–creating a balancing act for young bankers
**This was my first article in the Risk Watch column, published in October 2013. I still find it relevant after eight years****
The Risk Watch series comprises of articles that focus on various risks faced by bankers in their daily routines and how best to avoid or mitigate these risks. The average entrant into the banking world sometimes focuses more on the overall aesthetics around the job, the “cool” factor, than the intricacies of the job itself. After all, the bank premises are usually beautiful and serene, and the huge bill boards dotted around town always depict beautiful people with offers of mouth- watering packages.
The ultimate aim of “THE RISK WATCH” is to take young bankers through the journey of banking and finance, wading through the turbulence (the darker side) as well as the glittering (lighter side), and thereby facilitate the adoption of a balanced view of their job as they stay afloat to enjoy a beautiful career and leave a good legacy behind them.
Why do so many young people wish to work in banks, or financial institutions? What are the perceptions of bankers? Why do bankers behave the way they do? What are the darker sides of banking that people are not ready to share with the world? Should the general public continue to be blinded by some misconceptions about bankers?
Having interviewed, trained and oriented several young entrants into the banking world, it was always exciting listening to some of the perceptions they brought into the work place. Some of these perceptions and misconceptions were so “crazy” or mind boggling that line managers needed to quickly work on them to enshrine in them that as a service industry, the main reason for selecting “freshers “ is about their ATTITUDE. It was common to detect some signs of discomfort among some participants at orientation programs. Such persons were usually not very interactive confident at the beginning because they felt that their courses were not so relevant for the banking industry.
The first motivational message I usually give them is “Banking is a service industry, so don’t worry if you do not have Economics, Banking and Finance background. Also, don’t worry about the grade you attained in the University. The bank does not have a placard hanging around your neck that you got a third class grade. Apart from highly specialized departments, any graduate from Archeology to Zoology can make it. Once you have been selected there is something for you in the bank and the rest depends on your ATTITUDE.”
Many a time, such messages were greeted by cheers and claps which made me feel that I was on the right course. By the end of the orientation session, those participants who were shy and not interactive showed remarkable signs of confidence, became more interactive and were very much prepared to start the job. The rest was up to them – upgrading themselves to know the core business, good teamwork, good customer service attitude and NOWADAYS, a good Risk Management culture.
Glitz and Glitter:
Now let’s start with the perceptions about banking being full of “glitz and glitter”.
- They wear nice looking suits and shoes and sit in air conditioned offices, drinking tea and coffee….Hmmm “Abrofusem”
- They drive posh cars and cruise around town during the week ends, with their ‘chicks’ and “boos” feeling good….Life is Good!
- You can get a loan quickly to rent an apartment and move out of your parent’s house as soon as possible………..Life is sweet! Privacy is Heaven!
- Oooh, just give yourself time, the almighty mortgage loan will be approved. …The chicks will be running to me to chill every week end…”What a Blast!”
- I will have a big wedding………After all, the bank will support me with loans, even if I start marriage with debts!
- During Church services, my Pastor will now give me respect…….After all, I will put in more cash to ensure my “DAYBORN” group in Church becomes first during the monthly offering sessions!!!
- The bank will sponsor me on courses abroad. As for the “FOREIGN EXPE”, it is a “Must have”. I have to “spread” some goodies to my colleagues and Chicks and Guys, when I return, not forgetting the per diem allowance… Ha. Ha. ha.
These are a few of some very basic and IMMATURE perceptions. I can go on and on, but let me stop here for now.
The Darker side:
- Oh My God! Nobody told me about the long hours!
- Nothing I do seems to please the customers!!!!.
- How can I SMILE the whole day? Am I a Machine? Don’t they know that I am not in a good mood? Ha. Ba!
- Don’t they know that being held up in a Teller cubicle and even standing most of the day makes your feet hurt and you feel like an animal in a zoo, with all the customers watching your every move in the cage?
- The least frown or “non-customer” friendly countenance you exhibit when you think no-one is watching you earns you a stern look or even a query from your Manager.
- Oooh, I am hungry. When can I have some time off to have lunch? Can’t I even go out to have lunch with my friends? The beginning of Ulcer!
- Long monotonous work… Sales targets! Customer service benchmarks, timing of activities and transactions performed, Reports! Ha ba!! Is anybody thinking about me, my aching back, my swollen ankles, my head is aching from long hours on the computer!
- The technical break down and shutting down of the IT banking system….Customers have long faces……This time you should look concerned, no smiling, otherwise they will think you are glad about it….eeeeh! customers cannot be served, their transfers cannot be effected, business customers are barking! Do you want to kill my business
- Customers want their loans processed in a jiffy. Whatever they are made to believe, sSometimes it is impossible in one or two days……..There are times I cannot even fathom what their businesses are all about, but I have to appreciate their cash flow problems, show empathy…… Oh My God, the persistent phone calls……….”Has my loan been approved, my suppliers are waiting? I need to pay my bills, don’t waste time”…….Anytime a phone rings, I “jump in my skin.” My pulse is beating fast. I am even afraid of my official cell phone. You can’t put it off.
- My girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse is complaining that I hardly have time for them, my family or social functions. I just want to sleep on week- ends. Am I getting too tired to perform? Head ache, head aches. Am I in the right place?
- Mistakes on the job. My job is on the line. Cash shortages…….suspicion from colleagues and the boss. Errors in analysis……..Lazy………. lateness to work………….angry bosses and customers!
- Burn out!………Overwork from the boss. Sometimes when you are hardworking, meticulous, honest, reliable and churn out the reports in good time to save the Manager’s skin.
- Not much quality time for kids………..Are they safe at home? What movies are they watching, which friends are visiting them? Is the gas cooker properly shut off? How is their Studies Teacher performing……….Any pedophiles in the neighbourhood? Keep praying that all is well.
- You arrive home late. Oh not again! I pray that the maid servant is not tempting my husband. I trust him and love him, BUT he is a MAN. He is human. God help him to withstand the temptations from my fellow “homo sapiens” when I am not at home.
Finally the almighty STRESS!!!
These are a few hints about the darker side of working in the Bank. On the whole, the journey in banking is similar to any activity in life and work. There are risks involved, and we have to perform a balancing act between risk and return to get the best out of both worlds and have a good work-life balance.
Despite these perceptions about the glitz and glitter and the darker side, banking is an exciting job. It can be fun at times but also challenging. To ensure you enjoy working in a bank, we need to have a good balance of both sides, topped up with a risk management culture, which will guide us to avoid take the banking service for granted. This will guarantee a good banking career and enable you share experiences with others in due time.
Subsequent publications will delve into the management of risk in all areas of banking and make you versatile in whatever work you perform. Meanwhile enjoy the beautiful experience.
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.