Are we moving forward with the lessons learnt? Part three

ONCE UPON A TIME: the relevance of history in risk management (final)
Alberta Quarcoopome

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep trying”……  Albert Einstein

Today marks the concluding article on moving forward in 2021 with the lessons learnt. This method of re-strategizing with facts and figures seems more likely to be sustainable. So far, I have highlighted various lessons that the past decade, and especially the past one year has taught us. Many issues not even mentioned in textbooks or dreamt off, came to pass. Did we ever imagine, we will be fighting a third world war in terms of the Covid 19 pandemic? Did we imagine most staff could even work from home? Did we imagine we could conduct training in a virtual environment and still remain interactive? Just last week, I found myself performing a role-play on zoom during a facilitation at the National Banking College. Acting as an angry customer, extracting my “pound of flesh” from one of the participants, a branch manager, surprising ended in fun. Although it is not the same as an in- person training program, we managed to keep up the tempo by putting them in groups or break out rooms for syndication and presentation.

Extracts from the August, 2020 PWC Ghana Banking Survey which studied the banks’ response to Covid 19, summarized the challenges faced by banks as a result of the impact of the pandemic on banks:

  • High credit risk in the market
  • Uncertainties in the local and global economy which affect client’s business
  • Unpreparedness of the industry to operate in an economy with limited
  • physical contact
  • Threats to savings by retail customers
  • Investment uncertainties
  • Panic withdrawals
  • Government’s initiatives not in alignment with bank’s priorities.

Despite these challenges, banks have re-strategized and moved on, hopefully using the lessons leant to improve their situation.

Here are a few more lessons that are impacting Banks’ 2021 strategies:

New recruitment strategies

With the increasing demand for digital banking aided by artificial intelligence, banks are now employing more technically oriented and agile staff who can take up the collaboration with fintechs of the digital banking to an advanced level.

Modernizing & scaling for the new normal
The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.

Internal Controls in Banks

Managers are obliged to protect the assets, reputation and the people in the business. This is very important to employees who are likely to feel protected from false accusations. The following basic controls should not be under-rated:

  • Dual Control.
  • Segregation of duties.
  • Appropriate oversight, and monitoring
  • Regular independent reviews, reconciliations, statements, reports, etc. 

Avoiding the Dangers of Over-Digitalization

  • Customer Neglect. After sending messages to customers to patronize digital banking, have there been contacts on how they are managing the paradigm shift
  • People all over the world report being overwhelmed by the digital capabilities they now possess, and find it difficult to put limits or control how much technology they consume or how it infiltrates their lives.
  • Employees today work more hours and are nearly continuously connected to their jobs by pervasive mobile technologies.
  • Digital connectivity can also create digital etiquette problems for both clients and staff.
  • Proper time management for workers in different time zones or on different work schedules.

Focussing on Soft skills of Employees:

Just as digital transformation is more about people rather than technology, the key technological skills are soft skills rather than hard skills. The recruitment market is hot for cybersecurity analysts, software engineers, and data scientists. How about identifying the most adaptable employee with a combination of both hard and soft skills as well as specialist skills.  The best combination of staff is a mixture of people with good soft skills with those who are adaptable to changes, to manage any hard skill that comes along. Technical competence is necessary, but always temporary. Staff should have an enquiring mind to meet all future challenges that come with change.

Puttng People First:

Technology involves doing more with less, yet that combination is effective only if it is paired with the right human skills. The technological disruption has generally led to automation and the elimination of outdated jobs, it has also always created new jobs. But the creative aspect of innovation is entirely dependent on people. If we can leverage human adaptability to reskill and upskill our workforce, then we can have the best mix of humans and technology. The most brilliant innovation is irrelevant if we are not skilled enough to use it, and even the most impressive human minds will become less useful if they do not team up with tech. The main implication is that when leaders think about investing in technology, they should first think about investing in the people who can make that technology useful.

Avoiding painful customer exits

Know your Customer Loyalty Ladder is a systematic way of classifying customers of an organization into five different categories depending upon the business level engagement of customers with the organization. It takes at least 30 times as much marketing budget to attract a new customer via traditional forms of advertising as to re-attract a repeat customer. Most business owners spend less than 5% of their marketing budget on their existing customers but they spend 95% of their marketing budget trying to find new customers.

The error that some banks make is that they invest more in attracting new customers in the first stage, rather than keeping the already existing customer satisfied and happy. A good marketing company should invest at least 30% of their marketing budget in keeping the customers and clients happy.

The study of the customer loyalty ladder concept is to help banks to invest in developing satisfied customers. Banks should identify and analyze which customers belong to which stage of the customer loyalty ladder. The best customer is the most recent satisfied one, as well as, the best word of mouth advertising comes from the same source (the most satisfied customer).

Banks have to acquire the skills which allow them to act in a way that moves people up the ladder.

Retaining Customers

If you are losing your customer base you need to act fast to retain their custom. The best way for repeat business is getting them to love your products or your company. An advocate of your brand will also positively advertise your business too through word of mouth. So how do you get a customer to climb the loyalty ladder and move from a first- time buyer to a brand champion?

  • Start with an internal audit of the policies that govern your team. Conduct interviews with customer-support managers and representatives.
  • Assess what company policies have led to customer dissatisfaction. Use this data to improve your customer service practices.
  • Respond quickly. Acknowledge when a mistake is made and make it right.
  • Treat the customer with respect and empathy.
  • Identify your unique value proposition. What awesome value do you bring to your customers that other businesses don’t?
  • Clearly articulate your unique value proposition on all platforms. Publish the benefits of your product or service on your website home page.
  • Educate your customer support and sales staffers so that they can speak fluently about the value included in your pricing.
  • Ensure a good and consistent brand.
  • Create a branding guide to establish uniform branding guidelines and share it with your team.
  • Hold your employees accountable for delivering a consistently positive customer experience.
  • Utilise artificial intelligence to work out whom your biggest customers are and prioritize time with them around their buying habits.
  • If you cannot do something for them, tell them. Manage their expectations and sustain the trust they have for you. 


Although the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the banking sector will take some years to materialise fully. Surviving this crisis will require decisive action from banks’ management boards and risk functions. Is it possible for Banks to heed Borromini’s lesson on the power of perception: what seems far away may well be closer than you perceive it – and so, they must plan ahead. Getting through this crisis and the potentially massive increase in NPLs that it will cause will hinge on banks taking this lesson fully on board. This is a year of crisis but also full of opportunities, so seize it.


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 ethics and fraud.


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