New Delhi, Sept 30
Unlike other banks, the State Bank of India (SBI) is expanding its ATM network in non-metro and semi-urban centers, faster than expansion in the metros, an ASSOCHAM analysis of the banking data showed.
The Punjab National Bank is the other bank which has larger number of automatic teller machines (ATMs) in the non-metro cities than in the metros, as per the latest RBI data compiled by ASSOCHAM.
While the SBI has 5783 ATMs in metro cities, the cash dispensing machines in urban centres other than metro cities are 7511 and 6419 in semi-urban areas. Even in the rural areas, the bank has established 2756 ATMs.
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 ATM network in July, 2012, 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,” ASSOCHAM Secretary General D S Rawat said.
“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,” he 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 Union Finance Minister 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,” 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.