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Nitin Chengappa from Standard Chartered Bank talks about their initiative to cater to hearing impaired customers

In November last year, Standard Chartered Bank launched a special sign language service for their hearing impaired priority segment clients in the country. The bank began by training frontline employees and placing them in designated branches across five cities, namely, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai for offering this service in Indian sign language.
Not only this, the bank also announced that they would be making product offering videos in sign language for savings account, term deposits, credit card, wealth offerings and loans, to enable hearing impaired clients get a better understanding of these products. Also, a central video helpline would cater to servicing such clients in the Indian sign language.

Standard Chartered special sign language service

Ahead of the International Day of Sign Languages (September 23) Nitin Chengappa, Managing Director and Head – Affluent, Deposits and NRI, Standard Chartered Bank, India opened up to The CSR Journal about the bank’s initiative to cater to their hearing impaired customers.

Product information in sign language

Informing about the same, Mr Chengappa shared, “Standard Chartered Bank, India, launched a special sign language service proposition for hearing impaired priority segment clients in India, a pioneering initiative in the banking sector in India, on Purple Tuesday – 02 Nov 2021. Information on our products (savings account, home loans and credit card) was translated in Indian Sign Language. The service was eventually rolled out to all our existing customers on 25th April 2022 for all queries, requests and complaints. This was well received and extremely appreciated by our customers with hearing disability.”

Sign language-trained employees and assistance via video call

“The Sign Language Helpline gave our customers access and an opportunity to bank independently with dignity. Currently, the Bank has trained 13 frontline employees who have been placed in designated branches across five cities, namely, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai for offering this service in Indian sign language. However, if a hearing-impaired client were to walk into any other branch without a similarly trained employee, the branch team would be able to arrange an engagement with a trained employee through a video call,” he further informed.

Inspiration behind this initiative

What inspired the bank management to take these initiatives for their hearing-impaired clients? Answering that, Mr Chengappa shared, “At Standard Chartered we believe in ‘sustained, inclusive economic growth’ (UN SDG) and lifting participations in the communities we operate. As a part of our continued efforts to create a more inclusive environment, we launched an exclusive sign language helpline to serve our customers using sign language in November 2021.”
“We understand that millions of us with hearing disability face barriers to accessibility in various areas such as education, employment, more importantly banking and financial services, which is an essential activity in our lives. As many from the community have sign language as their first language, communicating and comprehending a spoken language becomes a challenge. In the context of banking, they face challenges right from understanding banking products, contacting banking support and in completing onboarding procedures. Hence, it just felt the right thing to do – a small step to add another language – in which we serve our esteemed clients,” he explained.

Highlighting the importance of sign language

Highlighting the importance of sign languages, he stated, “Access to language is one of the major challenges that the hearing-impaired community has. For most hearing-impaired people, spoken language acquisition is a challenge. Sign Languages are the native languages for the hearing-impaired community and provide full access to communication. More than 70 million hearing impaired people around the world use sign languages to communicate. It allows them to learn, work, access services, and be truly included. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls on states to accept, facilitate, and promote the use of sign languages with the goal to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others.”

Feedback from hearing impaired customers

Hearing impaired customers are happy to receive the special service which the bank is offering for their convenience. “Earlier customer service for all my Banking needs was majorly via voice calls; and this was a huge obstacle for hearing and speech impaired people like me, who would ask our family members to speak as we cannot. But now we have this service focused on hearing impaired community to help us with our requests, and this is amazing. This is the first bank to provide this service in India. Thank you so much,” expressed Sankareswaran Srinivasan, a happy customer.
Another customer Jaqualin Babu shared, “For a while now I have been unable to access online banking, and I could not resolve this issue as I am unable to make voice based calls. Finally today, I tried the video banking option and Sabari helped me resolve my query quickly, while guiding me in sign language. I am extremely satisfied with my first video banking experience.”