“A personal brand is your promise to the marketplace and the world”…….Tom Peters
Hello again, it is almost a month now since I started my series on relationship banking. I hope my “archaic tips” have been useful. Do you remember that the erstwhile Merchant Bank (Ghana) Ltd, had its slogan “Relationship banking at its Best?” As a former staff of the bank, I still hold the slogan dear to my heart. One of our former Managing Directors, the late Chris Nartey used to breathe down our neck whenever the bottom line in respect of a key account was not meeting the desired results. I remember a day in 2000 when I was tasked to bring an old associate to open an account with the bank. I did not find it easy because the Associate had known me from other circles and was not sure he would be treated the same way as I did in my previous bank. It took more than six months to convince him, despite a discussion with him and his deputy over lunch with my MD and Marketing Director at a five star hotel!
Yes. That is how far bankers go to win a key account. After that, the promises must flow and be sustainable to avoid them feeling disconnected. As I always say in my articles and books, the banker-customer relationship is likened to a Financial Marriage! It’s a relationship for life. Apart from either party deciding to end the account relationship, there are three things that are legally permitted to determine or end it: death, insanity or bankruptcy of the customer. Even if a relationship has to be ended, it should be done on a professional and cordial note. If a foreign company is re-locating to another country, one cannot force the company to continue running its account in Ghana.
Relationship Management of Key Accounts (contd)
Last week I gave some tips on how an RM can work with the key account holders to add value to the bank and improve its earnings. The “Influencers” in your key account’s business must never be under-rated. Here are a few more practical tips:
The multi-banked key account:
There was a case of a valuable SME account whose daily cash deposits were lodged by the office driver. He was a loyal and trusted staff of the proprietor, whose account was at a branch in Okaishie. (The central Business District of Accra). He was therefore entrusted with huge volumes of cash to deposit. When a new branch of the same bank was opened at Ridge, it was closer to the customer’s factory, (located at Achimota, one of the suburbs of Accra). Due to the value of the account to the bank, the RM did constant close-marking to ensure that the sales still passed through the bank, even from the Ridge branch. A year later, the driver started encountering friction with the new Bulk Tellers at the new branch, who did not appreciate the value of the account and started treating the driver in an unprofessional manner. Can you imagine that the driver managed to convince his employer to open another account at a bank which was just 50 meters from his factory in Achimota! Yes that is the power of influence that the driver possessed. You may say…he is a “mere driver”, but you never know how far his influence reached.
Look for the “Big Shots” in the company:
How do you determine who the big shots are? Is it the size of the office, the number of staff under him or her? The car they drive? Every company has its own way of doing things but make sure you are on a cordial relationship with those you have identified. Don’t forget to include them in your list of beneficiaries of your company’s end of year souvenirs for customers.
Identify The Young Sharp Shooters:
In some organizations, the CEO or management staff are able to identify some “Fliers” who are being groomed for top positions in the business. It could be the son of the owner, an in-law, or a genuine “sharp brain” who is a strategic thinker and has been able to rub shoulders with the management staff. While making an effort to sell your bank’s products, you can discover the company’s future vision and goals from such persons in your conversations. There are instances where you can indirectly detect signs of over-trading, over-expansion, diversion of funds or business. An RM should be “street- smart” to detect such possible early warning signals or default of a loan.
Is your key account celebrating an anniversary, new product launch, planning a corporate social responsibility, like free medical or eye screening? These are popular events that your bank can collaborate or get involved with. If possible get their consent to set up a stand to also market your product. If the event demands the collection of funds, be there to do that on their behalf. It cements the bond of friendship. You can opt to be in their branded Tee shirts or seek permission to be in your bank’s corporate branded outfit. Seize the opportunity to partner with their brand and you never know, new accounts can be opened. At such programs, don’t forget that your art of public speaking will be put to test!
Be a Problem Solver:
You may ask yourself: What can me, an ordinary RM solve a key account holder’s problem? Yes you can. In trying to work with all the listed recommendations, you will reach somewhere when your customer will sometimes share some major company strategic decisions with you. Remember that other banks are always visiting and trying to win the account. There is nothing wrong with being multi-banked but make your service exceptional.
Going the Extra Mile:
It is nice to know more about your customers as they bank with you. Have you sat down to scrutinize your key account’s bank statement for the following beneficiaries of their cheques:
- other corporate bodies,
- third party individuals,
- investment companies,
- voluntary organizations,
- old school groups, etc
Do some of these beneficiaries have accounts with you? That is fine, but if they don’t, seize the opportunity to go the extra mile to get to know them. If your key account is a church goer, can you be introduced to the church or any church group? Take it from there and the rest will follow.
Aligning Your Personal Brand to Your Bank’s Brand
In the information age, personal branding is necessary for the success of any company or individual. Failing to manage personal branding can lead to misinformation about you or your company becoming public. Taking control of your public image is no longer an option. How well branded are you? Every person is “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and therefore RMs should be able to identify their unique strengths and align it to their Bank’s brand. Mere recital of bank’s vision, mission, values and slogan does not mean that you are representing your bank. Let the values be branded in the way you work. Let your customers see you as a good representative of what they have for the public.
My final Words to Relationship Managers
The year 2018 has been a special year because the competition among banks has been keener than before. Customers are being spoilt for choice as they now know their real value to their banks’ bottom line. Dear RMs, please seizing new business opportunities to add value to your banks’ bottom line. Perfect your face-to-face communication skills, sell solutions not just features of your products, practice effective listening skills as well as face to face communication skills to enable you show empathy and negotiate effectively and win customers to your side. Don’t ever forget that customers are not clones. Know the various customers, categorize them but treat all fairly. Some customers are always ready to pay premium fees so long as they are given what the bank has offered to give them and even more. Most banks are basically offering the same products and services on a plate, but what a Relationship Manager offers on his or her plate is the uniqueness of the service to the extent that customers get that “wow effect.” When this is done, you will maintain them for life, at whatever cost. Go out there and make a difference and your bank’s bottom line will be assured.
Thanks for the attention. Enjoy your banking life.
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, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.