My dad has been a banker for last 30 years now. Since I started understanding, it has at least been 15 years. During initial days’ things were different as it was a semi-government bank. But, soon things changed and my dad was a part of one of the largest private banks in India. The life of a banker has always been about patience, hard work, dedication, managing expectations, etc. Banks manages people’s dream (money) and hence bankers become so important in people’s life.
In the month of Nov’16 government took a huge step to demonetise. Since then the life of a banker has taken a toll and the pressure is felt by their families. Since this decision dad used to leave home by 7:30 in the morning and will not be back before 09:00 in the night.
A single branch of a bank, in general, caters to 10,000 people and after this historic decision, all of them started flocking to bank on a regular basis making everyone’s life at bank difficult. Below is the first-person account of what happened in the next two month.
The night this was announced, he gets a call from the office to be there by 6:00 AM. Standing instructions for all of them were to make sure every customer is taken care off. They were told that it is an opportunity for the bank to build a brand and increase their current and saving accounts. They were also told to make sure none of the people in the bank of their area are involved in any illegal activities. This was a double edge sword, if this was pulled off in a proper way then it would boost bank’s business and if not it could destroy.
Dad says, “First thing we used to do after reaching bank was huddle up and discuss the problems at hand, how to serve our customers, any important updates and defining roles of who would do what for the day.” Some would manage the queue, some would just walk around and talk to people and clear their doubts, some will be managing cash and so on.
People were panicking and that was the worst part. People were depositing cash, withdrawing cash and were also exchanging old notes. Now as there were 3 transactions per person it was becoming tougher. We had to keep up the sanity of data and for the same, we had to make sure that the money we take to match the numbers on computer or we had to make up from our pocket for the shortfall. In general, we would do about +/- 1000 a day and that was manageable.
Now there are always some people who would want to take advantage of the situation and we also had some cases. A person with 1000 Rs trying to deposit 4000 Rs. A person with no money just filling the form and submitting, A person exchanging more than designated old currency in a day coming at different times etc. All this was done assuming that bankers are under pressure and they will give in. But that was not the case. One of us would just move around and do the random audit to tally that are transactions are in place. We were making sure we have all the necessary documents so that we can have a look later.
We saw people coming in busses with one person distributing them old currencies to the tune of 4500 Rs exactly and they come to the bank to exchange. We confronted some, some of them left and others had their own explanations. We did whatever we could to make sure that people do not misuse. In this process, we had to tell a lot of people to leave the branch.
We also had to manage ATM withdrawal lines and the same was done by one of us in turns. We would keep a live check of balance and when we find something suspicious we would make sure we confront people. People started coming with multiple debit cards and do multiple transactions. To make them do only one transaction was the toughest part. We had many fights with people on the same. But all of this to make sure that everyone gets equal chance and we are not biased.
There were many instances where we were asked to cross the line. People coming with bags full of money and making direct offers to us, people coming to open new bank accounts in bulk, etc. We had to make sure all the people in the bank are on the same page and we do not slip at any point in time.
Managing the cash in bank was a different headache altogether. We didn’t have our own chest for keeping money and had to take trips to nearby branch every 2 hours in a van with a security guard to put the extra cash generated in the process. This had to be done very carefully. Some of us would do only thing throughout the day.
We were not reaching home before 12:00 in the night and we have to come back by 7:00 anyhow. Sundays were also not the holiday for us as we had to do other paperwork to make sure things are in place.
Over these 2 months, we had a lot of incidents where people were fighting among themselves and with us. People wanted their money and they didn’t care about us. Almost everyone will talk about how this move was good for the country but when it came to personal level everyone wanted to make their money safe at any cost.
On the other hand, RBI rules were getting changed so fast that one of us had to keep a tab on the same and adjust everything on each notification from RBI. The toughest part for me was to keep the moral of my team-high in midst of all this. People in my team wanted to quit their jobs in those times as they were not able to take that pressure. But we just had to make sure we have each other’s back.
We were not having proper food, we didn’t have time to step out of the bank. A lot of us lost a bit of weight and you could see pressure and stress on our face. We tried curbing it cracking occasional jokes, helping each other out as much as we could. But some things were not in anyone’s control.
We played along and now after 6 months of the process, things are looking to be back on track. This was once in a lifetime experience and we had our share of learnings about consumer behaviors, our colleagues etc. We were happy that we were playing a part in nations building, that being our single source of motivation.
(All the views expressed here are my own and has nothing to do with any particular person or a bank)