17 Sep 2016 13:08 IST

When customers were all ‘Fed up’ by their bank

At Federal Bank, Onam sadya is a time for bonding with the top clients

It was a Federal Bank meeting for around 40 of its top clients in Chennai in a hotel -- the ones doing at least ₹100 crore business with the Kerala-headquartered bank.

All senior officials of the bank are in crisp mundus and white shirts and so is MD and CEO Shyam Srinivasan, in an embroidered kurta and mundu. A large pookalam (flower arrangement) greets visitors and Malayalam folk songs play softly in the background.

The high net worth clients did not, however, air their grievances; nor was there talk of interest rates and overdrafts. The air of bonhomie was for the Onam sadya (feast) that Federal Bank was hosting in the city for its clients, who sat down for a sumptuous traditional meal served on a banana leaf and ate through 26 different items, ending with two varieties of rich, soporific payasams. If one had to feel good about their bank, this was the moment.

All the invitees tackled the meal deftly off the leaf with their fingers, including Takahiko Shibakawa, Whole-time Director of Chola MS General Insurance, the only foreign invitee, who said eating with his fingers presented no problem as he has spent one year in Chennai.

Fourth year running

This is the fourth year running that the bank is hosting its customers in five metros outside of Kerala to an Onam feast and it is getting bigger every year. In Chennai next week the bank will host around 100 customers for a sadya, while MD Srinivasan is in Mumbai to participate in a meet that will have 350 customers.

Says Srinivasan, “It initially started off as a novel feature to promote an ethnic experience, but now it’s like a calendar event. It’s an opportunity to say thank you to customers who make us what we are. It signals that we value them. No business gets transacted at such events; clients are happy to come and share a meal.”

Of course, as Srinivasan pointed out in his speech before the event, if the goodwill helps generate incremental business over the year for the bank, that’s welcome.

Srinivasan says these events also serve as an opportunity to remind the employees of the bank’s roots. “We now have over 40 per cent of people who are young and new to the bank and many are not from Kerala. This is an event to remind us of where we began and how we can be national and contemporary.”

One guest, the CFO of a large Chennai corporate, says he’s been to many dos and get-togethers organised by banks for key clients. It’s an opportunity to meet all the senior management at one go.

Other banks too, he says, are hosting parties for top clients but one doesn’t turn down an invitation for a feast associated with a festival, he points out, where all are Fed well.

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