Mumbai: State Bank of Saurashtra’s (SBS) integration with the country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) does not seem to be a happy affair for SBS officers as the parent bank plans to shave up to three years off their seniority.
As per an internal SBI circular, dated 17 March, the officers in the top executive grade—deputy general manager and above—could lose three years of seniority; senior management two years and the junior management one year of seniority.
The reduction in seniority affects only promotions, not emoluments or superannuation terms, but this has not gone down well with SBS employees and could snowball into a major industrial relations issue for SBI, which plans to merge all its seven associates with itself in due course. The unions plan to go on strike against the merger and differential treatment allegedly meted out to SBS employees.
Roadblock: The State Bank of India headquarters in Mumbai. Sebastian Di Souza / Bloomberg
SBI started the process with wholly owned SBS, the smallest among all associate banks in terms of assets. The others are State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Indore, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore. Three of them are listed on stock exchanges. The policy seems to have demoralized SBS officials, many of whom have already missed a chance for promotion. The associate banks promote top executives from a common pool every December. Had SBS not been merged, some of the 2,153 SBS officers stood a chance to get promoted, said an SBS employee who did not want to be named.
A top SBI official said the decision to reduce seniority has been taken after much calculation. “An internal study done by SBI and a team of outside consultants found that the maximum number of years to get promoted to various grades in senior management and above is more in SBI than in SBS. The average difference in time taken for promotions to various top executive grades between SBI and SBS is around three years,” the official said. He did not want to be identified considering the sensitivity of the issue.
According to the study, an officer in SBI took 34.9 years at most?to?become a general manager; at SBS this is 30.53 years.
The SBI top official claimed that the data taken for the calculation was not selective in nature but all encompassing over at least a five year time period. But the veracity of the data is being contested by some former SBS and other associate bank employees. “In the history of SBS, only two people got promotions faster than their SBI peers. It always takes more time for associate banks’ employees to get promoted than their SBI peers,” said a former SBS official who did not want to be named.
Former SBS and other associate banks’ employees also allege SBI is offering its employees housing loans at 6%. “The housing loans given to the SBI employees is 6% whereas to the SBS and other associate banks it is 11% ,” said Harshavardhan Madabhushi, president of Associate Banks Officers’ Association.
According to an SBI official, the bank is not differentiating between SBS and SBI employees as the merger has already taken place but “we won’t take responsibility for other associate banks”.
Bharati Rao, former deputy managing director in charge of the associate banks, and now an adviser (mergers and acquisitions) for SBI, is overseeing the merger process.
According to T.N. Goyal, president All India State Bank Officers Federation, Rao is forcing associate banks to come under SBI fold and they will continue to protest.
“They have their ideological differences and they are worried that I am going to speed up other associate banks to merge,” Rao said. “We have 60,000 officers in SBI and 2,000 officers in SBS. The employee strength of SBS was 6,900 whereas SBI has more than two lakh employees. The SBS officers anyway got promotion fighting less competition. We cannot equate them with SBI officers,” said the official.
According to the internal study, business levels of SBS was Rs27,756 crore compared with SBI’s Rs9.5 lakh crore and profit per employee in SBS was Rs0.74 crore against SBI’s Rs3.72 crore.