Striking a balance between staff-centrism and customer-centrism:


…A re-look at bank closing times (2)

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity” –  Albert Einstein

Dear Readers, I hope you had a good week and are ready to face another week. My last article was not to create passions among bank staff, but rather generate discussions on the pros and cons of closing late to eventually strike a balance between staff welfare and customer satisfaction.

The Effects of Closing Late

Having caused  a little stir among branch as well as some head office staff, I recommend that management takes a second look at the statistics to ascertain whether there is really any correlation between late closing, errors and medical expenses and sometimes fraud. These are my observations and I stand to be corrected.

Let me share a very interesting article sent by a contributor, V. Subramanian, to “allbanking” titled “Late Sitting in Banks – A Brief Analysis: It Needs to be Eradicated”. According to him, late sitting is expected to make the following contributions:

  • Increasing the output.
  • Clearing the backlog of work.
  • Solving organisational problems
  • Taking up certain specialised jobs or assignments that cannot be otherwise done during regular office hours, because such jobs demand total concentration, uninterrupted functioning and special types of skills.
  • Attending to certain confidential matters.
  • Subramanian goes further to say that: “By sitting late, neither the persons concerned nor their institution gain anything….in fact, both tend to lose heavily. From the employees’ side, they undergo tremendous strain and stress, and whatever work they do or pretend to do after regular office hours leads to losing one’s morale and motivation. 

“From the organisational point of view, on the face of it, it may appear that extra output has been achieved.  But, in reality, people’s efficiency gradually comes down during the day, and at one point it tapers off”. 

Perhaps this is an extremist view, but let us look at some of the banks’ objectives in closing later than usual:

  • Mopping up all deposits from customers to ensure they do not keep cash in their shops to be pilfered or lost through accidents and Acts of God. In effect, making the customers happy at the end of the day.
  • To increase bank deposits and liquidity for enhanced business and profitability.
  • To clear all backlogs of transactions and close the books to be ready for the next working day.

 The Reality on The Ground

Once again, I wish to emphasise that staff should appreciate the need to stay and clear certain important and urgent tasks from their desks. This does not necessarily mean it should be the norm. Time-management is of essence here. My advocacy is not to condone laziness among bank staff. It is about re-examining the need for the mandatory extra business hours extended to customers, in view of the modern trends in banking where many transactions can be done on-line. I am sure that the re-examination will involve the following:

  • A trend analysis of the patronage times at various banking halls.
  • The types of transactions, common times of their occurrence during the day.
  • The volumes of each type of transaction.
  • The duration of each transaction as they are keyed online.
  • Viewing the CCTV to ascertain the work situation in the branch, and what the staff are doing. Is there evidence of teamwork? Do some people look over-burdened while others are too laid-back? Do you find some staff idling about when they are supposed to be at their desks?
  • What is the leave policy like? Is there a mandatory effecting of enforced bulk-leave during the year to ensure staff have a good work-life balance?
  • The cost involved in paying overtime allowances to certain categories of staff, the additional expenditure incurred through extra hours of electricity, fuel for the generators, air-conditioning and all other electrical appliances that are kept on to complete the day’s job.
  • Comparing the medical bills of staff in various branches and departments who mandatorily have to close late, as compared to others who do not have to work late.
  • Enquiries into how staff cope and manage within these working hours in terms of welfare? Any periods for brunch and lunch? Any brief resting period for customer-facing staff? Any job rotation to reduce the monotonous and routine jobs which cause fatigue and laxity in controls?
  • Investigations into whether the staff are pretending to work in the late hours, but are really wasting their time and precious resources of the institution.

The Dangers

  • There is always a danger of late closers being branded as ‘slow, lazy, inefficient and obsolete’ by the management.  This affects their reputation and career progression.
  • Late sitting deprives a person of sleep for minimum duration, every day.
  • Late closing sometimes results in sleepy drivers causing accidents on the way home.
  • Some personnel close late in order to plan frauds, go into the system to siphon funds with other persons’ passwords and so on.

Striking the “Centrism” Balance for Customers and Bank Staff

As an advocate for the balancing act, there is no one-size fits all solution. Until empirical facts are ascertained, why don’t you try a few informal strategies to make the staff feel good and not “feel used just to satisfy the customer”. The following suggestions may be explored according to your company’s policies to equalise the ‘centrism” for both customers and staff:

  • All staff working under the above conditions should be each other’s keeper.
  • Regular job rotation to make the work more interesting. Why can’t a bank teller be asked occasionally to join the sales team? Try it and see? Some of them have excellent communication skills and even “flow’ better with the customers. They have a magic wand to bring back a “straying” customer who is lost and whose account is dormant.

I tried some of these things during “market storms” in the bank’s community, and identified some future sales executives among the tellers. Today, I find them rightfully placed. Thank goodness.

  • Can a back-office person who has the requisite skills to face customers be moved to the front, even if for a short while?
  • Some staff have number-crunching skills and can do better in credit analysis or finance. Can a manager identify these skills and recommend the necessary move when it is possible? Let’s think outside the box.
  • I know of a bank that has gym facilities for staff to use after work. Can it be possible for staff to use their short breaks to ‘work out’ in the gym and not necessarily after closing hours? Anything is possible so long as it does not disturb flow of the work.
  • I know of a branch manager who arranged a small camp-bed to be placed in a corner of the corridor leading to the pantry.

What for? For tired and aching limbs to be stretched, even if it is only for five minutes. It was indeed a funny but interesting move. The subordinates felt good and worked even harder.

  • We need more social events and interaction among staff to “let their hair down”. What happened to the soccer clubs, the gala matches, the ladies’ associations, the excursions, the health walks, the family days, the fashion parades and beauty contests, the wrestling matches among the men, the dancing competitions?

Hey guys and girls, take your shoes off – flow with the tide and enjoy your banking career. If you agree with me, say “aye”.

  • A bank staff that smiles more creates happy customers and a happy bank.

Upon all these reflections, can there be an alteration to the closing time if the above research proves me right? If not and the duty demands such, then staff would have to take a second look. Either roll with the punches or change your job if your constitution cannot flow with the tide.

I wish you a pleasant week, and again I will leave you with these words we used to say in the branches: “Early Closing”.


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.


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Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343

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