Thiruvananthapuram: Chandramathi was worried when she moved towards the bill counter of the Regional Cancer Centre. Her husband Rajan was being discharged after treatment. Her only thought was how she would pay the hospital bill of Rs 85,000 rupees. All she had was 1,800 rupees. She stood in front of the counter embarrassed and showed the bill. She was shocked when the cashier said, “Don’t worry, your bill has been paid.” For a second she was perplexed. “Yes, your bill has been paid by State Bank of Travancore.”
She said she didn’t have any bank account. Then the cashier clarified: “For that an account is not needed. This is how the bank works. Can you see those people standing there? All their bills have been paid by State Bank of Travancore.” In fact, 334 people got financial assistance from SBT that day.
On March 23rd last year, SBT gave 12.06 lakh rupees as financial aid to poor patients who had come to the RCC. One day in a year, SBT pays the bills of all poor patients discharged from the RCC, and most of them won’t be having an account with the bank.
Still, without their knowledge, the bank will lend a helping hand to them. That is how the State Bank of Travancore works, and this is what makes SBT different from other banks. Today, when it completes 70 years, the reason why SBT has a respectable place in the minds of Keralites is because of this humane outlook.
In its first 70 years, State Bank of Travancore played a decisive role in Kerala’s march towards socio-economic development. As the only public sector bank with its headquarters in Kerala, SBT played a leadership role in all sectors. It was born in 1945 as Travancore Bank Limited under the patronage of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the Maharaja of Travancore.
The idea of setting up a bank came from Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, the diwan. When it became State Bank of Travancore in 1960, it had 342 employees. Today it employs 14,313 people across 16 states and 3 union territories. The bank, which has 1,156 branches and 1,633 ATMs, has 1.84 crore clients and a total business of 1,54,000 crore rupees.
After 1960, regional banks such as Travancore Forward Bank, Cochin Nair Bank, Bank of New India, Chaldean Syrian Bank, Champakulam Catholic Bank, Bank of Alwaye, Kottayam Orient Bank, Latin Christian Bank, Vasudeva Vilasam Bank and Indo-Mercantile Bank in Travancore-Cochin were merged with SBT.
In the seventies and eighties, by giving loans to private entrepreneurs along with public sector institutions, SBT took initiatives to accelerate development, said managing director Jeevandas Narayan. SBT gave its support to the agriculture sector also.
In personal banking too, SBT was at the front. It garnered a good share of the market by giving loans for homes, vehicles and education. SBT set examples for other banks by arranging loans for Kudumbasree entrepreneurs, traders and industrialists. It offered investment facilities to expatriate Malayalis and introduced advanced systems to facilitate transfer of money by them. Today 40 per cent of the remittances from Gulf countries reach Kerala through SBT. The bank operates a representative office in the UAE.
E-procurement was a novel venture initiated by SBT in association with the state government. This programme, which puts information technology to great use, has brought recognition to Kerala at the national level.
In addition to all this, SBT has played a major role in cultivating a sports culture in Kerala. The bank formed a cricket team in 1964 and a football team in 1984. SBT has become an institution that moulds players for state teams, who then go on to play in the Indian jersey.
SBT Malayalam awards and its honours for expatriates entrench its presence in Kerala’s literary and cultural arena. Through 762 social circles, SBT looks after many orphans and destitutes. The reason why SBT has a special place in the hearts of Malayalis will become clear when it is revealed that such social service is supported by not just the bank’s income but also by a considerable share of its employee’s earnings.
SBT at a glance