The Director of ARB Apex Bank, Alex Kwasi Awuah, has urged Rural and Community Banks (RCBs) to take advantage of emerging trends such as financial technology (Fintech) solutions to be resilient.
These technology trends over the last few years have brought much convenience to customers across most sectors, as there has been a gradual shift from the traditional way of rendering services to a more digitised one.
These technologies have become a major source of competition and worry for RCBs, as the traditional forms of providing services are giving way to new formats through which customers are able to access banking services via their personal computers and phones while on the go.
This means that old ways of banking in which customers had to queue in banking halls are gradually shifting and giving way to agile banking platforms which provide convenient services to customers, wherever and whenever they desire.
Speaking at the 22nd Biennial General Meeting (BGM) and 4th Rural Banking Excellence Awards, Mr. Awuah, noted that customers of RCBs are looking for one-stop banking solutions that are convenient and can satisfy their needs.
However, the current operational set up, typically based on a physical branch network, makes it challenging to ensure maximum convenience for the customers.
“This makes it challenging to ensure maximum convenience for our customers, extend our services in a cost-effective way, and achieve the maximum potential of the rural banking sector in the country’s financial services space. This poses a clear and present danger to our operations if not resolved immediately,” he said.
Therefore, as part of efforts to set the pace for RCBS, Mr. Awuah hinted that ARB Apex Bank with support from the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Ministry of Finance and World Bank will soon launch the Agency Banking, Mobile Banking and Internet Banking Project.
Mr. Awuah has further hinted that in preparation toward implementing the digital platform, ARB Apex Bank has also set up a Digital Banking Unit to ensure proper focus and success for the project.
He further established that ARB Apex Bank has successfully upgraded the T-24 Banking Software, from the previous Release 16 (R16) to the much-awaited Release 20 (R20). He assured RCBs that R20 usage will be smooth and easy.
Mr. Awuah gave CEOs an assurance that they will not witness the scale of bitter experiences they went through after implementation of R16.
“We have a strong support team from all the implementing partners – ARB Apex Bank, Inlaks and Temenos – to respond adequately to all post implementation issues and enable our banks to experience the new features of the R20,” he said.
Mr Awuah advised RCBs to refine their governance systems by strengthening their risk management, compliance, and internal audit structures.
He urged CEOs to accept the new Corporate Governance Directive issued by the Bank of Ghana (BoG), since it has come to stay.
There has been much dedication to significant parts of RCB programmes through the collaboration of ARB Apex Bank, Bank of Ghana and Association of Rural Banks to governance education, and it is believed that this will lead to a significant improvement in the governance systems and overall performances of RCBs.
The Managing Director of ARB APEX Bank PLC looked at another critical challenge to the resilience of rural and community banks, which is the entangled issue of locked-up funds and distressed banks.
According to him, stringent provisioning requirements have led to technical erosion of some RCBs’ capital.
Mr. Awuah has once again called on government to intervene in the resolution of this matter, because it is believed that payment of the locked-up funds would unleash the rural banking sector’s full potential to support national economic development.
Mr. Awuah called for a high sense of professionalism and discipline on the part of RCB Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), who are the first line of contact at their various banks.
He reminded RCB CEOs to be conscious of the enormity of responsibilities conferred on them by the novel nomenclature of the title CEO, and see to it that their banks operate with maximum efficiency as well as living up to the expectations of stakeholders – and also exhibit tact, professionalism and grace which come with the high office.
The CEO is a team leader who must direct the team by charting a professional path to motivate and draw out the best from employees of rural and community banks.
He finally gave assurance that ARB Apex Bank will work with the Bank of Ghana and Association of Rural Banks to provide the needed refresher programmes so as to help sharpen the knowledge of RCBs’ staff and bridge the knowledge-gaps, which is the surest way to ensure productivity in all rural and community banks.