor was a male at Syndicate, women felt shy in communicating with him, but after I joined, women used to head to my office in the afternoon, after getting free from their daily chores, to ask about how they could invest their money. They even discussed basic issues such as the safety of sharing account numbers with unknown people,” enumerates Ruchi who realised the potential of BMB, which is dedicated to empowering women financially. “Today women come to me and say ‘This bank is for us’, which makes me feel proud of my work place.”
Though the name itself is powerful and strikes a chord with womenfolk, it is also the structure and format of the bank, plus it’s highly efficient staff, that has been garnering positive response lately. “The credit for this goes to our chairman and MD Ms Usha Ananthasubramanian who keeps working relentlessly towards its vision,” says Maya MC, deputy general manager (resource mobilisation) in absence of her senior who is presently occupied with inaugurating the bank’s branches in the Northeast region.
The bank aims to open 25 branches by the end of this financial year and, set up 55 branches next year across the nation. Approximately 12000 people have already been opened their accounts in BMB.
For those who wonder whether only a mahila can open an account in this bank, it is crucial to know that their notion is wrong. The only difference between a regular bank and BMB is that women get additional benefits. “Our employment ratio is 80:20, so women feel comfortable in talking about their concerns to women who man the counter. We have also tied up with insurance agencies to provide schemes such as BMB Sakhee, BMB -Nirbhaya and BMB-Parivar Suraksha which have special provisions in case of death of the insured person,” adds Maya, while informing that the bank also tries to cover those heath-related diseases which are peculiar to ageing women. This in a way makes women worry free about their health expenses.
Even the percentage of interest in education loan, house loan, etc is lower for a female applicant. “If a husband takes a house loan in the name of his wife to avail a lesser interest rate then indirectly the house ownership goes to the woman and provides her confidence to live a secured life,” she adds.
Banking correspondents of BMB even go to neighbourhood areas and educate women about banks and are ready to support anyone who has a viable project idea. “We have been going to rehabilitation camps in Kalkaji,” says Ruchi summing, “What could be better than to do social service and be paid for it?”