Warning of challenges ahead, the State Bank of India’s new Chairman Rajnish Kumar asked all the 268,705 employees of the country’s largest bank “to maintain the highest standards of ethics and provide courteous services to customers”.

In a two-and-a-half page long letter to each employee this week, he has said that in its 211-year old history, the SBI has gone from strength to strength and faced various challenges.

“But, let’s face it, that, right now, banking industry is passing through very tough times. This is happening worldwide. India has also not escaped the tremors,” Rajnish Kumar warned.

Despite the grit, fortitude, hard work and resilience, the SBI also could not stay insulated from the unfavourable macro conditions, especially in a highly-interconnected world and economic environment, pointed out the SBI chief who took over the reins of the country’s biggest PSB on Saturday.

To tackle the challenges, Rajnish Kumar asked the staff, especially the frontline people, who are “the face of the bank”, to be smiling and polite and grow the loyal community of customers.

“Customers prefer to bank with the people who treat them well. We may have best of products, technology, ambience, but if we are not courteous and polite to our customers, our business will not endure. We will not progress. Politeness is what builds a Great Bank.”

Touching on ethics, he said it (ethics) matters in a fiduciary setting like a commercial bank, which “must stick to strong ethical standards”.

“To do so, our conduct must be absolutely clean. But clean conduct requires that we follow the rules of governance and principles of strong ethics. SBI has always stood for highest ethical standards in the country,” Rajnish Kumar said.

Pointing to a “severe trust deficit amongst the various stakeholders in the financial eco-system,” he said ethics is the only way to bridge the gap and called upon all staffers to “unconditionally promote moral and ethical grandeur” in their daily actions and decisions.

Stressing on the need for all staff to become tech-savvy, the chairman said bare adoption of digital platforms for delivery will not serve the purpose, and all staffers would have to educate and functionally update themselves on the tech-front continuously to provide and easy to navigate and seamless digital services especially for Millenials and Gen-X customers, to help deliver New Age banking to the country.

About welfare of the staffers who are the backbone of SBI, and their families, he said it was imperative that the employees remained ‘healthy and happy’ to ensure top productivity and performance which are non-negotiables.

For this, he highlighted initiatives focused towards work-life balance by introducing sabbaticals, work-from-home, and refining some existing schemes, while urging all employees to pay attention to their health.

Dwelling on the importance of on-job training and learning, Rajnish Kumar said each employee would be empowered to tackle future challenges through ‘Saksham’, which leverages the power of technology to bring out the best potential of all the bank’s employees.