Covid-19 impact: HDFC, ICICI urge customers to use digital banking services

Banks have been taking precautions to protect both employees and customers from infection

Private sector banks HDFC and ICICI have asked customers to use digital means for transactions and said they have reduced their staff in office as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus. HDFC Bank has changed its working hours and will function from 10 am to 2 pm till March 31, except on Saturday.

The private sector lender has also temporarily suspended passbook update and foreign currency purchase services.

"In the interest of public health and safety, we will be withdrawing the following services temporarily of passbook updates and foreign currency purchase," it said in a communication sent to its customers on Sunday.

ICICI Bank informed its customers through SMS that "our branches shall remain open with required hygiene steps and reduced staff".

"For the same reason, our contact centre will also function with reduced staff. We urge you to stay safe and bank from home using iMobile/Internet Banking for all essential banking services," it said in the communication.

HDFC Bank has urged people to use cheque drop boxes to help reduce crowding in branches.

However, customers can go digital to avail passbook updation and forex card reload, it said. NEFT, RTGS, IMPS and UPI services are among the digital transactional modes. It said customers can pay for their utility bills through UPI and PayZapp platforms.

According to Indian Banks Association (IBA) Chief Executive Sunil Mehta, during the lockdown in several states to contain the spread of Covid-19, banks will ensure at least four essential services — cash deposits and withdrawals, cheque deposition, remittances, and government transactions — at their branches from Monday. For the rest, depending on the situation in each branch, the banks may suspend other services.

To carry out basic essential transactions, the IBA has asked banks to open only selective branches in areas that have been placed under lockdown across the country in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The association asked the CEO of banks to empower their regional or zonal or circle heads to take appropriate decision in the matter.

Private lender Kotak Mahindra Bank also 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". 

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.

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