The changing role of the branch manager in a digital world (one)

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

“Banking is necessary, but Banks are not”….Bill Gates

The above quote from Bill Gates hit me hard when I came across it a couple of years ago. I asked myself “What does he mean by that?”. I got his idea when I travelled in 2019 with a group on a study tour at Jack Ma’s Ali Baba headquarters in Hangzhou, China. A guided tour of the Hema grocery store showed how the future retail shopping system concept is being practicalized. Every label on the item has a barcode with the price of the item online, when it was delivered to the store, and where it came from. It also showed delivery options. If you want it delivered to your home, it can be done in 30 minutes within 3 kms radius of the store. There are no traditional human cashiers at the store. Using the app, consumers swipe their phone in front of the scanner and that is it. There is another option to pay using your face. A robot restaurant is now attached, where patrons scan the barcode at their tables and place the orders through the app. Robots deliver the food to you. For complicated dishes like soups, humans take over.

Digitization in Ghana

You may wonder why I am giving you all these details. It is a wake-up call. Five years ago, I did not imagine the above situation could ever come into the picture. Now, consumers or patrons of digitization are not only restricted to educated people or formal bank account holders. Have you watched the recent pictures and video that showed Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. Bawumia, buying ‘waakye’ (a local rice dish) from the famous Auntie Muni? This happened when the Universal QR code payment system was launched in 2020. I am sure the vendor was chosen to bring the concept home that the QR payment system is for everyone, whether banked or unbanked. One does not need to have a bank account to use it. Now our illiterate folks can patronize it with confidence. QR code payment is a contactless payment method where payment is performed by scanning a QR code from a mobile app. This is an alternative to doing electronic funds transfer at point of sale using a payment terminal. This avoids a lot of the infrastructure traditionally associated with electronic payments such as payment cards, payment networks, payment terminal and merchant accounts. The Ghana universal QR code payment service does not necessarily require a consumer to be a holder of a bank account to use the QR code, as the service can work with any regular mobile money wallet. The system comes with an alternative channel for feature phones (yam phones) where a consumer can pay by dialing the short code of a payment service provider and following prompts.

The Changing Banking Landscape

With the disruptive nature of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, some bankers have been asking themselves whether they are in the right place or not. The banking landscape is  changing fast. To stay competitive, banks are investing millions of dollars into technology to digitize nearly every aspect of their businesses. But can they keep up with constant change coming from all directions? Customer demand for more high-tech services, and for connectivity between popular financial management apps and their primary bank accounts are making CEOs stretch their funds to satisfy the ever innovative-hungry customers. After all, if they don’t catch up, the customers may easily switch. There is a new wave of conversational banking and how financial service providers are changing the customer experience, moving from “transactions” to “interactions.”

The customer profile is changing, too. There are some lessons ahead, in how the youngest customers — Generation Z — differ even from the millennials. Bank workers in university campus branches can attest to the fact that the large student customer base does not necessarily mean that your banking hall will be choked. After all, few students would bother to find time visiting the bank. They only need e-banking services and products. The human interaction means very little to many of them. They want to use the apps to manage their accounts. They prefer to visit the e-channel suites even if they have to enter the banking hall, for their self-service. On the other hand, it is the senior members like lecturers and workers in the university who would come into the bank. They prefer the people-touch and rely on people for their financial advisory services. They insist on using cheque books, and hard copies of correspondence on all transactions (in black and white). But, let me ask: how many customers want to do that? The numbers are falling.

How are Bank Managers handling the new trends in banking?

Occupational stress has increasingly occupied the attention of both practitioners and researchers alike, especially

in developed countries. The indications of stress  among  bankers  are  apparent  in  Ghana but not well-defined by

evidence.  Bankers  are  not  super-humans  with  little  or  no  problems.  They  may  be  financially  sound  but  are

confronted with stressful and  social  issues  which  demand  the intervention of human service practitioners. They

face  marital,  family,  work,  financial,  psychological  and  emotional  problems  which  they  often  try  to  keep  to

themselves. This attitude of no sharing their problems with others at times affect them to a large extend.

In  sum,  findings  of  this  study  revealed  that  most  of  the  bankers  have  family,  work  and  personal

concerns  which  need  to be  address  to  ensure their  social,  psychological,  physical and  emotional  needs.  Most

bankers find it difficult spending ample  time  with  their  families  due to their busy schedules thereby increasing

the  moral  decadence rate  of  their children.  Due  to work  overload  and  time pressure  the  bankers are  unable  to

manage work life with  family life which cause some serious social problems. Therefore, there is the need to put

in place adequate and proper strategies regarding  working  hours,  interpersonal  relationships and supervision of

bankers to  reduce  stress  and to  better  manage  the performance  of  employees in banking  sector. The foregoing

clearly reveals that bankers really have a lot of concerns ranging from their family life to their work

As a manager, how tech-savvy are you? We all know that younger generation staff are very adept with technology and can therefore market and handle such transactions far better than their superiors. Ask yourself: Are you prepared to go into new areas of products that rely purely on new technology and appreciation of their use before advising customers. Can you learn their risk elements and be on top of the issues? The internet allows many customers to take their financial advice through virtual banking and e-advisors. Can you move with the times? Digital transformation is taking place with the rethinking of most back-office processes banks have had in place for decades, including a streamlining of operations and the integration of new data sets. But the most impactful transformation occurs with customer-facing engagement, including products, communication, customer-service tools and marketing strategies. This is good news, because this is where the modern branch manager still plays a significant role. It is the segment where robots are there to augment, and not replace humans.

Banker- Customer engagement is still key in a True Digital Organization

Becoming a digital organization is significantly more than simply providing online and mobile functionality. It requires supporting consumer engagement across all channels seamlessly. The need for design thinking to simplify all consumer interactions with modern technology. A ‘true’ digital organization focuses on the customer experience at every point of contact, throughout the entire customer journey. Becoming a digital organization is a daunting process that involves bank employee activities and behaviours. This includes the way employees interact with each other internally as well as with people externally. In many instances, the roles, responsibilities and organizational structure must change to accommodate this digital transformation. Not surprisingly, there also needs to be a culture instilled that supports the new digital organization while enabling the company’s strategy.

I will pause here for now. Next week, we shall look at various ways that bank managers can better relate within the digital banking world, prepare themselves to take advantage of the disruptiveness of the fourth revolution, making themselves relevant through upskilling and enhancement.

Bank managers are still very relevant in banking, therefore I ask that they should be able to adapt their analogue minds to succeed within the digital world. Keep thinking globally while acting locally.

Meanwhile please book a copy of my new book, “THE MODERN BRANCH MANAGER’S COMPANION which involves the adoption of a multi-disciplinary approach in the practice of today’s branch management. It also shares invaluable insights on the mindset needed to navigate and make a difference in the changing dynamics of the banking industry. Call 0244333051 for your copy.

To be continued


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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