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A number of public sector banks are in the middle of setting up call centres this fiscal. This follows the implementation of core banking solution, which provides a centralised database and allows banks to deploy this new channel for customer service.
The country’s largest bank, State Bank of India, which already has a call centre, is planning to expand its capacity in a big way. Union Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Corporation Bank and Bank of India are in the final stages of setting up their captive BPOs, senior officials from these banks said.

Interestingly, while several financial institutions have outsourced their call centre operations to BPOs in India, local banks are wary of outsourcing and almost all of them have captive units. One reason for this is the fear of data theft.

Another reason for the call centre push is the increase in telephone connections, particularly cellular. Linking their core banking capacities to call centres will enhance the banks’ customer relationship and improve their accessibility. It will also enable them to identify and reach out to potential customers, to whom they can sell products like insurance and mutual funds at a later stage.

“We plan to put all our branches on the core banking platform by the end of the year. The next logical step for us is to set up a call centre to take advantage of the central database for cross-selling,” said MV Nair, CMD of Union Bank. A similar view is echoed by RIS Sidhu, PNB’s general manager-IT. He said, “Just core banking is not enough, we need to reach out to our customers in the best way possible.” So far, banks like SBI, Corporation Bank and Bank of India had outsourced call centres, which largely handle product and ATM-related queries. “In the next three months, we plan to introduce a few more products on the call centre platform,” according to a senior SBI official. Corporation Bank, the first public sector bank to bring all branches on the core banking platform, has a call centre, which services its credit and debit card clients. “The blueprint is ready for our own customer-management call centre, which we will launch soon,” said a high-ranking Corporation Bank official.

Private banks are already ahead in the game. Banks like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank have multiple captive call centres. PNB, which already has a captive call centre, plans to have another in around 18 months or so, said a PNB official. Setting up a call centre with the existing employees may prove to be a challenge for PSBs, which traditionally have not been too tech-savvy. “However, it is essential that we have some of our people there, we might hire additional people for specialised functions,” he added.
Bank of Baroda, on the other hand, has just 40% of its branches on the core banking platform. “Once we put all our branches on the core banking solution platform, the centralised database will help us manage our clients and crosssell as well,” says a BoB official. The bank has started working on it, and has hired HP as a system integrator, but it would take a considerable amount of time to pan out, he said.

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