Investment: Talmudic banking

State Bank of India is striving to provide a halachically-aware service for savers

December 13, 2010

Savers would hope to receive the same principles of fairness enshrined in the Talmud from their high-street bank, but this is often wishful thinking.
As families continue to save, they face the challenge of where to put their cash, as many banks continue to offer low interest rates, hidden fees and traps to prevent savers from easily withdrawing their cash.

Yet there is a savings provider that strives to live up to the same high morals of truth and fairness as proscribed in the halachah; it is the largest bank in a country with many similar political, cultural and moral similarities to the homeland - the State Bank of India.

State Bank of India is not only one of the safest and most trusted banking brands in the world, but it is also keen to increase its presence in the UK market by trading on the principles of fairness and transparency with its savings products.

A great deal of Jewish legal scholarship in the Dark and the Middle Ages was devoted to making business dealings fair, honest and efficient, a task made much more difficult today with the small print on many savings products - a practice State Bank of India wishes to avoid.

The bank offers a current account, instant access savings account, business instant access savings account, multi-currency fixed deposit and high-return fixed deposit, all of which are focused on clarity, simplicity and exceptional flexibility.

Anil Arora, head of customer services of State Bank of India UK, says: "There are so many similarities between Hindu and Jewish culture: we fast and pray, have corresponding festivals and similar moral underpinning over religious belief.

"We are now aiming to transpose these beliefs into the world of financial services, where the Torah has strict principles we recognise and aspire to. Fairness and transparency should be a bedrock of customer services in the banking world: we plan to made it the bedrock of how we interact with our customers."

This fairness is evident in the returns offered by the bank's high-return fixed deposits, where savers can earn interest between 2.75 per cent over one year to 4.5 per cent over five years.

This is evident in the bank's five-year stepped-rate bond, which recently became oversubscribed due to its popularity. Savers flocked to it because it was the only fixed-rate bond on the market that allowed savers to withdraw their cash in full without penalty after two years - an unprecedented and invaluable offer at a time when interest rates are at historic lows and set to rise in coming years.

Then there is the State Bank of India business instant access account, which is the only instant access savings account in the UK open to both small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and charities, with a competitive, straightforward rate and easy access to funds. It also has an accessible minimum deposit of £10,000 and a competitive rate for a business account of 1.5 per cent.

The bank stresses it will follow up on these accounts with similarly fair deals in future. As it is also fully signed up to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, these are deals that savings-conscious families may not be able to afford to ignore.

Last updated: 11:53am, December 13 2010