The power of collaboration: … together to fight risks in banking (2)

“When teams work together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Team incentives also moderate the extreme risks, as people do not take the same risks in a group that they do as individuals” Source: The Times (UK) – 08 July 2009

A fortnight ago, I started a discussion on the power of collaboration inter-bank as well as intra-bank which can assist in bringing losses in banking to a minimum. I gave an example of how a Manager who lacks a combination of technical and people skills can deteriorate the work standards in a branch or department if not well-managed.  Sometimes the first question that is asked when a risk incident occurs in a department is “Who is the Manager?”; “Who placed him/her there?”; “Was he/she equipped to manage that place?”

Selecting the Right Persons is Key in Risk Management

According to author Jim Collins in Good to Great, “People are not your most important asset – the right people are”. Indeed, in addition to having the right persons, management should also place them in the right positions. It is about time Human Resource Managers studied the core human requirements or characteristics for each position in a financial institution, and this can only be done well if they appreciate the core business and expectations. I sometimes find some human resource managers being bullied into submission to select or place certain persons in the wrong positions – putting those individuals at great risk to themselves and also to the institution. In this era when HR management is a science, proper assessments involve the motivational needs, behavioural trends as well as technical skills which combine to make a person best fit for a role.

Collaboration in Branch Banking Functional Roles 

Let me take the example of a universal bank branch. We will take a bird’s eye view of what roles people play. For the typical branch banking experience in Ghana (which includes both old-time as well as modern trends), let me create a list of behavioural attributes that can be combined to fight risks and enhance profits for the bank. These do not exclude technical knowledge, which is usually proven with the requisite academic qualifications before entry.

Front desk functions:

These involve account-opening, customer enquiries, customer complaints, account management, and cross-selling of products: This role requires the following human attributes among others:

  • Pleasantness
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Tolerance
  • Effective listening skills
  • Empathy
  • Responsiveness
  • Good interpersonal relations

Teller Functions

This person necessarily has someone standing in front of him/her most of the time, whether they like it or not.

  • Pleasantness and love for the job
  • Honesty
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Patience
  • Tolerance
  • Empathy
  • A good combination of speed and accuracy
  • Good interpersonal relations
  • Observant
  • Good numeracy skills

Back Office functions

These persons do not usually have customers facing them, even though they also have benchmarks to work within. There is much more data entry, reconciliation of figures and analytical thinking.

  • Meticulousness and care
  • Speed and accuracy of data entry
  • Analytical skills
  • Good numeracy skills
  • Honesty
See Also:  Multitasking

Credit Function

This is a very sensitive area where people can be easily compromised to recommend bad loans even from day one.  Credit is the backbone of banking. Decisions made can make or break a bank. It therefore requires:

  • Honesty
  • Discernment
  • Being uncompromising in customer’s loan appraisal
  • Analytical
  • Observant
  • Good numeracy skills

Sales and Marketing Functions

This is another front desk role that includes meeting customers outside the bank. It therefore requires in addition:

  • Honesty
  • Pleasantness
  • High moral standards
  • Good inter-personal relations
  • Observant

In a nutshell these are the basic human qualities expected of the various groups of functionaries in a typical branch in Ghana. How do we get all these people with diverse educational and cultural backgrounds to collaborate? This is a difficult exercise.

The Operations and Branch Managers

These persons are in charge of various activities undertaken in a branch. Apart from their technical expertise, they need to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Supervisory and leadership skills
  • Mentoring and Coaching skills
  • Listening skills
  • Delegation and monitoring skills
  • Empathy
  • Be a Role model
  • Succession Planning
  • Conflict management skills

 Collaboration and Conflict Management in Risk

In a group composed of individuals with diverse working styles and cultural backgrounds, it is very important to learn how to deal with conflict. Conflicts are only natural in teams pregnant with new ideas. The ‘Yes People’ do not make an organisation grow. Learning to treat differences of opinion professionally is quite difficult to achieve, but it eventually comes with conscious effort and self-discipline.

Let us examine possible ways of blending the various individual characteristics to forge ahead in managing risks at a branch. From the perspective of Human Resource Management, the branch manager is expected to ensure the governance process works. Everybody looks to the manager to salvage any problem in the branch. In terms of risk management, however, the responsibilities lie with each and every staff in the organisation, since every activity carries some inherent risk.

I am sure many branch managers will roll their eyes and sigh…”How can one person manage all these guys with complex personalities, each with his or her own traits and beliefs – the humble, the proud and arrogant, the introverts and extroverts and what have you? Some are even older than me and treat me like someone who has just stepped out of college!” If you are a young branch manager who has found him or herself tasked to manage a team, just say a word of prayer because it all depends on you and how you turn a so-called difficult team into a winning team. Let’s see how it goes….

Who is Responsible for Collaboration in Risk Management?

The work of the leader is to implement systems and tools that will provide these key elements to help the individuals within your branch to be highly motivated, successful and improve their risk culture. When individuals are successful, the bank will be successful. Ultimately, the responsibility for Human Resource Management activities rests with each manager.

If a manager does not accept this responsibility, then HRM activities will only get partially done. Maximising the potential of human resources available within your branch is directly dependent on a manager’s skills and abilities to manage the staff. Leadership and good staff management skills which enhance their risk culture are essential to provide employees with what they need to be successful. HRM systems and tools can provide a good structure but will not guarantee success. Effective staff management hinges on each manager’s ability to provide leadership and relate to staff.

See Also:  What you tell your children matters

Management of people is one of the most difficult tasks on earth, but you have to take it in your stride. Please remember that not everyone will like you for what you are, but as a manager you have been placed in the situation for a reason; and remember, something good can come out from even the worst teams. The first equation here to note is:

Equation One: Good Leadership + Good Staff Management skills + Good Risk Culture = Successful Bank


Every Person Wants to Be Successful

 All institutions are comprised of an interdependent network of individuals. No matter what status one has in the bank, everyone wants to be successful in what they do. It is these individual successes that leads to a successful bank. The individuals within it must be productive, efficient, and effective. Attention to the management of these individuals not only enhances the individuals’ success, but can encourage a team-effort capable of reaching goals beyond what one person can do alone.

Do you know that, basically, everyone in the bank requires certain basic needs to be successful? What are these? Let us consider seven of them.

The seven basic needs:

  • Be able to identify him/herself with the bank’s mission.
  • Basic understanding of their role, and how that role contributes to the bank’s mission.
  • Specific knowledge of what is expected of them.
  • Possess the capacity, resources, and environment which make success possible.
  • Receive encouragement at every stage of their development
  • Expect constructive feedback.
  • Opportunities to develop and improve.

Examine how the seven basic needs are relevant to your position, and how they can make you successful and reduce any losses.

Equation Two: Seven Basic Needs + Good Risk Culture = Successful Bank



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.



Email:  or

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Notify of