Banking gone horribly wrong. A case in point: Kotak Bank.

My recent experience with Kotak Bank has shaken my faith in the “Relationship Manager” interface to banking that is practiced by private banks in India. It has also shaken my faith in the jury that voted Kotak the “best private bank” in India. Mr. Kotak, here’s what can happen when you make a person in charge of a customer’s relationship and experience with your bank.

Similar to other SME current accounts we were supposed to have a Relationship Manager (RM) at Kotak. However, due to severe attrition at the Bhandarkar road (Pune) branch, since 2007, the managers kept changing. In fact starting 2009, the system did not assign an RM to us and this slip stayed unnoticed. Therefore, I have been using the branch itself for helping me with banking services.

In mid 2010, we wanted to change the name of the current account to reflect the new name of our company. The Service Manager (Mr. B) at the branch informed me that I need to submit some documents which I did. He assured me the name change would be done in a week.

Two months of follow-up phone calls and emails produced no results. One of my clients needed to transfer money using the new name so I made about 10 calls that week to ensure the name change gets processed.  Mr. B assured me it is done and I can ask the client to make an NEFT with the new name. I never imagined he would lie considering that the payment would bounce causing embarrassment and re-payment issues for me. As expected, I had to apologize to my client. I stormed into the Branch Manager’s office and stated my complaint in-person. The Branch Manager (Mr. V) superficially assured me of service and faked utter disbelief on hearing that my account does not have an RM. I realized the incompetency and non-transparency problem starts here. He never followed up with his staff on my complaint.

Shortly, I am informed by Mr. B that they need an additional signature on the board resolution. That is provided promptly. One week later, after a lot of follow-up, I get an SMS from him stating that the account name has been changed. Another lie. It was not done. I ask him to check again and he vanished.

I had gone beyond anger. There was no call back from Kotak. Two months later we inquire about the status of the account, and we are told that the name change has not gone for processing as they now need a fresh copy of another document. Why bother! We got the account closing form and submitted it today, after 6 months of frustration.

This used to be good bank. I can only assume that Management changes have eroded it’s credibility. That’s really my point! Would you entrust customer satisfaction to People or to Process? In banking, I vote for a well-defined process. 90% of service requests are routine matters and require an efficient process and timely resolution monitoring. Why should my work depend on the knowledge and commitment of an RM?

We have a similar account with ICICI. No frills. No Relationship Manager. We submitted the documents at the SME Service Counter in the branch. We got an SMS informing the request has been received. Four hours later, we got an SMS that the name on the account has been changed. We checked online and it was true. It was managed by a process with a ticket and an SMS delivery to signal completion.

I was a believer in RM-based banking when I had a great RM with my personal HDFC account. Recently they switched my Manager and I am stuck with someone clueless and inefficient. However, I have a fall-back. The Service Counter at the branch and the person who takes those routine 90% requests is super! I get an SMS and a prompt call when my work is done.

The bank must have a fall-back system when it’s staff fails to respond. In my personal experience, the IT systems of HDFC and ICICI are a notch above. HSBC has honest staff but lacks good systems to back up its service. This particular branch of Kotak has shown that it has neither. I wonder if my query ever entered the system as I did not get an email/SMS confirmation for 6 months. And now, it remains to be seen how long Kotak will take to process my account closure. Ironically the account closing form had a small box that said, “State reasons for closing account. Please use the back portion of this page if you need more space.” When we submitted the form with the back page filled up with this complaint, the executive accepting the form told us -“We do not accept anything written on back side. Please write it on a separate paper and attach it.” A sad state of affairs at a bank that bears the founder’s name.

No one can afford to waste time on poor Banking. A case in consumer court is probably justified when I find the time. Especially since we all know that a computer can be used to generate the document list needed by a customer vs. using an ill-informed RM. It’s not rocket science to map processes and flag incidents that bypass this process. The least a system can do is generate an alert if a customer is waiting for 6 months!

It’s about time someone takes a fresh look at Banking for the masses.

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9 comments

  1. Paran

    I have a RM of HDFC Bank, who constantly tries to sell me products that no one else buys…for eg ULIPs which has got so much of bad press of late. This particular RM is more of a bad sales(wo)man, than anything else. Any request for assistance is met with a stock reply…Sir it is there on our website. As you rightly pointed out processes are more important than some jargon sprouting RM.

  2. I think it has do with the Indian mentality of “chalta hai” attitude.
    It’s not just banking and there are many more examples.

  3. Raj

    Kotak is one of the worst banks now. It has been a year and a half since we shifted to a new address. I went to the Rohini branch, our new residence area and filled up address change and phone no change request form there and gave my rent deed copy etc as they asked. After 4 days I got the messages, request denied.. I asked online support the reason behind the denial, they told me please ask the branch where you made the request.

    After a week or so I went to the branch again and asked what was the reason, the lady handling the desk who filled up my request forms gave some silly reason that it was rejected since both requests were made on the same form and it should have been on different forms. But I had seen the form and it had option to select multiple requests..

    Very bad service on the part of the bank, I am paying them service charges for what I can’t avail, home banking as the address has not been changed.

    Moreover, even after having a good enough balance in this account for 4 years now the bank does not think of me as worthy enough to be issued a credit card. They say minimum balance of 75 k not being maintained, well I say I had no intention to keep 75k average. The only reason I took this account was due to home banking and was willing to pay the minimum balance charges.

    The executive said, Sir shift your account to a lower end account and then we might issue you a credit card after a few months.

    Another case, I called up the bank car loan division being an account holder and asked them about the car loan schemes after telling them that I am banking with Kotak. They said they would get back with the scheme details and documents required, now it has been more than a week and there has been no call nothing….

    Moreover, the branch service and staff everywhere is also going down. For example, The Rohini branch near M2K in New Delhi – The staff is always chatting among themselves, only one teller is working and other is mostly missing or gone on long lunches. Sometimes, I have to wait for 45 minutes in a 6 person queue to get to the teller…

    Disgusting overall, Kotak was good when it launched, now it seems like a unprofessional organization full of kids who act like old snobbish bankers who don’t care about service anymore.

    I would soon be moving over from this bank to another one and never ever deal with Kotak Mahindra Bank again….

    • Anjali

      @Raj: Thanks so much for sharing your experiences here. I had sent this blog to nodalofficer@kotak.com after which they completed my account closing formalities. You can do the same to get the branch people into action.

  4. Sandeep

    I have also noticed the same thing..the staff at the bank are fooling customers and busy gossiping among themselves. I went for money deposit for a Credit card settlement at branch and it took me more than an hour for a single deposit. Finally after I went to the Branch Manager and he got it done from somebody else, as I was standing on his head. The branch service of kotak is the worst. I have found ICICI very great in this matter.

  5. karthikeyan

    Hey guys, Please listen closing an account would not be a solution for this issue . there is a process called ombudsman initiated by RBI. If you have a valid service call registered with the customer care of the bank and no steps were taken on that more than 30 days or the steps taken on the service call is not making you happy, you can file a suite in RBI ombudsman. RBI will take action on the bank. please do not hesitate to do that and most admiring factor is you need not to run behind the people everything can be tracked in the mail. you will be posted on the actions taken on that.
    If you find it wrong escalate the issue. we have all the rights to do. let them also know we know the rules and regulations

  6. Asha vagal

    Kotak mahindra bank is really very worst bank , they can not even provide you basic services properly like debite card and chq. Book I am receving all the letters even the debit card pin no. from Kotak bank on same address but when it comes on chq. Book or debit card they said u r address is wrong so u collect the same from branch and the one more worst thing that my salary account they did not converted in to saving as per there rule ke if 2 salaries will not cr. in account that salary account will treated as normal saving account. I left the job 2. Yrs back n they have not done any conversion and when I informe this to them they converted and charged me the charges for non maintains of minimum balance for past months n they d’t even sms me the this much amt. is dr. To u r account menace I did mistak that I informe them..even custmer care senior persons have no sense to talk with coustmers really they have very irritating services.

  7. Alam

    You will find the comedy of errors if you visit the bank on saturday. I hate to visit their branch. And never ever buy any policy from Kotak Life. They will take you for a ride. They declared my parents to be dead and also nomiated the amount in their name. Just pathetic, apart from net banking everything else is simply rubbish.

  8. Vinay

    Kotak simply sucks….speak to exec or branch manager all are useless son of **** and full of shi*.
    My account is moving tired of aundh branch.
    Hopefully they will get their where their mouth is in a while. So if u given a choice to open am account by ur corporate, pls save yourself from the myseries later by making the right choice.

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