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No passbooks, only statements
February, 09th 2007
Most foreign and some private sector banks are yet to issue free passbooks to depositors as advised by the RBI.

While some private banks such as ICICI Bank said they would introduce passbooks shortly, most foreign banks said they have no immediate plans. Higher infrastructure costs and heavier traffic at the branches are the reasons offered for going slow on the RBI directive.

An official at a branch of Standard Chartered Bank said there were no immediate plans to introduce passbooks. "We have, however, received many enquiries about the circular," he added.

Currently, most private sector and foreign banks send free quarterly statements by courier or e-mail. But the customer is charged for a monthly statement.

It has been four months since RBI directed banks to issue free passbooks to savings bank account holders, particularly senior citizens.

"With modern technology, there are more efficient ways of keeping the customer updated about his or her savings accounts - like the Internet, ATM and call centres. There is a significant amount of investment required if we have to move to the passbook system setting up the terminals and the tellers updating the passbook," said Mr Nicholas G. Winsor, Head, Personal Financial Services, HSBC-India.

Bankers said there had been no direct dialogue with the RBI and that they were awaiting clarification from the IBA, as this was an industry-level issue.

HDFC Bank was unavailable for comment although an official at a branch said the bank was not immediately working on the idea.

UTI Bank has introduced the passbook system for customers requesting it. The bank, however, expects that 70 per cent of its customers will prefer monthly account statements to passbooks, said Mr Anindya Mitra, Vice-President, UTI Bank.

Public sector banks stand by the passbook system. "In India, most customers prefer the passbook system, as they like to come to the branch and update them," said Mr M.V. Nair, Chairman and Managing Director, Union Bank of India.

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