Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: Making the best use of obstacles to manage risk!


A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Winston Churchill

******This article was first published in January 2018*********

When one hears the word “risk”, the immediate reaction is “Aw…problems”. This word seems to have a negative perception and is mostly avoided. Seasoned professionals however know that risk does not always have to be negative. Risk can also create opportunities for progress and improvement as well as a competitive edge. In today’s business world, risk poses threats but also provides opportunities to create new competitive advantage and ways to satisfy customers.

 “Why Conflict Can Actually Be A Good Thing” – 4th Dec 2017 article by Imeyen Ebong, Forbes Contributor

This article is a must read:

 A large European bank’s executive committee gathered for a two-day meeting to work on a plan to turn the company around. The stakes were high. The bank was not performing well and was nearing the limits of its permitted capital ratios. A full turnaround would be required, and everything from redefining the business strategy to restructuring the company, and even exiting whole lines of business, was on the table.

Yet instead of quickly jumping into financing options or other operational decisions, the meeting began with an unfamiliar series of exercises with an unusual goal: to help the leaders in the room get to know one another personally.

Many had worked together for years, but prior to this meeting, something about the executive team had felt wrong, the CEO said. These people would have to lead the bank’s transformation, and while they seemed to get along, executives complained about a lack of trust and collaboration. Decisions jointly made rarely seemed to be implemented.

In the workshop, the group spent a full day learning basic details about one another for the first time, like the names of their children, where they had gone to school and their family histories. They also engaged in a discussion of personality types and gave open feedback about what they appreciated about each other, and which behaviors they found problematic.

Given the company’s dire outlook, this kind of work might seem beside the point, but after the meeting, members of the group reported a different level of trust. Rather than making assumptions about what team members were thinking, as they once had, they said they were now willing to open up and disagree about some things.

The payoff was a much healthier debate, essential as they mapped out the bank’s transformation.

The turnaround is still in its early days, but already the leadership team members credit a more open environment and willingness to share conflicting ideas with improved results. The worst-case scenarios for the bank are no longer on the table.”

Obstacles – A Part of life

Opportunities hide behind obstacles. Not all obstacles are bad. According to John Mason, an opportunity’s favourite disguise is an obstacle. You will always meet obstacles in the road of your answer because no one is immune to problems. Being a diligent person does not remove you from the world and its problems, rather it positions you to live in it productively and victoriously. I remember the case of a very diligent banker who overlooked a wrong transaction which nearly caused a heavy financial loss to the bank. What did people say? What! How come? We thought she was a very diligent banker. Was she not the one always hammering the due processes into our heads?” What a world! What a world indeed. That event was taken very seriously by the bank’s management and serious efforts and procedures were implemented to reduce errors in those transactions. Yes, everybody is vulnerable to risk. Your life will be much more productive if you understand that obstacles are a part of life.

Opportunities roll on the wheels of adversity

The door to opportunity rolls open the wheels of adversity. Problems are the price of progress. The obstacles of life are intended to make us better, not bitter. Obstacles are merely a call to strengthen, not quit. Successful people are those who solve the biggest problems. When you encounter obstacles, you will discover things about yourself that you will never know.

TURNING RISKS INTO OPPORTUNITIES – Improving business Performance

Let us look at a few examples of how we can turn risks into opportunities:

Account Opening Errors: The Window to Fraud

Have you been searching for a customer who has perpetuated some kind of fraud? Whether there was loss to the bank or not, reputational damage can cause customers to shy away from doing business with you. Go back and examine the account opening documents. Shoddy work, wasn’t it? It is now time to tighten the screws. Find time to check on what kind of customers are coming on board. Your obstacles? The untrained sales and customer service staff. Seize the opportunity to coach and mentor these staff on best practices.

The Computer Frauds Obstacle and Skills Gap

With the advent of e-banking, e-transactions are sometimes perceived to come with zero-errors. We sometimes forget that garbage in, garbage out. The big obstacle here is Fraud, both internal and external. To clear this obstacle, why don’t you design short courses/seminars/focused – group discussions with SMEs and customers who are not very computer-savvy? Be honest and transparent with them and educate them on computer skills and fraud prevention. This can be done with minimum costs. The results? ..Customer Loyalty! Don’t worry about the frauds that you have experienced in the Bank. It is the sign that the door to accuracy lie in transactions by your systems, guided by improvement and efficiency in supervision. The risks of losing customers create opportunities to increase profits.

Risks of Loss of Knowledge

Knowledge is power. How do you feel when some valuable and experienced staff leave the bank? Some of them leave a big vacuum difficult to fill. Institutional knowledge loss leads to loss of productivity and increase in the risk of adverse events. Without an established and well documented credit history, the exit of loans and recovery officers creates a challenge and some loan customers can be difficult to trace. Institutions need to establish a repository of valuable knowledge for future guidance. This include documented processes, history of events, causes and lessons learnt. History and archiving should not be looked down upon. An institution that forgets history creates opportunities for history to repeat itself!

Words from the grapevine: Social Media Risks also create opportunities

They say the chief Teller at ABC bank has vanished with GHC590,000. Don’t mind them, the Manager is always out and hardly checks up on what’s going on in the branch”

“I heard that they hardly evacuate excess cash to their head office. …After all, they were trading with the cash”

I hear they don’t have any checks and balances in the branches…..They think they can use logic to work. As for me I am closing my account tomorrow”

How would you feel if you read such messages about your bank? Don’t worry. It is an opportunity to defuse the situation using this same medium of communication to correct and clear your bank’s name. The speed with which complaints travel across the internet, is enough to make service providers sit up and devise error-free services and ways to provide less or near zero tolerance for errors. Social media increases reputational risks when service delivery fails. Banks are now becoming more social media-friendly since a scandal can affect customer loyalty and retention within a short time. In such circumstances, banks can use the same social media platform as an opportunity to appreciate what stakeholders are saying, respond immediately and clarify the impressions created and reduce loss of business and reputational damage.

Seize the Moment!

Doing your best at this moment, puts you in the best place for the next moment. All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today. Seize the moment, opportunities are constantly either coming to you or by you. In everyday of your life write it on your heart that everyday is the best day of the year, to unlock every opportunities hidden behind the obstacles you are facing.

Dear bankers, we hope you take risk management to a different level and see how obstacles can be turned into opportunities and gold mines.


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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