Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: Branding Vrs safety in the banking hall—a risk management perspective (Final)

Alberta Quarcoopome
  • “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”……Stephen Covey

Hello Readers, for the past two weeks, my risk binoculars has zoomed in on the beautiful and modern banking hall designs. These new designs are in line with the Central Bank’s cashlite policy of encouraging the use of more electronic-based transactions. For the customers, there is greater convenience, more service options, reduced risk of cash-related crimes, and cheaper access to branchless banking.

The challenge for architects in Africa is to integrate these new channels into core aspects of our banking environment and re-designing the banking halls to be more user friendly. Most banks were designed with more consideration given to the traditional way of cash-intensive banking. The typical layout of a banking hall is the “across the counter” layout.

There is a dilemma in these parts of the world where the majority of transactions are still cash based in certain areas of the country, especially around branches within market or business districts. This dilemma is enhanced where you find most young customers using e-banking while older ones still prefer direct contact with the bank staff.

The Mixed Responses from Bank Customers

Last week, I listed some feedback from bank customers on the layouts of their banks’ branches. It was an interesting mix of positives and negatives. While some customers admired the ambience and modern looks, some also claimed that their relationships with the front liners are becoming distant because they hardly have privacy of conducting their transactions and do not feel comfortable when their banking discussions are within the hearing distance of bystanders. But it is all well and good because the responses can encourage the brand designers to re-think and include risk management with customer convenience. Areas of risk and danger spots which can be studied for future action.

Supervision & Regulation

Gone are the days when Bank of Ghana officials had to visit every new branch before approving its opening. Its functions include regulation, supervision and direction of the banking system and credit system to ensure the smooth operation of a safe and sound banking system. Consequently, the Central Bank exercises its mandate to ensure that:

  • Depositors’ funds are safe.
  • The solvency, good quality assets, adequate liquidity and profitability of banks are maintained;
  • Adherence to statutory and regulatory requirements is enforced;

In summary, the laws governing banking operations have provisions regarding licensing, withdrawal of license, and arrangement for examining and monitoring banks, powers, and duties as well as protection of the supervisor”.

Brand Excellence + Customer Service Excellence + Risk Management = Banking Excellence

As competition between banks become stronger by the day, each bank’s brand, which is clearly displayed in the banking halls becomes invaluable. There is no gainsaying that the success of a brand depends on:

  • Understanding the needs and wants of customers and prospects. This is usually done by integrating the company’s brand strategies at every point of public contact.
  • Ensuring the new brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which can be influenced, and some not.
  • The staff portrays the brand image of the bank. It is critical therefore not to under rate the role of the various bank functionaries as they perform transactions and relate directly or indirectly with customers.

It is very important that banks   spend some time investing in researching, defining, and building their brands, while performing customer surveys directly, or on-line to know how they feel. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.

Minimizing the risk of robbery and burglary

  • Ensure the ground floor of the buildings are heavily secured behind the glass windows and doors, to prevent breakage and easy entrance at night. Are the small glass windows especially on the ground floor in the washrooms secured with metal? These days, burglars have mastered the art of squeezing their tiny frames in between the hollow metal “burglar-proof”, or rather, using an unsecured glass window to enter the banking hall at night.
  • Ensuring that the bulk teller is not left alone to face customers with huge sacks of cash.
  • The CCTV (electronic surveillance system) covering cash areas should be well positioned and constantly under surveillance by a security coordinator, and adjusted when necessary, for preventive use and not just for retrieval of information.
  • All Cash areas should be fitted with intercoms to enable tellers communicate promptly with their supervisors and other staff in the banking hall, instead of leaving customers unattended to. The constant presence of a vault assistant may increase cost but reduce any potential danger.
  • Intermittent monitoring (physically and on-line) of teller transactions by Supervisors and evacuating excess cash into the vault, away from prying eyes.
  • Avoidance of payment of bulk cash at the front. A secure and private place is recommended for customers’ protection and avoid them being followed.

Privacy of Customer Information 

  • Where possible, some customers should be directed into conference rooms for their privacy. We should never forget that some public figures want privacy when they are not in office. Any word coming out of their mouths and going into the “wrong ears” can be used against them and cause reputational damage to the bank! Seating arrangements in the banking hall should recognize this necessity.
  • If your front desk staffs’ seating arrangement causes their computer screens to be viewed by others, it is a red flag. Some customers have “long necks” and your customer’s information can be compromised. No customer should be seated within the earshot of another during account opening or discussion of business or their account transactions.

Security of branch layout

  • It is recommended that banks ensure safes and vaults are built in such a manner that restricts customer’s visibility and access to them.
  • How is the back office accessed? I hope it is by electronic means. This ensures unauthorized visitors remain out.
  • Can there be an overhaul of the positioning of the CCTV cameras to enhance proper screening on-line?
  • What about the alarm system? An alarm system, panic buttons for tellers, or other appropriate device will promptly notify the nearest responsible law enforcement agency or a contracted security company or institution, of an attempted or perpetrated robbery or burglary.

Queue Management/Seating Arrangements 

In the absence of a Robot being used as ambassadors it is recommended that activities within the banking hall activity area should be monitored regularly.

  • Do we engage idle persons in the banking hall in conversation to ascertain the reason for their idleness and facilitate their early exits? Some of these idle persons may be busy listening in on conversations between customers and the front desk staff and releasing financial information about cash withdrawals on their telephone “what’s up” and text messages to facilitate robbery later in their homes or offices.
  • Customers should not be tossed here and there. It creates confusion. Directional signs should feature well in the branding.

General Security

  • Frequency during the year of the testing and maintenance of each of the bank’s security devices to determine their effectiveness and efficiency.

Meeting Legal Obligations

A good brand needs to incorporate the needs of customers and staff with disabilities to ensure its corporate image and reputation does not suffer. It is an unsightly scene when customers in wheelchairs are carried into the banking halls or served outside in their cars. It is a definite no-no for the twenty first century bank brand.

Risk Assessment of Customer and Staff Activities.

Finally, there is a need for banks to conduct detailed risk analysis of staff and customer activities. This can be done through questionnaires, interviews, direct observations, workspace dimensional measurements and workstation assessments to evaluate the staff/customer experience and overall convenience of the branch design.

I hope that these humble thoughts may kick start some re-thinking of your bank’s branch design., taking both digital and traditional banking activities into consideration.Working in a bank is a beautiful experience, but I hope this series has served its purpose of being food for thought for the brand strategists and banking executives in our parts of the banking world.


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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