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‘Work life’ balance is an oxymoron

A. Manimekhalai, MD & CEO, Union Bank of India, expects to see greater demand for investment products for long term savings, personalized products & cards, wealth management services:

‘Work life’ balance is an oxymoron

A. Manimekhalai feels it has been a most rewarding experience for her to be able to extend her work and service to her fellow citizens as a banker and as a woman of India. She has always believed in sustainable growth and service with value generation for all concerned. She describes: “This powerful platform has allowed me, not only to realize my potential but also to make dreams come true for many others. We are at a crossroads today when organizations are creating designations around DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) and in this environment, I am proud to say that the ethos of equality, diversity and inclusion are in-built into my organization.”

Fin Products Demand Shifts

One may say that there have been some barriers like social norms, lack of financial literacy and digital literacy which prevented women from coming forward and using financial services. Post pandemic, the financial ecosystem witnessed a cultural shift from brick & mortar banking to phygital and to fully digital banking. Now women are empowered to capture opportunities and build resilience through financial independence. In the days to come, the demand shall be beyond a mere bank account.

Manimekhalai explains: “In the last two years, the number of women entrepreneurs seeking financial assistance for business growth has increased and the same trend seems to continue going ahead. We expect to see greater demand for investment products for long term savings, personalized products & cards, wealth management services as well as partnership with fintechs for door-to-door and end-to-end digital services.”

Women Customers Up

According to the World bank’s Global Financial Inclusion database 2017, 80% of Indians above the age of 15 have bank accounts, against 35% in 2011. Further, 77% of Indian women have bank accounts, while the gender gap for financial inclusion has decreased from 20% to 6% since 2014. At Union Bank of India too, the percentage of women customers has risen steadily and is presently at 40.45% as of Dec 2022, registering a positive growth from the previous quarter.

Manimekhalai updates: “The percentage of women MSME borrowers has steadily been increasing from 20.49% in March 2021 to 28.12% as of Dec 2022. In CASA too, the number of accounts by women account holders has increased from 85K+ to 99K+ in savings deposits and 2.1lakh+ to 2.4lakh+ for total deposits between March 2021 to Dec 2022.”

Bridging Rural-Urban Divide

Of the 640 mn women in India, 70%+ reside in rural India, (2011 census – CIA World Factbook, extrapolated to 2020). Of the 8666 branches (31 Jan 2023) of Union Bank of India, close to 30% are rural, while another 28.6% are in semi-urban areas. It has been a conscious endeavour to bring banking and financial services to unbanked rural centres in collaboration with DFS and SLBCs. There has been branch expansion post amalgamation of the bank in 2020.

Manimekhalai informs: “Branches with overlapping business areas have been steadily rationalized, with 9 and 59 new branches opened in potential areas in FY 2021-22, and 2022-23, and another 10 in the pipeline before year end. In our endeavour to bring financial services to centers with untapped business while prioritizing unbanked rural centres, we have obtained 67 more approvals for opening new branches in the next financial.

Focused Marketing

In addition to showcasing various government sponsored schemes such as PMMY, PEMGP, etc, in relevant customer segments, for inclusive growth of women entrepreneurs, Union Bank of India also conducts regular outreach campaigns for MSMEs every Friday through its ‘MSME Loan Points’. The bank also observes weekly day for popularizing government sponsored schemes.

Manimekhalai claims: “We are adequately promoting our schemes to women entrepreneurs and the same is evident through the improvement in the increased number of sanctions during this financial year. Special business drives under our flagship scheme of Nari Shakti are conducted on a regular basis, resulting in mobilization of a good number of women entrepreneurs.”

Demographics, Benefits

Empowerment begins at home. The bank has been an equal opportunity employer (EOE) and has in place its policy on EOE. The bank recruits people from diverse backgrounds, as also maintaining a good gender ratio in the banking industry. Keeping in view the ethos of nation building, workforce in the bank finds representation from all strata of society including SC, ST, OBC and EWS, ex-servicemen, and PWDs. Out of its total 76,169 employees, female employees are 21,900 and male are 54,269 as on 31 Dec 2022. Out of this, number of female PWD (persons with disabilities) is 536 and non-PWD is 21,364.

Customized benefits are designed by the bank for diverse needs of different employee segments. Special conveyance allowance to EWD (employees with disabilities) and child-care allowance to working mothers are both industry-first provisions. There is provision of support equipment to EWD and age-appropriate medical check-ups for employees. There are maternity and paternity leave provisions; sabbatical leave policy to assist in the care of dependent family members, higher education, etc. Special care is taken in posting women, mothers, and PWD employees looking after their safety and familial concerns.

Empower Her

Employee empowerment is a novel initiative that provides career counselling, skilling, and grooming as well as caters to the specific needs of women and male employees in the organization. The bank observes iconic days such as IDPWD, IWD, White Cane Day, etc, to create awareness and spearhead the cause equality and inclusion through engagement programs, webinars, etc. UBI is the first-in-industry to have a POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) policy for men and transgenders and follows a zero-tolerance policy in this regard.

Manimekhalai underlines: “The outreach programs have been effective in motivating employees for career progression and fostering upskilling and professional learning on an ongoing basis. This effort has led to the increase in the numbers of promotion aspirants this year in comparison to previous years. These initiatives have steadily reduced our attrition rates from 1.5% in 2013-14 to 0.77% in 2021-22 and brought us many laurels.”

No Work-Life Balance

“When I meet them (women employees), the question that often comes up is how to maintain a work life balance, I tell them, this is an oxymoron, there is no work-life balance. When you come to office you work in all honesty with the goals clear in your head. When you go home, another part of your life begins, don’t carry work home. That is life.”

Product Bouquet

Union Bank of India has introduced a wide range of products to attract women demographic and be the banker of choice to this vibrant group.

Union Nari Shakti: This product has been designed to overcome the challenges of lower margin and lack of collateral security faced by women entrepreneurs. It offers loans to women at attractive features such as being collateral free covered under CGTSME and at concessional interest rates. The quantum of loan under this scheme has been increased to Rs100 million to make it more attractive.

Gold Loan, Retail & MSME: In gold rich India, this product offers credit against gold ornaments to meet life emergencies and is popular among women. A variation of this product seeks to give a fillip to entrepreneurship offering finance against gold to MSME and agricultural business.

Sukanya Samridhi Scheme: This scheme is meant for the girl child offering parents/guardians the opportunity to save for the education and upbringing of daughters.

Union Women Professional Personal Loan Scheme: This product has been specially designed to cater to the requirements of women as young as 21 years of age offering them loans of up to Rs5 million.

Union Muskaan: This is a minor account which provides free term insurance with RD opened in minor’s name as well as concession in ROI for education loans. This product has become very popular among girl children.

SB HNI: This product caters to the HNI niche segment offering a choice of insurance coverage options, concessions on loans, lockers, free services and doorstep banking options.

Stand-up India: Under this scheme, credit is offered to women to establish greenfield projects in manufacturing, services, allied agriculture or trading activities.

Super Senior Citizen Account: This product allows for senior citizens to earn up to 8.05% interest on their deposits. UBI is working to offer a savings account along with investment options and a current account for women entrepreneurs which can be linked to credit appraisal.

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