The Account Opening Hussle Kwame Sarpong(1)
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Henry Ford.
Hello Readers, this story is told mostly from the point of view of a customer, Kwame Sarpong.
The Financial Marriage
For illustration purposes, I have always likened the banker-customer relationship to a “Financial marriage”. Someone will wonder what I mean. The relationship is not a transactional one, likened to buying or selling tomatoes in the market on a one-off basis. The banker customer relationship is a partnership between two willing parties who come together to do business with each other until they decide at one point in time to stop business with each other. The events that follow after the initial contact becomes a relationship and is therefore not transactional. Although either party can terminate the relationship, there are three legal means through which the bank can terminate the relationship:
- death of the customer
- insanity of the customer
- bankruptcy of the customer
Let me simulate the process of the financial marriage from the point of view of the customer. He/she has to go through some pretty rigorous screening these days to satisfy the almighty KYC process. You will realize that at every point in the execution of the financial marriage process, there is a screening process by the bank to ensure it is comfortable with the prospective customer or spouse. On the other hand, through the eyes of an applicant for a bank account it is hell. Please read on….At the end of it, we shall see how both bankers and customers can appreciate it other.
Kwame Goes Shopping for a Bank Account
My name is Kwame Sarpong. I am a forty- five year old trader who deals in second hand clothing at Kantamanto market in the busy central district of Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Over the past six years I have been saving with a susu collector who comes around everyday to collect my daily susu deposits. I take my daily sales home and keep it under my mattress. As a result of the numerous fires and thefts I now want to keep my money in a financial institution. I have been hearing various advertisements on the radio talking sometimes in "big English", about the products that they offer. They all "smell good", the buildings are beautiful and imposing but sometimes unapproachable. Listen to some of the catchy appellations given by the banks "Service excellence at its best" "Come in, we are here for you", "Make friends with us"' blah, blah, blah.
Which bank shall I go to? I ask myself? Ah no, I will go to the nearest Microfinance company along the street where I live. On the other hand the new breed of savings and loans companies also have beautiful and imposing buildings, and some are even nicer that the old traditional banks. Moreover they are mostly Ghanaian-owned. Made is Ghana is good. After all, they will speak my language and make me more comfortable. The big English of the big banks will scare me away. There are too many adverts on radio and television, all asking for a piece of my money. I hesitated for a long time and finally decided to go to ABC Bank, along my street. I take along my hard earned GHc5,000 and enter the bank.
"Hello, how may I help you?" a pretty faced lady at the front desk asked.
" I want to open an account with GHc5,000." says Kwame.
The agony of account opening
"Please sit down, let me call the Officer to help you"
In comes a young man of about twenty seven years. He smiles at me and we shake hands. He brings out a form with many pages to complete. Ah...these are some of the reasons why I avoid the banks. I attended school only up to the Junior Secondary level. Too much form filling just to deposit my own money. Why don't they just collect my ID card and take my cash? I don't have time to waste.
The Account officer actually started a full interrogation lasting over thirty minutes. He wants an arm and a leg! Today is a Wednesday, a market day at Kantamanto when all the sales peak, so why should I be subjected to this? Am I in Gondar Barracks or Bureau of National ? Let me highlight some of the annoying ones.
- he actually takes a picture of me despite my submission of fresh passport pictures. If I had known I wouldn't have bothered to take the picture and pay GHC10.00 for it.
The Utility Bill hussle
- he asked me of my home utility bill? I nearly lost my temper! I am a tenant living in a compound house in a deeply populated part of Accra with no house numbers. Can you imagine me going to my landlord asking for the house bills......Ah. That is a no go area. We all know that some landlords will never let you see the bill because of the arbitrary charges they ask tenants to pay. He could even threaten me with sabotage and eviction. Moreover water does not flow in my area so we are forced to buy water from the tanker drivers. So....no electricity and water bills for the bank. What do I do?
Now that I want to deposit my own money, my time is being wasted on this busy Wednesday morning.
The nature of my Business?
The Officer had the nerve to ask me about the nature of my business!! Can you imagine the audacity with which he asked me? If I am bringing money to the bank, what is their concern? I am a businessman of course. Well, it's a bit difficult to say that I deal in the retail "Folks" business or what is popularly called "the bend down boutique". Well, I told him that I deal in the buying and selling of second hand clothing in the market. I saw him nodding his head and writing something down. Perhaps that sounded more decent in his mind. The next question. What is your annual turnover? Turnover what? Eh, these young men of today. How can you ask me that kind of question? Does he want thieves to raid me at night? My business is secret. How can I tell a total stranger all the details about my business? Perhaps he wants to know my business and tell others to come and compete with me or even rob me! Sometimes when you do that, you find that the same person will be competing with you in that same business!
Well I informed him that I cannot give him those details but he managed to find ways extracting it out of me through questions about my daily and weekly sales. But I was smart enough not to tell him everything.
Directions to my House?
Eh. These days, banks want to extract all your intestines for them to look inside and even wash it inside and out to really know you. Sometimes I wonder whether they cannot tell the difference between a potential fraudster and a genuine customer. In the olden days, customers went to banks and not the other way round. Now the bank wants to know my house. Whatever for? I am not a fraudster so what is the point? I don't even want my wife to know that I have opened another bank account! When they start visiting me, the cat will be let out of the bag. The Officer however smiles and gives some kind of explanation for knowing my house. As usual he says it is a recent bank requirement globally and claims that it will even make the bank staff visit me occasionally to see how I am faring . " All right. If you say so." I said
I easily gave out my contact numbers since I know that it is a basic requirement everywhere. He asked me for a landline in addition. I wondered, how many people still use landline. He explained that these are for emergencies when I am unreachable on the cell phone. He even asked if I can give a close relative or even my church's landline if there is one. Well, well, I managed to give him my church resident telephone number after he has assured me that in case of need, they will not reveal that I have an account with them. Well I didn't believe him but had no alternative. Suddenly my phone rang. Ooh…I thought I had put it on silent mode. The officer smiled as I took my phone out. Apparently he was testing the cell phone number I had given to him to make sure it is mine. How dare him! Did I warrant all this? Didn’t he believe me? These “,small small” boys of today. They have no respect.
After all was said and done, I decided to show them. I told the Officer that I will bring the cash the following day.!!! He was surprised. After grueling me for about forty five minutes, what did he expect?
I walked out of the banking hall, saying to myself, "What kind of hussle is this? The "wahala" involved in the account opening process is just too much. Let me just walk to the nearest Microfinance company and deposit the cash. After all, they will just collect and ID and the cash”.
Let us see how the twists and turns in the banker customer relationship continues…
To Be Continued…
Do you want better service from your branch staff? Please buy them copies of my books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller,” and “My Front Desk Experience – A Young Banker’s Story”. Check out from the offices of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, the National Banking College in Accra. Call the hotline-0244333051 for special packages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.