Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: Branding vrs safety in the banking hall

Alberta Quarcoopome
  • a risk management perspective (II)

“Life is like a piano, the white keys are happy moments and the black keys are sad moments. But remember both keys are played together to give sweet music in life”

Hello Readers, last week I started an article on how modernization and branding of our banking halls can incorporate safety of customers and staff alike. Just as the above quote goes, a pianist plays both the black and white keys to give sweet music to the ears.

The comfort of customers and staff

The comfort of both parties ensures a beautiful banking experience and customer loyalty. There should also be security awareness among management and staff in all banks and financial institutions thereby promoting a security conscious working environment.

The New Faces of Banks – My Initial Thoughts

Dear brand strategists, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how your customers feel about your branch layouts? Customers’ feedback is important. The subject of the ambience of a branch has always been a part of the questionnaires and customer survey forms that banks give to customers for feedback, but do they actually give you the best alternative? Banking has been in existence since the eighteenth century, and definitely the functions of banks have also evolved to include so many varieties necessitating changes in the structures to match the activities.

With the advent of the universal banking concept, most banks in Ghana now have the “one stop” brand which means that many transactions can now be started from the shop floor and end there, or occasionally end up in the specialist department of the same bank for conclusion. Retail banking clients have always been used to large banking halls showing all the staff at work, housing several teller enclosures and its matching queueing system, to create order in the banking hall.

One can even see the eagle eye of the supervisors checking on what is happening with customers and the front liners. On the other hand, a corporate account holder or investment client is used to small conference rooms to give privacy to discussions on investments as well as their business operations and credit facilities. How will such a customer feel when he enters the banking hall and has no access to private conversation? With the advent of kiosk banking some structures do not even have a small place for private discussions! Customers do not want their customer information profile being discussed within the hearing of bystanders.

Please ask any customer whether they are comfortable during account opening procedures with other customers sitting within earshot! It will surprise you to hear that some customers do not want to be seen entering a bank and even go through the motions of opening an account for that matter. Where do you serve your “private” “royal”, “exclusive”, “prestige” or “priority” bank customers? I know most banks have a center for handling prestige customers, many of whom are public figures. If one of them decides to go to the nearest branch, what procedures are used for such people? After all, they are paying for that “special treatment” through their noses!

Sometimes it is not necessarily the expensive structural designs that make customers love their banks. It is the service delivery within those walls and the human touch that makes them feel unique and appreciated, as a result of which some even divert their funds from other places to your institution. It reminds me of one of Ghana’s romantic singers, whose chorus goes like this….. “The little things that you do, make me love you more”. Whatever structural designs we have, it is ultimately the little things that we do to customers that matter.

Sampling Customers’ views

Here are a few comments of customers about how they feel about their bank’s designs:

  • “As for these modern banking hall designs, they are just great. The whole ambience is just what I need to feel good while transacting business. After all the world is stressful and I come inside the banking hall to relax and discuss my finances with my branch manager, so why not?”
  • “As for me, I am missing the little chats I used to have with my favourite teller, Mavis. These days all the tellers are watching your every move. My privacy is gone.”
  • “I used to linger on, waiting to be served by Johnny. Now I can’t. They say I should just follow the queue. I miss the short but interesting chats we had”.
  • “Oh my, I like the feel of my bank’s branding. It is modern. I only see the front liners. I really didn’t need to see all the people in the banking hall. It used to look like a factory, but now it is cute and professional”.
  • “These days, I am not able to trust the cash handed over to me. The counting machine is now unseen and in the absence of the remote indicator, I am not comfortable. I want to sight the digital monitor of the counting machine to be sure the money I receive is correct. It saves me time from recounting. Some of these tellers cannot be trusted”.
  • “I am in love with the introduction of the self-service in the banking hall. The stand-alone computers erected to allow customers with computer knowledge to check balances, request cheque books and ATMs is a great idea. I don’t need to go to the front desk staff to “worry” them with my petty enquiries”.
  • “As for me, I am an old timer. I need to share a few minutes with the teller. I don’t want other tellers listening in to my conversation. It is too open for my comfort”.

 “I have been admiring some cozy seating arrangements in some banking halls. The interior décor alone makes one feel like melting in the luxurious sofas and not hasten to leave”.

  • As you can see, I am physically impaired. It is surprising that only a few banks take notice of us. Can’t I use my wheelchair inside the bank? Some of the security guards treat me like a leper but when I bring the money, they take it. They need to meet all legal obligations, including meeting the needs of customers and staff with disabilities, improving their corporate image and minimizing risk to their reputation.”
  • “It seems there is no coordination between the front and back office. Some front liners are just doing their own thing and when the system is down, nobody comes around to tell us anything. We just hear them chatting at the back. Look at how a teller is talking on his cell phone and chewing gum instead of attending to customers. Some of them do not show any sign of empathy”?

Collaboration between Brand Strategists and Banking Operations Executives

Do brand strategists know the minute details of the functions performed on the shop floor and the relevant settings required? Not all of them. It will always be practical for the brand specialist to work with a team of banking operations executives of a particular financial institution, to appreciate the structural design bearing risk management in mind, while ensuring that customers still get the royalty treatment they deserve.

Does the brand manager know that Supervisors should be constantly monitoring what happens at the front lines, whether payments, receiving deposits, account opening, enquiries, delivering cheque books, withdrawal forms, ATM cards or pins, and queue management? How effectively can they do this if they are behind the unseen structures and on the “blind side”? Perhaps a supervisor should be at the front to monitor what the tellers, sales and client service staff are doing.

Seating arrangements in the Banking hall.

The seating arrangements in the banking hall is another critical risk factor that should be looked at dispassionately. Let us take a look at the counters, enquiry desks, banking hall work stations, seating for the banking hall and other aspects of customer service areas.

I will end here for now. Next week, I will look at the Bank of Ghana guidelines in respect of branch setups and their physical security measures. The principal objective of regulations is to prescribe minimum security measures to be instituted by all banks and financial institutions.

(a) preventing acts of robbery and burglary;

(b) assisting in identifying and apprehending persons who commit acts of robbery or burglary;

(c) preventing injury and loss of lives to staff and customers;

(d) preventing damage or loss of assets, which could result into major losses to individual institutions and the banking sector.



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.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or [email protected]

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343


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