It was after 1:00pm on Friday when the first two clients came to the Elephant Road branch of Mutual Trust Bank.
"Hello everyone, at last we have got two clients!" Mohammad Ali, manager of the branch told his colleagues, "Let me introduce them with you all."
"This is our pleasure," he greeted the clients humorously.
The bank could not provide them any service as the clients came to withdraw money while the bank was ready for "pay order" service only. Nevertheless, Mohammad Ali did not miss the opportunity to offer them a cup of tea. Also, he had had a gossip with them for about half an hour.
As per a central bank directive, all the commercial banks in Dhaka city were open on Friday to facilitate the nomination submission of candidates for the upcoming elections to the two city corporations here.
However, most of the commercial banks passed a dull day with almost no activities on Friday. As the clients were lower in number than the officials, the banks had to count financial losses in the form of operating costs.
Having been notified by the Election Commission, the Bangladesh Bank on Thursday directed all banks to remain open on weekly holidays, Friday and Saturday, this week so that candidates could pay the security money through the banking channel by December 31. The elections to the two city corporations will be held on January 30.
However, bankers said keeping all bank branches in Dhaka city open on the weekly holidays was not a wise decision.
Around 1,300 to 1,500 branches of 59 commercial banks are currently operating in Dhaka city. And per day operating cost of a branch is almost Tk1 lakh to Tk1.5 lakh on average.
"I came to office at 9:30am. But no client came to the bank till 1:00pm. I, along with my seven colleagues, did nothing but wasted time," said Mohammad Ali, the manager of the Mutual Trust Bank's Elephant Road branch.
It would have been good had the Bangladesh Bank ordered commercial banks to keep some branches located in important areas of the city open to serve nomination seekers, he added.
Al Amin, one of the two clients of who came to Mutual Trust Bank's Elephant Road branch, told The Business Standard the way the manager received them was unusual. "The manager was waiting in front of the staircases as he saw us on CCTV cameras entering the bank."
"We did not know that the banking service was limited today [Friday]. The bank allowed us to issue only 'pay order'. That is why we could not withdraw money," he said.
During a visit to a branch of state-owned Rupali Bank in the same area, it was found that the bank was also passing a dull day.
After 2:00pm, a client went to the bank to submit a cheque for disbursement. The bank received his cheque but could nothing for him as cheque disbursement process was stopped on Friday, said Elias Hossain, the manager of the branch.
"It is just sufferings for bank officials. The electoral activities might have been done by some selective branches," he said.
Bangladesh Bank Executive Director and Spokesperson Md Serajul Islam said, "As the government directed us, we had to order the banks to remain open. And, the banks' duty is to serve the people as they do in other holidays, for example during Eid festivals."