IT helps keep tabs on quality of assets

Updated: Jan 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
Technology in the banking industry is all about consumer convenience of using any delivery channel, any time. Also, it means efficiency and better business for banks themselves. Change or perish, as chairman & managing director of Punjab National Bank S S Kohli puts it, is the new mantra. In a conversation with Harjeet Ahluwalia, Mr Kohli puts forward his views on how technology-led initiatives are changing the world of banking. Excerpts:

How is technology, more particularly Information Technology (IT), changing the function of banks

Technology has made banking more customer-centric. Convenience to customer has increased tremendously as he can access the facilities any time and from any where. For corporates, transactions can be undertaken from their premises and cash management done in real time from multiple locations. The time involved for completing a transaction has reduced considerably with the increased use of IT. Technology has helped increase the business hours for banking, while providing value-added services through a host of additional delivery channels like ATMs, phone banking, remote access, mobile phone banking and Internet banking.

How is technology impacting your own business

The banking business is basically a risk-managed activity and technology has made a great contribution on that front. By monitoring customer operations through centralised Management Information Systems (MIS), we are in a position to maintain a much higher quality of assets. Through preventive monitoring, we can prevent loans and advances from becoming non-performing or sick. Through office automation tools, time taken in arriving at strategic decisions is considerably reduced. By using e-mail, corporate expenses have reduced considerably. Digital transmission of information to various administrative and operational offices has improved the speed of delivery and reduced cost. Also, IT has enabled banks to host a variety of products and services.

What is the future of banking products with reference to IT innovations

Cashless economy, real time gross settlement systems involving the entire banking system, convenience of using any delivery channel across the entire banking system and increased business operations on the Web through digital settlement of transactions are among the futuristic banking objectives. An increased shift towards fee-based business is also envisaged. There will be a gradual increase in the use of card-based money. Smart cards and e-purses will be the order of the day within the next few years.

How much ground has the Indian banking industry covered, compared with the West, in terms of technological developments and their applications

The spread of banks across a wide area in the country with inadequate communication and other infrastructure has led to a gap in utilisation of technological developments. But, technological developments in the urban and metro areas are comparable with the West, except for connectivity of branches. The Indian banking industry is gradually absorbing technology-based products, realising that we either change or perish.

What is the government push on IT in the banking sector

The guidelines issued by the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) for capturing at least 70 per cent of the business of banks through computers, finance ministrys efforts towards standardisation of software applications, and efforts to introduce digital signature are among the IT initiatives of the government in the banking sector.