Banking on a better deal for the people

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 05 Jan 2003

BANKING services in the country are due for some renovations, a move spearheaded by Bank Negara Malaysia. The Service Quality Index, slated for introduction in the coming months, will streamline efforts to improve the performance of the country’s financial services sector. 

Over the years, banks in Malaysia have generally been improving both the range of their services and their quality. However, it usually helps to have the Central Bank conduct periodic stocktaking and upgrading. 

Such improvements are of immediate and direct benefit to all bank customers – and must therefore be of great importance and cumulative advantage to the banks themselves.  

With more and better services becoming the norm, members of the public would be encouraged to do even more business with banks. This will in turn help to stoke the nation’s economy, bringing more benefits to all. 

These changes will also help banks to become more competitive. Greater international competition in banking services seems inevitable, and the sooner Malaysian banks are prepared for this, the better. 

There should be no denying that there is room for improvement in the services offered by Malaysian banks. While mergers in recent years took care of quantitative reform, a quality index for services will take care of qualitative change. 

Left alone, banks would probably still improve the types and quality of services they offer. But none can deny that a systematic and coordinated approach led by Bank Negara should be both useful and welcome. 

Nonetheless, in the enthusiasm to seek an imagined perfection, bankers must be realistic. There is no need to provide customers with outlandish “extras,” particularly when much improvement can be achieved simply by being more customer-friendly in a variety of areas. 

The concept of the proposed Service Quality Index is a good start in encouraging more input from customers to help determine banking practice. Specifically, banks should pay more attention to security, particularly when electronic banking has become a mainstay. 

Ultimately, it is a question of priorities: banks are like any other business, depending on their customers to stay afloat and ahead. If the retail and other service industries can place the customer first, why not banks? 

Bankers should not forget that their fortunes depend on customer satisfaction. And with the onset of globalisation, banks should not only survive but thrive. 

Today’s world is a heady melange of rapid change, at once propelled by demand and impelled by need. The finance and business world is neither immune to such change nor new to it. On the contrary, banks and other financial institutions are often a catalyst for change by submitting to change themselves. With insight and imagination, bankers can help to create a more productive, secure and fulfilling society for all. 

It is to be hoped that the Index will help to democratise banking in the interests of the people. It is time for greater active participation by bank customers in shaping the kind of services they pay for. 

This will need to be a continuous and evolutionary process supervised by Bank Negara. Banking is like any other business in another important aspect: all bankers are also consumers in being bank customers themselves. 

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