Vijay Mallya, the business tycoon can repay the bank loans at his own convenience; but can an ordinary borrower ask the branch manager for the same privilege? When you open a new account with a bank, it conducts your background check in conformity with RBI's (Reserve Bank of India’s) know your customer (KYC) norms; but does the government undertake a background check of a person before the person is appointed chief executive (CEO) of a bank? Can the change of name make the institution more efficient? These, and a host of other questions related to the banking industry, are brought out through cartoons by a former banker-cum-cartoonist.
HS Vishwanath’s Bankartoons is a collection of cartoons reflecting life within the four walls of a bank office and its linkage to the outside world. The cartoons usher us into the unknown world of a banker’s life, very often secluded in a glass cabin. As a former banker, his cartoons about banking carry greater conviction. They cover a large canvas of issues related to banking.
Look at the following one on Vijay Mallya (p.195) and the next one (p.133) on the arrest, sometime ago, of the CEO of a bank:
Human resources play a key role in a service industry like banking. But how are the staff members treated by the bank managements? The branch manager is compelled to perform several roles, sometimes to clean the premises, sometimes to paint the board and many other jobs as depicted in the following two pieces (pp.56, 65):
Bank officers need to know the local language, when they have to deal with the customers particularly in rural and semi-urban centres. If they do not know the language, this is what can happen (p.107):
Sometime ago, Raghuram Rajan as governor of RBI had commented that the managers in the rural areas did not have a connect at all with the local population. Vishwanath’s following piece exposes this myth and also reflects on the bank management’s practice of retaining an officer in a rural branch for an unusually long time (p.154):
A mirror to the unrealistic system of rewarding a non-performing employee is echoed in one cartoon (p.57); it is relevant not only to banks but several other sectors:
A branch manager’s life is not what it appears to the outside world. There are a number of cartoons through which the author tries to tell the readers that the manager is under relentless pressure from every side—from the controllers, from the staff, from the public and at home. He hardly has time to smile and seldom goes home early, as reflected in the following two cartoons (pp 62, 71):
In recent years, banks have changed their logos, baselines and colour of name boards as a strategy for image makeover. As banking experts say, it is the work culture that needs change, not the logos. The author takes a dig at the attitude of the top bankers through the following pieces (Pp.13, 12):
Vishwanath’s cartoons focus on different fields like the fallout of the adoption of information technology (IT) by the banks without adequate groundwork and suitable orientation to the staff, the problem of connectivity in the days of Internet banking, implication of austerity measures, bankers’ obligation to obtain acknowledgement of debts before the period of limitation starts, the pressure on marketing and many other topical issues. Poor understanding of the issues connected with human resources management has been a serious concern in the banks. Several cartoons draw the reader’s attention to this issue. When demonetisation of November 2016 shook the country, the author, being a keen observer of the developments in banking, was able to depict the problems faced by both the public and the bank staff.
The topicality of the issues he has portrayed and the crisp texts accompanying the sketches reveal Vishwanath’s grasp over the goings on inside the banks. These cartoons were published regularly in the monthly journal, Officers’ Voice, brought out by Corporation Bank Officers’ Organisation. For the uninitiated, the author has given short explanations of certain words commonly used by the bankers at their workplace.
For the bankers, the cartoons would be a means to unburden themselves through their own mirror images. For those who deal with the banks, a quick glance at the cartoons should help to empathise with the employees’ predicaments. For the general public, who have only one idea of the banks, Bankartoons should open new areas of understanding.
(Bankartoons, a collection of cartoons on banking industry- HS Vishwanath in 2017, published by Corporation Bank Officers’ Organisation, Mangaluru, price Rs150, pp 240)
(Notes: Cartoons courtesy: HS Vishwanath. The book carries a foreword by this writer.)