Saturday, September 22, 2012

SBI tops ATM expansion in non-metros: Assocham

Mumbai, September 19: Country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) is more aggressive in expanding its ATM (automated teller machine) network in the non-metro and semi-urban centres as compared to its peers, according to a study by Assocham. "Unlike other banks, the State Bank of India (SBI) is expanding its ATM network in non-metro and semi-urban centres, faster than expansion in the metros," the study based on the recent Reserve Bank data said. As compared to the 5,783 ATMs in metro cities, SBI has 7,511 and 6,419 ATMs in non-metro urban areas and semi-urban areas, respectively, the Assocham statement said.
SBI's peer in the state-run banks space, Punjab National Bank is the only other bank which has more ATMs in non-metro cities than the metros, it said. The objective of financial inclusion can be better achieved by the usage of technological interventions, including ATMs, and public sector banks have an important role to play in the objective, Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat was quoted as saying.
Overall, the private sector banks, led by Axis Bank have gone about expanding their network through ATMs in a much more aggressive way than their public sector peers.  Be it, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank or HDFC their bias and preference for ATMs is for the metro cities, followed by tier two cities.Among the private sector banks, Axis Bank has the largest (10337) ATM network, followed by HDFC Bank with 9709 such machines and ICICI Bank - 9366 ATMs.
Excepting the SBI, the other banks have to go a long way before achieving the financial inclusion in the semi-urban and rural areas.
“The Finance Ministry is rightly very keen of achieving the financial inclusion of a large number of people in rural areas.  This can best be achieved by leveraging of technology and use mobile telephony and ATMs. Somehow, the public sector banks will have to take a lead in these areas. Even their brick and mortar branch network is wider in the rural and semi-urban areas than the private sector banks,” ASSOCHAM Secretary General D S Rawat said.
He said while a good beginning has been made, pooling of technology resources like the ATMs should be encouraged so that optimum use can be made to the advantage of the people. The ASSOCHAM quoted honourable Finance Minister Mr P Chidamabaram who recently noted how even the trade has not been fully brought into the banking network.
“As was pointed out by the Finance Minister, today traders are not able to deposit their cash of sales proceeds at night in any bank. In the process, they have to keep it either in the shop premises or at home taking the risks of theft and other insecurity issues. We must have technology-driven day and night banking so that a wider section of the informal economy is brought into the banking network,” Mr Rawat said. While the RBI has been expressing concerns over regulatory issues over the mobile banking, sooner or later different technology platforms have to converge and the regulators need to equip themselves to deal with new challenges and opportunities.
The ASSOCHAM said a large number of Indians still remain outside the banking network.  It is because of lack of the organized banking that the gullible people in semi urban and rural areas fall prey to unscrupulous money-lenders. “The institutions of micro-finance did make a good beginning. However, because of certain corporate governance issues, the entire experiment has become rather overshadowed by controversies. The use of technology to reach out to the bottom of the pyramid promises a lot of scope,” the ASSOCHAM Secretary General said.

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