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Tuesday, Oct 05, 2004

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Bankers do field work, literally!

A.J. Vinayak

Mangalore , Oct. 4

BANKERS seem to have taken innovative steps to expand their agriculture credit portfolio. Most of the south-based banks are capitalising on their presence in semi-urban and rural areas to expand agriculture credit portfolio as stipulated by the Union Government.

In public sector banks such as Syndicate Bank and Vijaya Bank, senior executives of the rank of general managers and deputy general managers visit rural branches regularly to get first-hand information on agriculture lending.

The Executive Director of Syndicate Bank, Mr Kamalakar M. Shet, told Business Line that his bank introduced this initiative in June, and he himself has visited some of the rural branches. "Our senior executives visit at least two to three rural branches every month," he said.

Of the more than 1,900 branches of the bank, around 660 are in semi-urban and rural areas.

Even the Vijaya Bank is adopting this strategy on expanding its agriculture credit portfolio, and DGMs and GMs are visiting two rural branches a month. Sources in the bank say that this initiative gives scope for maximum coverage of rural branches by senior executives, and helps in centralised monitoring of agriculture lending. Vijaya Bank has four general managers and 13 deputy general managers.

At present, the bank is following this system in Karnataka State where it is prominently present in rural and semi-urban areas. Of the more than 860 branches of the bank, nearly 300 are in Karnataka. Of them, nearly 250 are semi-urban and rural branches.

The main impact of the senior executives' visit is that it creates seriousness among the bank staff on extending agriculture credit and implementing various programmes of the bank. The visit also brings to the notice of the executive the advances extended by the bank and the delay in advancing them. In all, it gives first-hand information to the top executives on agriculture lending of a particular rural branch.

However, visits are not only restricted to inspecting the performance of the branch. In some cases, these executives even spend time with farmers. According to Mr Shet, interaction with farmers in the service area of the branch gives an opportunity for the executives to know the other side of the story. While the officials try to paint a rosy picture on agriculture lending, interaction with farmers gives real inputs on their requirements.

Farmers feel that such interactions with senior executives boost their confidence in the bank they are transacting with. However, they add that such visits by senior executives should be made compulsory for all the banks.

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