AT THE Nehru Place branch of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) Friday, a 40-year-old man arrived with a worried look. He had heard that the three-year-old public sector bank would be merged with the State Bank of India on April 1. The announcement was made earlier this month. Pointing to messages he had received from the bank announcing the merger, the man asked if he would have to open a new account and apply for a new ATM card. “You will be treated as an SBI customer,” said a clerk, adding that the ATM card and other facilities of BMB would be deactivated from April 2. “An SBI card has already been dispatched to your address.” Nine floors above, at the bank’s registered office, employees were busy dealing with end-of-fiscal business. Apart from a few people talking about the “last day”, there were no discussions. In the lobby, the first real sign of change was seen when the office clerk, Rakesh, arrived with a knife to remove the BMB banner. “This is an emotional moment for us,” S N Swati, executive director, BMB, said. “Building a bank from scratch took time and effort. We had beaten many expectations. One report had pegged us in loss. But here we are, making a decent profit for a bank of three years,” she said.
The bank was established by the UPA government on November 19, 2013 — Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary. Starting with seven branches, it grew to 103. It was intended to provide financial services, mostly to women and women self-help groups. However, the uniqueness of the bank was slowly eroded as other competitors launched all-women branches and customised products for women. The Centre decided to merge it with SBI to consolidate public sector banks. Around 500 employees and 4 lakh customers will now be absorbed by the SBI.