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b4-i-4get: Trust the Bank but not its Banker?

How can a PR campaign help the bank to wash its hands of the scam, analyzes Nataranjan Bohidar.

By Nataranjan Bohidar

Nothing gives agency and client a more pronounced hard on as, what is loosely called, a Corporate Campaign! For the agency it is money for jam. For client it is jam for money. A sweet trickly emotional feeling oozes forth from seeing your very own feel good ad and it makes you, well, feel good, in a flavor of your choice. Even more pleasing is that treacle-like it simply slips through your fingers…. you can’t catch it even if you closed your fists around it…there is no measurement possible…there are no sales objectives hard on its heels….its pure unadulterated closeted pleasure…in the open!

That you actually paid for it through your nose and other accounting orifices – because nobody really budgets for a self congratulatory media splurge such as this -  becomes a secondary matter, inconsequential, because the final ‘product’ looks so much like a third party testimonial. After all, did you not convince your agency – the third party, so to say - most wholesomely that you are really actually indeed as good as you look in the ads? Did they not all nod in unison at your claims of total dedication to customer and king- both being one and the same quantity, for you? Did they not rush about presenting 7 different versions of your goodness to you …5 that you rejected and 2 that you bent them backwards to rework? Did you not feel like king when they did that, when actually you were customer, their customer - both being one and the same quantity, for them?

Then arrived the photosonic moment of success…amplifying the smile on three faces…yours, your agency’s and the cute looking model/s’ in the ad! How you wished there was a specialist 2700 Phantom camera that captured the three smiles all at once at the speed of 4000 frames/sec. that u-could-u-tube-off to your bosses to grab that long pending promotion that u-got-fobbed-off last year because some idiot employee in some rural branch of yours, in a place called Some-gaon – Goongaon, was it? - was caught with his hands mysteriously in his customer’s pants, or pockets , if you like– who by some strange coincidence were  your very own bank’s customers , too -  in a INR 4 billion scam that simply blew the pants off your banking integrity around the world.

But you were smart…else how could you have retained that top of the pyramid spot that you want to better now? Without losing head but giving it really hard, you simply ordered a PR campaign that more or less, mota mota, as they say, or net net, read ''Trust the Bank but not the Banker''. It simply blew the minds of everybody, including your customers, by the sheer genius of it! Nobody realized that you are a Banker, too, because everyone understood, their frowns turning into totally satisfied photosonically enlarged smiles, that the scam was perpetrated ostensibly by a citiemployee in a neighborhood friendly Citibranch whom CITIBANK has dutifully reported to the local police. In fact, none other but CITIBANK was the first to discover this fraud and forgery committed in its very own Citibranch by its very own citiemployee. What a citimoment of success! Now, don’t mark the words, that may or may not make sense, but mark the capitalisation of the alphabets...in this brilliant, some might say bizarre, co-relation between CITIBANK, Citibranch and citiemployee.

CITIBANK is not the perpetrator of this fraud, you argued in medium after medium. CITIBANK is the overarching entity that reported the crime committed by someone else, a Leeds graduate in the arts, who by some quirk of fate - such as the one that pushes up onion prices in this country and makes us cry- happened to be a citiemployee working in this Citibranch for 7 years with a job description that has nothing whatsoever to do with  SEBI document forgeries &  multi billion INR deceptions. In fact, the most aggrieved party in this sordid affair is CITIBANK itself! Look how this spineless citirecruit, with a 7 year itch (his wife, another citiemployee, doesn’t even acknowledge him) has dragged the good name of CITIBANK manifested in a dominant blue vignette through demeaning mud brown vignettes, when all CITIBANK has done is given this feckless guy an easy job with endless spare time to engineer single handedly a 4 billion INR scam in 14 months flat. And this even as CITIBANK has been furiously advertising that, “ In India, since 1902…with our exceptionally talented and committed employees…Citi never sleeps” .That the citifraudster is “exceptionally talented” is easy to see…look at the manner he has used his and numerous citiaccounts, too, liberally sprinkled throughout CITIBANK, to mastermind the citiscam without being detected. Thereby making him both citiemployee and citicustomer and rattling his legendary citicommitment from one to the other!

Well, with the margins so blurred here, such as between a real citiaccount statement and a citifake, you urged your dear citicustomers for their own sanity's sake, to keep up that distinction, at their end, which, you told them, they must believe is a privilege …that is, to do a citiemployees job while being a citicustomer! (We told you, didn’t we, that we invest a great deal in strengthening how our customers feel and think about – and also be like – us! Well, here’s your opportunity to be like us…just keep your own account…only pay us the service fee, that’ll do nicely, thank you!). And never forget to take every apparent cititeller, citistatement, citigoon, citiofficer, citiclerk to the citibank of origin & check & re-check that these are genuinely CITIBANK and not some imitation citibank.

And if you were to, dear citicustomer, visit CITIBANK next  - oops, but how would that be possible... after all, who knows if that solid looking Citibranch, that serious looking Citibanker, that smiling Citireceptionist, that obsequious  Citiemployee, that swaggering Citirelationshipmanager, that plain looking Citidocument, that currency spewing Citiatm, that neon flashing Citisignage furiously beckoning you to step in to my parlor is not a fake, forgery or fraud that CITIBANK in all honesty & its legendary integrity will at some time in the future turn in to the police crying ''fraud'' , leaving you dear citicustomer in the lurch to go fetch your lost citimonies all by yourself? So, dear citicustomer, why visit CITIBANK at all…in these virtual times? Simply allow us to touch you for your money and leave us to create the best outcomes for you and industry defying incomes for us. After all, doesn’t the real joy of a touch lie in one powered by Citi… so, let us touch you… give us the touch mandate, while you can treat us like untouchables, ok, dear citicustomer?

Now, should that have been CITICUSTOMER in the suspicion that there may be two sets of them - one in all lower case to scam from and the other in all upper case to benefit from the scam - such is the deep schism, the extreme schizophrenia in our corporate sector today, that Publicis-Ambience can barely understand …let alone do something about…but create corporate campaigns, nevertheless!

So, what are the chances the agency will wake up one morning to be told that the citibank that operated in India, for whom it twirled the camera and tweaked the copy and twittered the good word wasn't CITIBANK AT ALL AND CITIBANK HAS IN FACT REPORTED THIS FRAUD TO THE AUTHORITIES ABOUT A CERTAIN citibank OPERATING ILLEGALLY IN THE NAME OF THE REAL CITIBANK!

And the corporate campaigning camera will then swing the remaining 900 to catch the grin or snicker or smirk or guffaw or chuckle or chortle or leer or sneer or simper or beam or frown or scowl of consternation on a nation’s face bordering on deep fear!

Ref: Effectiveness of Corporate Campaigns, Sponsorships , Advtg & PR – Questions based on unpublished letter to editor of leading financial newspaper for readers of BestMediaInfo.com to answer / respond to :

>Does the CITIBANK logo on the backdrop/ groundsinge/association with IPL lull investigation into the bank's DLF II, Gurgaon Branch employee’s affairs?

> Can CITINGS have a soporific effect on ET editorials!

> Do “brand purpose” commercials mitigate news such as ‘Anatomy of a Scam', Mint, Jan 10, 2011

> Is lifestyle advertising preferable to cautious edit speculation that warn customers, as contained in  ''Fraud at CITI'', column 5 para 4 : ''....fraud in electronic fund transfers to....touted .....//They (Citibank HNWI customers) also didn't question the obvious discrepancy that would have been visible between the original Citibank monthly statement of accounts that they would have received directly from the bank and the fake Excel sheet statements that Puri was sending them. //......While police authorities and regulators are getting to the bottom of the fraud, there is no.....'' Of course there would have been a visible discrepancy between the two, dear Ed, should there have been a visible bank statement in the first place! Has Tamal checked if any monthly bank statement was received by the duped customers at all to compare with their fake Excels, if they ever received that, either?

>Can fake theatrical storytelling in commercials replace real life , everyday , painful moments like this : “It is reliably learnt that 6 years ago Citilawyers- a very powerful bunch - were commandeered apparently to defend in court the sending of Citigoons to rough up a legitimate car owner, snatch the keys and drive away the vehicle in the name of  'repossession' , this AFTER CITI (bank , not employees) HAD RECEIVED FULL REPAYMENT OF LOAN FOR CAR (CITI HAD ALREADY CASHED 92% OF REPAYMENT AND 8% WAS IN ITS HANDS IN THE FORM OF ADVANCE UNDATED CHEQUES). And yet, as someone close to the matter reports, Citi/employees took the vehicle away...brazenly sold it in the secondary market without ownership or insurance papers (more forgery?) and appropriated the proceeds (more scammery ). And made a further demand for re-payment of about 3,000/- odd INR while securely holding 65,000/- INR in advance-issued undated cheques!

> Are CITIBANK employees really as spectacular as shown in the ads or just as ordinary and fallible as others in the banking industry in India : “All this could have been avoided, ostensibly, if Citiemployees  had carried out their legally binding paper work, that is, sent statement of accounts for reconciliation which in a cussed sort of way Citiofficials refused to provide despite it being mandatory to furnish per loan agreement! The matter apparently is in the court where papers filed show how Citiexecutives have tampered with the bank statement post alleged illegal seizure of car...aided by some brilliant legal minds – the powerful bunch - in India!”

> Can advertising , corporate or brand , make  a value distinction between organization and employee – that the company is clean even when its employees are dirty  : “That forgery and tampering with documents is not unknown to Citiofficials - though it may be totally alien as a concept to Citibank -is proven by the fact that Citiofficials took advance cheques for loan repayment , it is reliably learnt,  and insisted no date be put on them, which is just a dressed window on Citiofficials' apparent intentions to forge the cheques at a future date, say experts close to the case. This Citiofficials took after getting a separate agreement signed for ECS which was never renewed even once in five years because apparently  'it is such a hassle' , as one Citiofficial , at the very top of the bank, put it...underscoring the fact that lethargic account keeping is part of the top down culture among Citiemployees. Now, this ECS sought to override the need for loan repayment by post-dated cheques as envisaged in the original agreement. So, why take undated cheques in advance, if not with the intention to forge dates on them subsequently or con-currently with ECS? Now, whose foolish idea could this be? Certainly not Citibank's, but a scam oriented Citiemployee, without doubt!” A recent article in ET states that Stanchart has experienced a scam similar to the one Citi experienced. The rumor is that the employee who caused the  scam at Citi was an ex-employee of Stanchart….banking scams appear to be continuous, consistent , coherent and contagious!


Nataranjan Bohidar is a Sr. Management professional with 35 years of positioning experience. He held key integrated marketing and communications positions with reputed companies like NESTLE India, Bennett, Coleman & Company and leading American collaborations in the automotive industry.

Views Expressed here are personal. HE MEANS NO OFFENCE TO INDIVIDUAL OR COMPANY, ONLY TO SYSTEMS & PROCESSES OUT OF WHACK! Mail natbohi@in.com for BACK perspectives & more. BACK = (B)rand, (A)dvertising, (C)ommunication, (K)angaroo. Or just follow this column exclusive to BestMediaInfo.com.

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Comments (7)
  • odiyatoka- 9 years ago

    Here's the latest in the matter! In a wrongly worded headline the TOI has on Sunday 13th November 2011, called it a'CITIBANK SCAM' ...when in fact going by this your article it is a citiemployee scam, that CITIBANK has nothing to do anything with !In fact, charges have been framed against 5, of whom 40% are a citiemployee and his dad! As for his mum, she has been "declared a proclaimed offender"...SO IT APPEARS IT'S ALL IN THE citifamily OF THE citiemployee AFTER ALL! AND THE LIST OF FORGERIES? FORGING SEBI DOCUMENTE, FORGING BANK RECEIPTS, FORGING ELECTRONIS RECORDS, FORGING BANK STATEMENT...apparently citiemployees (AND THEIR citifamilies) without knowledge of CITIBANK have deep and wide liberty to FORGE!

  • nataranjan - 9 years ago

    ADDENDUM, to my above article... Advertisers & ad agencies must have begun to notice that the rift between Citibank & citiemployee - mark my capitalisation - is simply getting furiouser & furiouser!While worldwide broadsheet giant & media maverick TOI continues to fire broadside after broadside at Citibank for the "serious lapses" of Citibank and Citibank's failure to "act on scam warning signals" as early as 2008 (TOI, Jan.2, 2012, FP & page 11), Citibank seems content - hiding behind the magic words "matter is sub judice"- that all the brouhaha is simply because of callousness of citiemployees who, having found out that a colleague of theirs was upto "shady deals" 2/3 years before the forgery was out, merely allowed the main accused to carry on with his shenanigans with only a verbal warning! Now, how can Citibank be blamed for all this, when it had nothing to do with what citiemployees were up to? This is because the main accused citiemployee is a real hard nut to crack..he has now,in his citi, sorry,nutty state of mind gone and asked CBI to probe further the scam.This can only amount to harakiri...what can CBI find that can exonerate this ruffian citiemployee? Except that some facts emerging now just don't fit into the grand scheme of citiemployees as rogues.Why did the main accused, for instance, open 12 accounts - dirty dozen? - during 2009 and 2010 whose holders were all related and were all in taxi services but none of their companies existed at the provided address except for one!Taxi services? Ah, that rings a bell or knell, if you like...Is it not true that since 2005 there have been large numbers of cases of cars being abducted, and there is at least one case of one car being forcibly taken away under the convenient pseudonym "re-possessed" by citigoons even though the loan amount taken to purchase the car was fully repaid and signed undated advanced cheques lay in possession of Citbank which Citibank did not cash for some perverse reason but instead citiemployees sent citigoons to rowdily repossess the car caring nothing for the police station that stood overlooking the road on which the car was "repossessed" illegally in broad daylight? Perhaps the main citiaccused is not such a citirogue nor a citikutumb destroyer - after all,all accused are related! - but only a member of a family simply going about its routine job - a family called "citiemployees and relatives"? Now, with this kind of brief what we really want to see is a new corporate adcampaign celebrating Citbank dedication to citicustomers! Anyone?

  • CAN NOTPLAC- 9 years ago

    I regret sir, that you are being very biased , prejudiced and unfair to one of world's greatest banks, CITIBANK.You are very senior person so you should be more mature...you are saying car thefts in the name of "repossession" has been a favorite pastime of all banks since 2005...then why you are blaming CITIBANK only for playing this game? Why not criticize all banks..Indian and foreign? For instance, while you are appearing so vigilant you have completely missed out on news in the same Times of India same date as you have quoted about CITIBANK fiasco but this article is on page 2 and it says, " Consumer court fines bank Rs.3 lakhs for seizing client's car" ...now this is what every bank is doing, so, why blame CITIBANK ...in fact, if you have read the articles you have named carefully you will notice like me that may be CITIBANK employees have hijacked the CITIBANK...or at least they have hijacked this Gurgaon CITIBANK branch and they are doing all nonsense in the CITIBANK and not listening to CITIBANK at all...this may also be because these employees have made a gang and cannot be fired...because our Indian legal process takes too long to allow a sacking ..just like our Indian legal system takes hell of a time to give compensation to car owners whose cars have been stolen...so, i urge you to be a little more positive about CITIBANK and i am requesting all banks through Best Media medium to get together and make one banking industry ad which tells that they are not able to manage the goon employees they have recruited and cannot get rid of them and are terrified by their own goons only! This will make people feel sympathy for the banks like CITIBANK...please consider. Thank you!

  • NATARANJAN - 9 years ago

    BANKS IN "ROBBERY MODE": I am grateful to Mr.Notplace for drawing attention to newspiece titled,"Consumer court fines bank Rs.3 lakh for seizing client's car",(page2,TOI,02 January 2012) which appeared on the same day as front page and page 11 news,"Citi failed to act on scam warning signals: Probe...Shady deals were spotted in '08,ignored" and "Serious lapses in Citibank led to fraud". I disagree with CAN that just because all banks are into scams Citibank should deserve our sympathy for the Rs.400 crore fraud unearthed in Citibank's Gurgaon branch in December 2010. Truth is because Citbank is such a reputed worlwide leader in the banking industry that it should be setting global standards of probity rather than participating in the slush of corruption.That is the burden of leadership as we have all learnt in our management careers.We tried to dig deeper into the issue but since neither the bank nor its aggrieved client would talk because "the matter is sub judice" and Shreya Roy Chowdhury would not reveal her sources, we were constrained to find this from some who were very close to the matter..Apparently the client of the bank who subsequently turned complainant was tricked into signing 3 loan contracts that were each a "recission" of the other..and all this within 24 hours of each other before the loan was sanctioned in year 2000. First, the client was asked to sign an agreement to pay back the loan by issuing 59 PDS, that is post dated cheques.(This agreement is on record). Within 12 hours of signing this agreement the client was asked to sign a second agreement to pay back the loan vide 59 ECS, that is the electronic clearance system, because the bank explained to the client that it is "such a hassle to maintain a physical financial instrument such as a post dated cheque and that too 59 of them"! Within 24 hours of this second agreement for ECS payment which is also on record, the bank returned to the client and asked him to again sign 9 undated cheques, each of one EMI, but was told not to put any date on the cheques!! When the client asked why, he was told these 9 cheques would be adjusted to the last nine instalments, one per month.So, the client offered to put dates on the cheques as Feb, Mar,Apr,May,Jun,Jul, Aug, Sept, Oct 2005, which would be the last 9 months of loan repayment. But the bank simply refused to have these dates put on the cheques. The bank said these dates would be put by the them - THE BANK/ER - and client need not worry! When the time came to cash these 9 cheques, the bank simply refused to cash them and instead stubbornly asked for payment by ECS or by alternative cheques. The client payed by alternative cheques in 2004- 2005 fearing all the time that there would be duplicate payment because the bank had undated cheques already issued in year 2000, and because of unending bank threats. (So, these undated cheques are still in the possession of the bank although 11 years have gone by, all loan payments have been made, the car has been stolen by the bank, the bank has been sued and after 7 years of litigation the bank has been fined by the Hon'ble Consumer Court!)So,the real bank trick in this episode was to rob the car after all payments were received even when the 9 undated cheques were in possession of the bank! By this trick the bank on a small loan or should one say small investment of about Rs.300,000/- made a killing over 11 years. The bank made Rs. 15 lakhs by modest estimates, calculted as follows by those close to the matter: 1. bank first made its client pay full cost of car and interest on it amounting to Rs. 6.5 lakhs 2. bank then stole the car in 2005 and sold it at Rs.50,000/-, making a total income of Rs.7 lakhs on a loan of less than Rs.3 lakhs (bank only claims that it sold the car at throw away price of Rs.50,000/- It has produced no proof/sale letter that the actual sale was only for Rs.50,000/- ...bank may be constrained to produce this because the sale took place in inordinate hurry and without registration papers...) 3. bank then employed this Rs.7 lakhs and/or the car at 15% annually for 7 years that the litigation went on 4. so, over the 7 years it made another Rs. 7 lakhs simple or 8 lakhs compounded 5. quite simply, bank on an investment of Rs.3 lakhs in year 2000, made Rs. 15 lakhs in 11 years, 2012 6. so, on a monthly investment of about Rs.2200/-, bank made a monthly income of Rs. 11,300/- , that's 5 times ROI or a little more than 400% 7. out of this mammoth profit, bank is being fined/asked to pay as compensation only Rs.3 lakhs and some. So, it will only reduce the bank's ROI to 320%! 8. this must come as a relief to all those engaged in stealing cars! 9. this must also come as a wonderful reason to be in banking ...if the bank knows precisely how to time the theft of the purchase/s made from loan provided! 10.....and if bank knows how to drag case on for a requisite number of years...with the help of our very competent lawyers...if bank is sued at all! THE REAL ISSUE IS, SHOULD THE WORLD'S GREATEST BANK, CITIBANK, BE DOING THINGS LIKE THIS ? As for goons having taken over Citibank, this requires serious investigation...perhaps that is the reason Citibank is trying to distance itself from its citiemployees... & the reason why , "Seniors did not review large transactions" at Citibank as they went toxic...they were simply afraid!

  • odiyatoka- 9 years ago

    sir,you are wrong...i had a copy of the judgement scanned and sent to me at Vanuatu and found some very strange discrepancies that you did not notice...when i compared them with what was filed by Citibank i found that Citibank sold the car it picked up in "robbery mode" at INR 80,000/- not INR 50,000/-...so, the mystery is why does the judgement hold that it was sold at 30,000/- less? Where did that extra money go? and the 15% Citibank made on that annually for 6.5 years amounting to about INR 75000/-? AND IF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF EMI'S REMAINING WERE ONLY 5 , THEN THE TOTAL PENDING PAYMENT WAS ONLY ABOUT 35,000/- INR...SO, IF CITIBANK SOLD THE CAR FOR 80,000/- IT SHOULD HAVE REFUNDED THE DIFFERENCE OF 45,000/- TO THE CAR OWNER...SO , DID IT? OR DID IT INSTEAD HOLD ON TO ALL THE PROCEEDS OF SALE OF STOLEN GOODS AND MAKE INR 155,000/-agree the case gets curiouser and curiouser ...

  • nataranjan - 9 years ago

    Just short of turning 200, Citibank turned whistleblower...turning tables on Citibank employee...................................... Now Dilip Cherian,the pr man, has brought up the same issue...of a chasm or schism between employer and employee...particularly in MNC's...he has named Reebok ..and this morning TOI has gone to town with the Reebok/Adidas SCAM .. this is the issue & TOI, where Dilip wrote, has apparently a cell following the Citibank matter... of mnc/ organisation distancing itself from its India employees...is becoming par for the course...it appears : ''Citibank fraud: Gupta denied bail Gurgaon: A city court has rejected a review petition for bail of Sanjay Gupta, former associate vice-president of Hero Corporate Services and one of the co-accused in the Citibank scam. This was Gupta's sixth attempt to get a bail. The bail was rejected on the ground that the accusations against him were "quite grave" and "more than 100 witnesses are still to be examined by the prosecution." Gupta was arrested in January 2011 for allegedly conniving with Shivraj Puri, the main accused in the case, who had conned several Citibank customers. TNN '' This is, among others, a PR conundrum - both internal & external - because the customary position continues to hold, as China Daily, this week has opined, ''Localization is the buzzword for China's top makers oftelecom equipment like Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp, which are now trying to be ''Indian" in their operations and the way they deal with customers in India. As part of this strategy, which aims to connect with local culture and traditions and remove doubts about their intentions, these companies are increasing the number of Indian employees while training Chinese staff in local language and culture.'' The phrase ''remove doubts about their intentions'' is key to MNC-India HR relations!

  • nataranjan - 9 years ago

    THERE IS A SNEAKING FEELING IN SOCIETY THAT "Law is Encouraging Vehicle Theft"! A vehicle theft occurs in the City every half hour,allowing the criminals 4 hours of daily sleep, i.e., 40 vehicles are stolen every day! Vehicle thieves are perhaps encouraged to steal because of the law/interpretation of the law by the Courts. Apparently, the law only compensates the legit owner whose vehicle has been stolen to the extent of the depreciated cost of the vehicle stolen...so, the damages to the criminal are not punitive ...in fact, this can encourage and perhaps does encourage vehicle theft..imagine therefore a headline in the papers reading something like this : STEAL VEHICLE,USE FOR PROFIT,IF CAUGHT PAY ONLY DEPRECIATED VALUE! Let me explain...the moment a vehicle is sold in India - steps out of the show room - it depreciates in value ...the "second hand car" effect takes place...so, all a gang of thieves has to do is steal a vehicle that cost say 10 lakhs and be assured that they can use it as long as they like and if caught pay as penalty 7-8 lakhs only, at 30% annual depreciation! So,the thief benefits straightaway by 3 lakhs ....getting a car that costs 10 lakhs for 7 lakhs...then he merrily uses it for any number of years ..and if caught pays depreciated value...but they are generally never caught ..so, insurance pays up, which is at depreciated value in any case ... SO, ORGANISED CAR STEALING CAN BE VERY PROFITABLE...YOU JUST HAVE TO TIME IT RIGHT AND PICK THE RIGHT GUY..and ORGANIZE! BUT ORGANISED GANGS OF GOONS ARE ALREADY UP AND ABOUT THANKS TO BANKS AND FINANCIERS WHO TRAIN THESE GOONS AND KEEP THEM READY TO REPOSSESS VEHICLES...NOW, THESE GANGS ALREADY KNOW WHO BOUGHT WHICH VEHICLE AT WHAT PRICE ...THEY HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION ...ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS STRIKE AT AN OPPORTUNE MOMENT...WHICH THE BANKER OR FINANCIER CAN TRIGGER!