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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

January 23, 2011

Banking by design

Recently  I  landed up at the offices of several banks headquartered in Bangalore & Mangalore . Each presented me a study in contrast, in the way they expressed their character and brand values through their front offices. And the script ran on familiar themes;

Public sector banks have this - no frill, sedate & dull almost to the point of boring you to death types of receptions. One (Canara Bank) resembled a check-in counter at the airport, complete with uniformed staff manning a X-ray baggage checking machine next to the receptionist. Another (Vijaya Bank) had large showcases of what appeared to be several large trophies & awards around its reception area. I don’t know where & how they won so many but it certainly reminded me of my school & college receptions. Corporation Bank had this wooden box like reception area that resembled a ticketing  counter of a 70 era cinema theater. 

Private sector banks were much more refined in their presentation. One bank (ING Vyasa)  had revolving glass doors and a large steel art piece hanging like a chandelier as one approached its front desk. It appeared straight out of an art gallery. Another (Karnataka Bank) had a minimalistic approach, several layers of transparent glass corridors leading from the security to the reception.

Essentially the style and substance in presentation speaks a lot of the banks, and it seems only the private sector banks used it as a calling card and a sophisticated way of differentiating from peers. Given the bad reputation and some stigma facing the industry it made a lot of sense for banks to trade goodwill and reputations through their corporate front offices.

Years back when I was working with ICICI Bank I used to marvel at its BKC headquarters, a place for our frequent visits and meetings. It appeared as jewel-de-paragon on the Bandra-kurla complex which during the initial years of its completion stood out against the monolithic blocks of concrete buildings as one entered the complex from Bandra side. I couldn’t differentiate these buildings from the fort (some called it residence named Matoshree) of the aging tiger (Bal Thackeray) who lived on the other side of the road. Several other organizations sprung around ICICI Bank  later each trying to outdo the other in architectural splendor.

Magnificent as was it from outside contrast  the reception where loud and bawdy Marathi speaking manoos’es who many a times doubled up as security and receptionists undid most of sophistication that Kamath had tried to portray as a dynamic universal Bank. 

Few years later I was frequenting Mahalakshmi where Centurion Bank (CBoP) had converted a portion of a old rundown mill into its Corporate HQ. While on the exterior, the building exuded some charm of a heritage building the interiors were all glass and gloss.  There was one small glitch though, a secretarial college rubbed shoulders with CBoP as its neighbor in the same complex.

Finally to understand how size can be one’s own undoing one can visit the head offices  of NABARD in Mumbai. You will be reminded of how it would have been like while being swallowed by a 10000 pound dinosaur.
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