“Treat your customer, as you want to be treated as a customer.” Catherine Pulsifer
As intimated last week, this series was first published in this newspaper several years ago, but since the issues are still relevant, I am continuing. Before that, let me give a “shout out” to a security guard who works with passion.
Kudos to Mr. Benjamin Hammond (alias Alhaji Ismaila) of Ecobank Head Office
As I moved around with my risk binoculars, I recently came across a Security Guard, stationed at Ecobank Head Office Accra, whom I can say, works with passion. With the additional functions of Security Guards now overseeing the covid 19 protocols at the entrance of all banks, their role has metamorphosed as they now come into close contact with customers. Despite their typical stern looks and robotic mechanisms, some of these functionaries add some feeling into their work as they give, receive and acknowledge greetings of customers and the bank staff. I have observed Ismaila’s performance on duty several times and I believe he is genuine, pleasant and still very professional. Kudos, Ismaila!
The Reality on the Ground
Let us look at the typical functions of unarmed Security Guards in banks:
- Report early for duty at 6.00 am and close at 6.00 pm, handing over to the night shift who also works from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am.
- They look dressed up in their uniforms supplied by their company for easy recognition.
- They ensure the police guards on duty complete the attendance register.
- They direct traffic in and out of the bank’s premises or parking lot.
- They sometimes collect the keys of drivers whose cars obstruct others in case they have to re-park them. (This has some implications and many banks are stopping this practice)
- They watch and guard all cars in the premises.
- They are on the look-out for suspicious characters on the premises, query and re-direct them.
- They record the registered numbers and model of cars and timing as they come and go. With CCTV cameras, this duty has become outmoded.
- They record any unusual occurrence on the premises and report to the authorities.
- They open doors for customers and staff.
- They put off unwanted lights, water dispensers, shredders, printers, television sets and other electrical gadgets that the staff forget to attend to.
- In some cases, they take the keys to the nearest police station for safekeeping overnight and go for it early morning to enable the cleaners and other service providers do their job.
- They keep a keen eye on service providers to prevent theft or pilfering.
- They assist the police guard with escort duties during cash in transit operations.
Now let’s look at some of the things they do on the blind side, which typically are not sanctioned by management. I stand to be corrected.
- They are sent by staff for various errands – buy food, purchase other items from town! This sometimes do so whether there is a back-up personnel or not!!!!
- They help carry luggage including laptops and heavy items up the stairs or lifts to the offices of the managers.
- Carry the “losoo” or gift items from customers’ cars for delivery to various recipients in their offices or into their cars.
- Act as receptionists when the front desk person is on lunch break!!
Are they Visible or Invisible?
After all is said and done, how do you relate with your security guard? Do you greet them as they open the doors for you? Or you think he is doing his duty, so it’s no big deal? Do you know that they treat your customers as you also treat them? Are you aware they can connive with fraudsters and robbers to raid your bank? At the end of the day, on your way out of the premises, do you thank them and wish them a good day or goodnight? Of course not, they are doing their work as “invisible statutes” for the bank. I have been guilty of such actions in the past but let us look at what we are missing and the potential dangers that the few bad nuts who may allow Lucifer the Devil to enter their hearts and harbour terrible things they can do to hurt the staff, customers and the bank.
The Unexpected Feedback – The Telephone Call
Guess what? I received a telephone call from a gentleman last week, who introduced himself as a security guard in a financial institution. Although he spoke in a guarded tone, he got quite emotional as he narrated the bad experiences he was having as a security guard in his organization. Apparently, last week’s article had awakened some hurtful feelings in him about his duty as a security guard. I listened on quietly as he explained how he had not been paid for the past two months even though he has been accompanying the cash collection team regularly. I tried to encourage him to continue discussing his problems with his manager, whom he alleges, claimed that the situation was above him. After all, awareness creation is the first step in risk management. I always refer to complaints as gifts in disguise. Mr. Security Guard, you did not tell me your name and organization and I did not ask because of the need for confidentiality. However, thanks for the message. On this note, I urge the managers in similar situations to beware that silence does not always mean consent or satisfaction of the status quo. Sometimes it can be that a time bomb is ticking away, ready to explode! A hungry man is an angry man.
Next week, we shall see how we can partner security guards to prevent losses to the organization and by making them partners in risk management.
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TO BE CONTINUED
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.