In our final week with IRCS, Leah and I got a chance to visit the field! This was something that kept getting put off, due to our supervisors’ busy schedules. But, eventually, we made it to the primarily rural district of Thanjavur for 2 nights and 2 days. About a six hour train ride away from Chennai, Thanjavur is home to the oldest set of IRCS bank branches, called the Pudhuaaru KGFS.
Pudhuaaru is the most active KGFS in the IRCS portfolio, with a bunch of rural branches under its supervision that have served thousands of customers over the last 5-6 years. Each bank branch is located in a remote rural area of the district where people wouldn’t otherwise have access to financial services (pictures below).
Put together with great care and attention to detail, each branch is meant to look identical. Everything from the material used to construct the branch and clerical counters to the clocks to the placement of the green stripe running along the orange and white walls is identical in every branch across the country. That, in and of itself, speaks to the great amount of thought that has gone into this venture and the company’s sense of professionalism.
The specific branch that we saw, was staffed with 3 clerks or Wealth Managers, as IRCS likes to call them, who spend their day recording customer information at the time of enrollment, collecting repayments, making loan disbursements and ensuring that things run smoothly on the ground. As we conversed with the Senior Wealth Manager, it dawned on me how important her role was. All the data that is analyzed and used by the IRCS team to make strategic decisions, guide operations and entice investors comes from the work that the Wealth Managers do. These men and women are the driving force of the KGFS model, and their ability to deal with potential and existing customers is as important as HQ’s ability to design effective financial products and create strategic plans. If nothing else, I gained a great sense of appreciation for the work IRCS employees do on the ground.
Additionally, our visit to the field made me appreciate the specific sector of the finance industry that I worked in. While operating in Chennai (a little far from these bank branches) sometimes feels like IRCS is just another bank, seeing the on-the-ground facilities (small, simple bank branches in sparsely populated rural locations) helped reinforce the idea that we are providing services rural India wants and needs. With regards to the locals they employ to be Wealth Managers and the customers they serve, IRCS is bettering these communities day by day. It was heartening to see and made me glad to be part of the process.