Era of distrust
I had to visit the bank a few days ago. The bank issues tokens and, so, a customer does not have to wait in long queues. The token numbers are displayed on an electronic panel and the customer, whose number has been displayed, has to walk up to the counter and complete his or her transaction.
People were, therefore, sitting on the available chairs and awaiting their turn. I found myself a seat and prepared for a long wait. My token number was rather a large one, indicating that there were many customers ahead of me and it would be quite some time before my turn came.
I noticed a woman and her two children - a boy of around fourteen and a girl of around 17 - sitting nearby and looking quite dejected.
A man shortly arrived and occupied the vacant seat adjacent to mine. He was quite talkative and tried to engage me in a conversation. He appeared to be a jolly sort of a man who was comfortable in all situations - a person easily approachable. I, on the other hand, am a glum-looking person and people usually have second thoughts before trying to engage me in a conversation - my neighbour was probably finding this out now.
It was probably because of my neighbour's easy manners that the girl approached him and requested him to introduce her to the bank as she wanted to open an account. I heaved a sigh of relief. "Good that she did not approach me," I thought to myself.
My neighbour was also a bit hesitant. It is risky being an introducer. He started asking questions - Where she lived? Where did she study? Why had her father not come? And so on.
It emerged that her father had died two months ago and it was imperative for someone from the family to open an account in this bank. Although I could not understand the complexities, what I gathered was that the family had been without funds for the last two months.
The girl said she had requested quite a number of customers to sign as an "introducer" but they had refused. My neighbour, despite his misgivings, signed as an "introducer" and I felt a surge of respect for him. I also felt ashamed of myself for heaving that sigh of relief when the girl did not approach me.
I do not know what the liabilities of an "introducer" are. But I feel that banks should not put the onus on their customers in this regard. I could not blame the customers who had refused to be introducers for the girl (I would have refused myself) but I am sure most of them may have nursed a guilty feeling that nagged them throughout the day. I think banks should evolve their own mechanisms to check the credentials of prospective customers instead of putting the onus on their existing customers.