Book Review: The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion


BOOK TITLE: The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion

AUTHOR:  Alberta Quarcoopome

FORWORD : Joseph B. Tetteh, Board Chairman, First National Bank

REVIEWER: JOHN AWUAH, CEO, Ghana Association of Bankers, & Former

                  CEO, Universal Merchant Bank.

  1. OF PAGES: 440
John Awuah

As a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers with several decades of banking practice, and now a consultant involved with training staff in the financial services industry, Alberta Quarcoopome’s third book has come in handy to guide managers to meet the new demands and exigencies of modern banking.

The book, THE MODERN BRANCH MANAGER’S COMPANION, made up of twenty-nine chapters, comprehensively deals with all aspects of branch banking, as well as other relevant banking functions, which should merit the attention of any manager or aspiring manager who has the ambition to contribute meaningfully to the practice of banking and also ground his/her career solidly in pursuit of global best practices.

The titles of the first and last chapters are very apt for the critical-thinking branch manager to reflect upon. The title of the first chapter, (Reflections: Am I in the right profession?) as well as the final chapter, (Taking a Graceful Bow) show the need for managers to periodically review their personal and corporate goals, conduct a self-audit and pause for reflection. In the event that at some point in their careers they come to the crossroads and decide on parting ways with the institution, the author recommends the best exit plan, so as not to burn bridges.

The book takes us through a three-part knowledge expedition of a modern branch manager. In the first part-THE PRACTICE OF BANKING, the evolution of banking from the structure of a traditional branch set-up is explained and compared to the modern set-up in digital banking with recommended detailed daily routine of a modern branch manager.  Giving an overview of the legal and regulatory environment, a refresher of the principles of banking is examined which makes it more appropriate for managers to remember the basic banking principles, upon which all transactions are done.

Apart from the basic banking refresher, there are chapters on supervision of account-opening processes, controls, enhancing the customers’ journey, best practices in marketing and relationship management, with emphasis on the need to know the customers’ needs and expectations in this new banking dispensation while maintaining strict compliance with banking regulations.

Part two of the book deals with DIGITAL BANKING AND RISKS. This section starts with a journey through the ultimate digital branch which is gradually replacing traditional branches. While emphasising the future of banking in digital financial services, this section goes into detail to explain to the reader why branches are not going to be eliminated completely.

The emergence of artificial intelligence and robotic processes automation are to augment the human relationship and transactions and not to replace them entirely. It represents the success of having digital banking services for the customers’ convenience as the ultimate, while maintaining the human element in relationship banking. The chapters involving risks are very comprehensive and tackles the usual risk topics such as operational risks, fraud in banking, physical security and business continuity planning. The ultimate goal of every bank manager is to make profit, and this is explained in the chapter on profitability, which managers should have an eye on always.

Part three of the book-THE SOFT SKILLS, is the icing on the cake which proves the need for staff to upgrade their people skills, as a game-changer to succeed in their chosen career of banking, and to complement the augmentation of traditional banking services with digital banking.  The chapters in this section share various soft skills that are required to manage the dynamics in banking. These include leadership and managing teams of diverse personalities, delegation, coaching and mentoring, managing change and stresses on the job. An interesting twist in the important soft skills acquisition is how to love your job!  The key pillar for success in banking, which is Ethics, has been discussed in detail with vivid real-life cases for managers to reflect upon. Managing staff working from home amidst COVID 19 pandemic is the newest issue that managers have to contend with.

The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion is indeed an A to Z companion for both branch managers as well as bank executives that are faced with the complexities involved in banking, which in all aspects, is the most regulated industry in Ghana. Modern branch managers are saddled with several expectations from all stakeholders. The rapid changes in banking, aided by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and artificial intelligence is making several banking operational activities irrelevant as they explore the boundaries of collaboration with FinTechs and telecommunication companies in the field of payment systems.

This book has come in handy to assist the modern manager navigate the various aspects of branch banking as it is expertly woven into the three parts of the book: The Practice of Banking, Digital Banking and Risks as well as the needed Soft Skills to succeed in the chosen profession.

The Author treats many aspects of the work of a branch manager and gives enough support to trigger their thought processes.  It is crucial for branch managers to be aware of the soft skills they need as much as the technical skills.

She also seeks to draw our attention to how the role has evolved and the new skill-set requirements for effective performance of this role.  The details of the various duties of the branch manager highlights the dynamism that new technology has introduced into this role, while raising red flags about the possible pitfalls that the job entails.

In an attempt to entice non bankers to generate interest in the book, the writer has used simple language in her delivery on most topics; which in itself is positive but could run the risk of complicating the understanding of slightly technical subject matters.

The book provides guidance for not only Branch Managers but for all those in management positions in banks and others in non bank financial services sector. This is a must read for Customer Service Managers, Relationship Managers, Heads of Operations and Branch Control, as well as other Heads of Departments.

Indeed, anyone engaged in a financial institution and yearns to enjoy his/her job should read this book and have a personal copy for regular reference. Students writing the professional banking course as well as those in tertiary institutions studying Banking and Finance would also find this book valuable for the practical insights shared, which may not be available in the classroom.

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