The power of collaboration: working together To fight risks in banking (3)

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” – John Maxwell 

Today’s article concludes the various tips I have shared about maintaining a winning team in a typical bank branch. When everybody is part of the solution, there is ownership of both good and bad activities. A branch manager who receives credit for the success of his or her branch also re-directs the credit to cover the whole branch team, and he or she will have his or her back covered, and of course have regular good nights’ sleep.


Armed with the knowledge of the basic needs of your staff, why don’t you book an appointment to meet your Human Resource Manager as well as your Head of Department, to re-examine your own job description, as well as the rest of your team members. Do you even understand the job descriptions? Are the objectives ‘SMART’ enough to be achievable? Don’t worry, they will respect you more for the bold initiative. Tell them it is a strategy for success and also to mitigate risks. If there is nothing on risk management, find a nice way of incorporating it as part of the responsibilities and get their approval. Bravo you are there!

After that, find time each morning to discuss each person’s job description, noting down the challenges they face and what steps they can individually recommend to make the branch less prone to risk, especially from external factors. Remember Rick Warren’s quote. The SHAPES are different and unique. Discover everyone’s unique contribution. Don’t repeat the past mistakes of making Job Description an untouchable and dreaded subject. Create fun out of the discussions.

Equation Three: Realistic Job Descriptions + Risk Culture = SUCCESSFUL BANK


Teamwork doesn’t just happen by putting on the manager’s hat and printing ‘Team Leader’ on it, or by telling everyone they are now a team. Human beings don’t work like robots. We have feelings and need to digest new ideas, turn it around and assimilate it to see how one can place one’s selves to fit into any new development. In order to make the branch flourish, a manager can recommend changes to the roles of individuals, and train them in the execution of these roles. Don’t forget, this cannot be done with the “gas stove’ approach. Why don’t you incorporate these ideas with some inputs from the team? You can try out a simple team mentality process by writing on paper the list of the various characteristics required for each job role to each staff to study. Indicate beside each role the definition of the characteristic and ask them to list people in the branch who have the relevant personality traits to match the role. Let all this be done confidentially like a voting process. My, ooh my, you will be surprised at the results. Sometimes it shows that you do not know your staff the way you think you do. However, this should only be a guide since the technical knowledge is also very important. Even though you are not bound to use all the recommendations from your team, any future results will make them feel a part of the decision making. Now that you have them on your side, let us go to the finishing touches in creating a risk management culture in your branch

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Equation Four: Team Mentality + Team Dynamics + Risk Culture = SUCCESSFUL BANK


By the nature of the job, if about 85 per cent of the staff are non-managers, and that is the case in most organizations, there is a vast untapped resource of brainpower and improvement capacity. In modern banking situations, even the lowest on the scale have a tertiary educational background. These days, institutions are gradually introducing a system by which staff are encouraged to contribute ideas for improving the organization’s operations. The challenge here is this – getting the staff to take on board the idea that their suggestions are welcome. People feel proud when they see something implemented that they have suggested. These are the very feelings we want to encourage, and equally important, discourage the feelings among many staff that communication between them and management is merely a ‘top-down’ phenomenon. There are many branches where some staff have observed various risk ventures in loan management, selective justice given to staff who caused losses, imbalance in appraisal systems and have resorted to remaining in their corner and keeping their mouths shut.

Equation Five: Staff suggestions and Contributions + Risk Culture = SUCCESSFUL BANK


As a manager, there is a limit to what you can give or recommend for your team in terms of financial incentives. Looking at the other side, the non-financial incentives are limitless. This is where the power of leadership style can enhance  cordiality in a branch. Some of these non-financial incentives are:

  • Listening to your staff attentively
  • Giving credit when it is due. Don’t take credit for everything, otherwise when risk events happen, you will take full blame and suffer for it.
  • Bring out creativity in your staff, especially in sales and marketing.
  • Let the staff identify all the positive things about every staff and put it down, and if possible make it into a pamphlet. Any bad nut who is being influenced to commit fraud in the branch would think twice. For all you know that particular staff member has issues about him/herself and is planning to revenge on the bank by collaboration with fraudsters to commit fraud in the bank. People have been seen to swing from one personality to another during the moment of truth. Some may even have been feeling demoralized and have been stealing through several means without being caught. So many little things matter to the human being.
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Equation Six: Non-Financial Incentives + Risk Management = SUCCESSFUL BANK


There is one thing that some branch managers fail to take control of, which eventually leads to frauds and errors not being detected early enough. Why do some managers shy away and don’t want to be in control of one of the most important engines of the banking set up? The more curious you are about what your staff are typing away the whole day, the better you will be in control. Some managers believe that reports are only for the eyes of the operations manager. This is a serious No…No for any serious branch manager. Some use the sentence. “As for this, it is for the Operations People”. Who is labelled the Operations people? Get involved. When was the last time you even checked the cash in the vault? Do you just accept the balances on the face of it? Check dormant accounts regularly and you can unearth so much gold from it. Just continue asking more questions about reports from all the sections of the branch activities and you will be able to know the workings of your staff and appreciate the job descriptions assigned them to see whether they are actually feasible or achievable.

Equation Seven: Knowledge of Systems + Risk Culture = SUCCESSFUL BANK


A well- blended Team is a great group to work with. They support each other inside the team, and outside the team. They are open and straight enough with each other to ‘tell it like it is’ in a constructive and supportive fashion. They don’t criticize their colleagues to others, i.e. they speak in support of their team colleagues when they are not there. They see risk and own it. They are each others’ keeper and watch each others back. When they report one to the manager, it is in the interest of the person and the branch as a whole. It makes banking so beautiful. After all, why should we not enjoy the work when we are put together for over eight to ten hours a day whether we like each other or not.

Equation eight: A Great Team + Gatekeepers + Risk culture = AN OUTSTANDING BANK

Happy banking and see you on paper next week.


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.


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