Friday, December 31, 2010

Relationship Management

When I got back this evening from office, tired from the quarter end pressure, all I could think of was to party on the long New Year weekend.  As I was trudging up the stairs, the elderly lady who stays next door shot me a look of utter disgust that caught me by surprise. Her daughter-in-law who was with her said in hushed tones, “Beta I think you need to really look to change your job. Have you read the Times of India today?” I was befuddled for a second and then it struck me what she was talking about ... 

This morning, the TOI had really got my goat. This is with reference to the article titled “Beware of the charm of the bank relationship staff” that appeared in today’s Mumbai Edition of the TOI. I work as a Relationship Manager with a private bank in Corporate Banking, and this article’s title is the most generalized and derogatory statement that I have read in a long time. 

I have major issues with such a sensationalist article. The title itself of the article is near slanderous and the text is a personal rant against my profession – the jist of the article is that all Relationship Managers work with the intent of duping their customers. Think about it – isn’t it like saying beware of doctors because there has been one bad egg who has caused a death of a patient due to medical negligence. What next? Beware of the Army because of Adarsh Society scam. And what about Journalists and the media– are all of them for sale? Well there is culpable proof against certain “respected” journalists in the recent Radia tapes, you know.

Sample  this: “The names that figure in the so far un-published extracts of these conversations (accessed from audio tapes put out by Outlook magazine on its website), are from respected media Houses like Economic Times, Hindustan Times, NDTV among others. It is amazing how Radia uses them. These conversations, with audio links at the end of every extract, tells a sad story of how some of the biggest names in the business of media, stands exposed, if not for corruption per se (as no quid pro quo is still established), at least for being handmaidens of the corporate houses and their power brokers.” Source:

The TOI article has made some serious allegations on my profession based on comments by unnamed sources such as:

1. “There is too much of muck in the way business is done. It has become a practice.”: Is there any proof to back a serious allegation like this? So what TOI means is that RBI regulations are useless and auditors are sleeping – well, they should be a fly on the wall in the Compliance department of any bank when an RBI audit is on to check the facts!

2. “…the basic qualification to get a relationship manager's job is how good you look and it depends on your communication skill”: Is that so? That means that all RMs are basically airheads who get the job because they look good and can speak well. So we are modern day geishas of the corporate world, aren’t we? It is another matter that all my RM colleagues are qualified professionals with either a post graduate management degree from a top notch B-School or are Chartered Accountants. However, if the writers of this libel are to be believed, then we got our jobs basis our good looks and charms. Well, I’m flattered!

3. “Also, banks lax often don't comply with basic norms.”: I would like to what are these norms are? This is quite a loose open-ended statement to make. All banks and financial institutions are governed by RBI. This allegation is a direct attack on the RBI in my opinion. As a banker, I think RBI is an excellent regulator - their norms and guidelines are followed universally. Having been in Banking for over four years now, I can say with some degree of confidence. In fact, in this very article, two paras above, the consequences of not following guidelines have been mentioned - “There have been instances of the relationship managers in these banks getting sacked for not following the prescribed norms.”

In its rant against RMs, TOI forgot that the genesis of the Shiv Puri scam was one of the seven deadly sins: Greed. Both parties (the Wealth Manager and the customers) were equally culpable to the events as their own article on page 10 of the same edition proves – here’s what the article said: “His wealthy clients saw in Puri a short cut to even more riches. According to the police, over 20 high net worth investors allowed themselves to be lured into his trap. A major problem with greed is that it prevents people from using their intelligence fully.

We all know the old joke: “What is the collective noun for a group of bankers? A Wunch of Bankers” – this article seems to take this joke forward with its extremely amateurish, immature and senseless barbs. It seems to be written with the motive of settling personal scores. I wonder how it got past the editors? I mean look at solutions the article has given to potential gullible HNI customers: “Ensure that you run an identity check of the RM.” – How very original! Well done. Stone Cold Steve Austin said this about a decade back – “DTA” – don’t trust anybody! At the end of the day, would you and can you trust anyone with your savings with your eyes shut? D-uh?!

My humble request to the Editorial team is that do not print such a scathing attack on a profession without substantial evidence. Admittedly there are bad eggs in every basket (allegedly such as Shiv Puri), and the media does its job by enlightening the public about their misdeeds. The media is the watchdog of society - however, in this case is clearly barking up the wrong tree!