Covid-19: Banks brace for downing shutters in case cities go into lockdown

Guwahati: An official uses thermal screening device on Assam State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in wake of coronavirus pandemic, on his arrival at Dibrugarh Airport | PTI Photo
Some banks are bracing up for downing shutters on branches in case cities go into a lockdown with a possible explosion of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.


“The number of customers visiting bank branches has come down in recent days. The banks may operate with a minimum number of branches and may close down some of them. But it will be done in a manner that the customers remain unaffected,” a chief executive of a Mumbai-based state-owned bank said.


Private lenders such as Kotak Mahindra Bank have sent out advisories to customers, encouraging them to use mobile or internet banking as its offices “will operate with reduced staff due to COVID-19”.


Some banks are going on an overdrive to secure employees who have to deal with the public at the branches on a daily basis with banking being one of the essential services. India’s largest bank State Bank of India “decided to pay all employees a reasonable amount along with the salary for March, for purchase of masks, sanitizers”.


Banks have been taking precautions to protect both employees and customers from infection. The movement of customers inside the premises of Bank of India at a branch in Masangaon, Madhya Pradesh has been semi-prohibited and a cordon has been set up using ropes from the cash counter to the passbook printing counter. No more than five-six customers are allowed to enter the branch at a time.


The corporate offices and head offices of all banks are working with reduced staff and on a rotational basis, as a part of the business continuity plan. 


Kolkata-based UCO Bank has split its treasury department into two separate locations in Mumbai to avoid disruptions on account of lockdown. The bank is also planning to split it between Kolkata and Mumbai.


“We are seriously thinking of creating a standby arrangement by making the treasury operational in two places, Mumbai and Kolkata,” said A K Goel, managing director and chief executive officer of UCO Bank. The bank has also asked about 40-50 per cent people to work from home at all administrative offices, whereas those at branches are working in shifts.


United Bank of India, too, is asking employees who report symptoms of cold to go on leave, and this will not be deducted from their annual quota of leave, Ashok Kumar Pradhan, the MD and CEO of the bank said.


“In cases where it is possible, we are asking our employees in administrative offices to take files home and work from home. It is their call. However, at the branch level, it is not possible to do as customer interaction is involved. We are providing adequate amount of sanitizers in cash counters to counter this,” said Pradhan.


Canara Bank has issued a circular saying that circle offices will ensure that at least 40-50 per cent of the employees are either on leave or working from home. Quick response teams will be formed to handle “exigencies, in case of upsurge in the spread of COVID-19”.

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