“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
At long last the RISK WATCH aircraft 999/2018 is on its last trip! How have you found my risk articles for the past five years? Let me guess…boring, a breakfast spoiler, “too known”, an eye-opener, a necessary evil, a wet blanket, a bitter pill to swallow? Don’t worry, many people do not want to be reminded of the fact that danger looms in every activity we find ourselves in. I sometimes liken my column to that of the flight-attendant of an airline who has to demonstrate safety precautions, to prepare the passengers against any eventuality that may occur during the flight.
Their brief demonstrations are done in line with international safety standards and regulations. Don’t you find them very irritating? I do, I must confess; but that short five-minute demonstration is a necessary evil. I am sure the flight-attendants do not like the looks on faces of passengers during this time. It is like telling them they are likely to die soon! Nobody wants to be reminded of possible doom ahead of a journey.
Watching the faces of passengers during the demonstration in my flights, I have observed that most people either look bored or apprehensive. Throughout my travels, I had really never taken the exercise seriously until an emergency landing of a domestic flight at the Kotoka International Airport a few years ago. These days, I listen and watch keenly when the flight-attendant takes passengers through the emergency and safety demonstrations. The plane is no respecter of persons, whether business, economy or first-class. When danger looms, it fears no one. Whether we have more leg-room in first class, better and more fanciful food and drinks, risk is still risk. The safety regulations have to be adhered to. When the plane is coming to crash, it will be “each for himself and God for us all”.
Feedback from Readers
I hope my contribution to the Risk Watch page of this newspaper is helping young bankers to appreciate the two sides of the coin as they undertake banking transactions. There were a few isolated cases of feedback from bankers who confided in me about their near-depression levels due to either stress, discrimination, lack of motivation on the job, and even fear of victimisation when they insist on getting things done rightly! It is when we learn of global experiences that we appreciate that risk is everywhere. In addition, fraud is no respecter of persons, age, gender, class etc. Yes, as usual, the slogan is “shine your eyes”.
To end the year, I wish to extend my gratitude to the Readers for their feedback, which came in the form of recommendations, requests for linked-in, telephone calls, training sessions, speaking engagements, encouraging words from far and near, as well as motivating sessions with young professionals. That is the power of communications. It is through this feedback that I am encouraged to get out of my bed even though I may be feeling lazy and tired, continue my research, add it to my experiences as well as others, and share with my fellow bankers and young professionals.
Computerization and risk culture
The advent of computerisation in banking has brought in its wake great speed and freshness in banking transactions, leaving many customers relaxed and confident as they take control of many transactions with the touch of a button on their smartphones. On the other hand, I am sorry that I have to be blunt here. As banking becomes easier, there is a tendency among some bankers to take the service for granted – resulting in laziness, inability to appreciate the basic principles guiding banking transactions and over-reliance on the computer, thus creating an impression of robotism! These days, some bankers are not even ready to listen to customers’ side because “our policy says”, “it cannot be done”, “the auditors will give us problems” etc. Sometimes these phrases are uttered without referring to seniors, or even to the basic banking principles and legal implications covering the transactions. Some answers are even given with a frown.
Kudos to Mr. Prosper Adoba, Branch Manager of UBA Ring Road Branch
Last week, I had the pleasure of entering UBA Ring Road Branch to meet a mature and hospitable branch manager with great teamwork spirit, who combined his risk culture with good customer service. I approached him with a problem involving a transaction requested by my ward in Europe, who had an account there. Armed with all the documents they may need, I was very confident that the transaction would be done. After brief discussions with me in his office, he called in his deputy to continue the discussion on best means to assist. I excused them to deliberate, and waited in the banking hall. Both gentlemen came downstairs to meet the Front Desk Officer to continue the discussion. When I was eventually called, they explained the implications again and offered another solution to the problem, which made me leave not disappointed, but satisfied that they all took the decision involving the complex transaction, together as a team.
My main reason for appreciating Mr. Adoba is his exhibition of maturity and leadership skills, his risk culture combined with customer care. Some managers feel too big to discuss dicey operational issues with their lieutenants, eventually leaving the customer to exit quietly but never to return. Remember, it is the silent customers who vote with their feet! Customers can sometimes leave the bank with ‘no’ as an answer, and yet are happy with being treated fairly and issues being clarified in a professional way. There are always better and professional ways of solving customers’ problems. Prosper Adoba and Team, keep it up!
The Aircraft Analogy
Let us take a bird’s eye view of my Flight 999/2018 Risk Journey. I will use the analogy of an airplane flight, which is a common teaching aid in risk management. Have you watched the television series on plane crash investigations? Please try and watch a few, and you will understand what I am alluding to.
Dear passengers on the flight, please read on…
As the Risk flight-attendant on duty for the year, my duty was to call all passengers to attention. “Hello passengers,” the pilot said, “Welcome aboard the Risk Watch Flight 999/2018 for bankers. As required by international regulations, and in accordance with the Basel 2 and 3, the attendant will take you through a short demonstration of safety measures, so kindly pay attention.”
Just like the flight-attendant, let me summarise what we have discussed in the year 2018. As a reminder, the Risk Watch ‘flights’ started five years ago with a caution to young bankers that ‘not all that glitters is gold’. They were reminded that banking is about performing a balancing act between risk and return. It emphasised the glitz and glitter in banking as well as the darker side, which many young entrants were unaware of until they entered the banking industry. It highlighted the need for more training and coaching by supervisors for bank front-liners.
Back to Basics: ‘Sankofa’
Since then, I have realised that my young passengers need to catch up on the age-old foundation skills in banking, (Banking 101) which is sometimes missing in action – the Banker-Customer relationship and how to manage the risks within. Although new and an eye-opener to the young entrants, it was also a revision course for the experienced bankers. Sankofa (meaning ‘Go back and take it’) is still a fundamental principle, and one must always go back and scoop any good and relevant concept in our past banking applications and apply them appropriately. Banking has evolved into a high-tech global industry, yet the principles in banking have never changed. Sometimes, I republished some of such articles for increased relevance.
For the rest of the 2018, the following risk flights were chartered:
- Whistle-blowing and the need for bankers to make use of this policy to reduce bank collapses
- The need to make the collaboration of banks and telcos work for greater financial inclusion.
- The role of security guards and errand boys in risk management
- The need for the ‘God factor’ in today’s banking.
- Why are my customers leaving?
- What keeps bank executives awake at night
- Matching the euphoria of digital banking with fraud awareness
- Relationship banking as a tool to add value to the bank’s bottom line
- Ethical banking – The key to banking Success
- Politically exposed persons (PEPs) and their influence in banks
- How good record-keeping can save your career and bank
- How assertive are you?
- Getting the best out of bank mergers and acquisitions
- The power of collaboration in risk management
For those who were not on the risk flights, these articles or ‘risk flights’ are still on the website of B&FT newspaper, bftonlineghana, on the opinions page.
After this long haul of risk flights, the plane touched down smoothly. This time there were several nods, and Flight Attendant Nancy saw smiles on the faces of passengers. Chief Risk Pilot Alberta is now standing at the gate waiting to say goodbye to her passengers. She smiles warmly and tells every passenger that is alighting, “Thank you for flying with the Risk Watch”.
My Best Wishes for 2019
I wish you:
- An Uplifting JANUARY
- A Passionate FEBRUARY
- A More Customer-Friendly MARCH
- No risk-surprises APRIL
- Minimal mistakes MAY
- Pleasant JUNE
- Responsive JULY
- More Knowledgeable AUGUST
- Zero-tolerance for risk SEPTEMBER
- More compliant OCTOBER
- Booming NOVEMBER
- Loving DECEMBER
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies for training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.