SBI to be the first PSB to launch mobile banking
By Vaibhav Aggarwal
Jul 1, 2008
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The largest public sector bank and the country’s largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI) is celebrating its foundation day in style. The bank, which is celebrating its foundation day today, on July 1st, has decided to open 101 new branches which would run core banking solution (CBS). However, the fun doesn’t end there. SBI would also be the first state-owned bank to offer mobile banking when it launches its mobile banking the same day.

The new branches will be inaugurated by the union finance minister, P Chidambaram in New Delhi. SBI has thought of a unique way to include the representatives of the new branches who would not be physically present for the opening. They would all participate via a videoconference. Out of 10,385 SBI branches, 10,100 are running CBS — where branches are networked to enable a customer to access his account from any SBI branch.

The bank enjoys such a supremacy in the lending space, that even if they can reach half of its customer base of 1.3 crore, they would emerge as the single biggest player in mobile banking. This new development comes close on the heels of the RBI releasing draft guidelines on mobile payment.

SBI is being provided with technical support and guidance by Spanco Telesystems, from where the bank has bought its M-banking application. With their help, the bank has been running internal pilot programs. Speaking about this, an SBI official, said, "So far, it was offered only for staff to familiarise them with the product for effective marketing."

Other than the usual periodic balance inquiries and transaction alerts, SBI’s M-banking will help users in transferring funds up to Rs 1,500. The service, being operator-independent, can be used to pay utility bills and will work on most of the basic handsets.

RBI in its draft guidelines had mandated that M-banking service must be compatible with all mobile operators and must use SMS as a medium for transactions. To follow these guidelines, many private banks offering M-banking will have to tweak their present service.

Speaking on the decision to help SBI, Kamal Maheshwari, vice president (technology), Spanco Telesystems, said, "Looking at the huge and diverse customer base of SBI, we have developed a solution which will work across mobile operators and support various methods of communication."

He also added what the future could hold for SBI and its customers. "Going forward, we plan to add mobile wallet and merchant payment options to the system, which will virtually replace debit and credit cards with the phone," added Mr Maheshwari.

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