Dr Ernest Addison, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, at the 27th Annual Bankers’ Conference, said that ethical business practice should be pursued relentlessly and aggressively by all industry players. He said in doing this, “we must adopt a collaborative approach, involving every individual in the institution, so that ‘doing the right thing’ becomes embedded in the work culture.”
The Chartered Institute of Bankers, Ghana (CIBG) in September, 2023 launched its celebrations of its sixtieth anniversary with a new theme…”REDEFINING PROFESSIONALISM IN BANKING THROUGH ETHICS”. At its annual Bankers Conference on 14th November 2023, chaired by Dr Ernest Addison, this same theme was discussed by several panel members, including Mr John Awuah, CEO of the Ghana Association of Bankers, Dr Patrick Awua, Founder and President of Ashesi University, Mr Kofi Adomakoh, MD of GCB Bank PLC, Prof Noel Tagoe, Public Intellectual, Mrs Rebecca Awuah, Snr Lecturer at Ashesi University among others.
Ethics has always been the pillar and bedrock of success in banking across the globe. Unethical acts culminate in collapse of banks. Every activity undertaken in banking business should never to taken for granted.
While bankers are busy doing KYC (Know Your Customer), Fraudsters are also busy doing KYT (Know Your target). Today, I wish to add my own touch on certain basic tips for Supervisors…. KYS (Know Your Staff). Out of the four sources of operational losses in banking, which are: People Risk, External Events, System Risk and Process Risk, the most sensitive is PEOPLE RISK. Why is that so?
It is only when losses have occurred that we go back to the usual – THE BLAME GAME. From the history of bank crises, banks do not fail just because of inadequate systems and processes. It is usually more with the people within. One may think that by having beautiful buildings, beautiful brands, the state of the art equipment, there will be no fraud. Sometimes when something is “too good to be true’, we need to take it with a pinch of salt.
Breaking News at the Office!!!
Let us look at some common scandals in financial institutions that triggers the blame game, as well as some of the commentaries by staff members that circulate the message with the juicy details, all boiling down to the fact that many leaders and supervisors sometimes shut their eyes to the obvious or do not know their staff well.
- Scandal: Have you heard that Akosua has caused so much financial loss to the bank? She paid a cheque of GHC78,000 without going through the newly introduced risk management checks?
Commentary: “What else do you expect? She was becoming untouchable and could not be controlled in the system.”
- Scandal: Have you heard that the Chief Teller in branch A has suppressed GHC67,000 within the past ten months?
Commentary: “Don’t mind them. For all you know they were all sharing the booty”
- Scandal: Have you heard that the Branch Manager in Branch C has granted GH40,000 unauthorized overdraft to a customer, who has vanished with the money?
Commentary: “Only God knows what happened! It seems the Manager’s exploits was not the first time. Hasn’t the reports been showing such incidents all the time? What did they do about it?”
- Scandal: Have you heard that yesterday’s torrential rains has caused a flooding of Branch D, causing all their computers and electrical gadgets to be destroyed?
Commentary: “Serves them right. What happened to all the checklists they made on the siting of branches? Did they not listen to the caution of some of the Committee members about the area being flood-prone? What was all the rush about when there were safer places to site the branch?”
- Scandal: Have you heard of last week’s burglary at Branch X? Can you imagine that the Police Guard was not on duty and the CCTV was also not working?
Commentary: “Ha ba! As for this one, there is something in the soup!”
Scandal: Have you heard of the armed robbery on the cash van on a day they were unaccompanied by the Police Guard?
Commentary: “How many times have the Cash in Transit not been cautioned about this? Who is in charge?”
Scandal: Have you heard that the vault custodians in branch Z have been placed behind bars when a spot check by the Auditors revealed a cash shortage of GHc65,000?
Commentary: “No wonder! Didn’t the whole bank see how they were flaunting wealth all over the place? Just look at their cars. They costs more than the car loans given them”
Scandal: Have you heard that the National Service Personnel in the IT department owes a fleet of taxis? He was siphoning customers’ small monies into friends’ accounts and he has been remanded.
Commentary: “How come? What authorities were given to him? Was there no checker in the department? Whose passwords did he use? Who audits the IT department? Is there no system auditor?”
Scandal: Have you heard that Lady Pee, the finance officer has stolen funds from dormant accounts?
Commentary: “Eeh, wonders will never seize! She was everybody’s darling, so quiet and well-behaved. It was as if butter will not melt in her mouth!! Nowadays, fraud is no respecter of gender”
Scandal: have you heard that Miss. Cee is building a storey building with borrowings from a bank customer. She has failed to honour her obligations, so the customer has written to the bank.
Commentary: “What with all the peer pressure around her? Did her office colleagues not notice her sudden change of lifestyle?’
Scandal: Have you heard that the front desk Officer at Branch M stole a customer’s cheque leaflet and used a friend to cash GHc13,500 from the customer’s account?
Commentary: “Where were they keeping the cheque books? What control measures were in place? Isn’t the manager always gallivanting in town in the name of deposit mobilization? How well does the next in command know what happens at the front?”
The Initial questions
The list of bank scandals which causes losses to the banks in the long run is endless. The initial questions that follow is the beginning of the blame game. It usually starts with:
Who is the Manager?
Who conducts checks on the department?
Didn’t the auditors reports reveal the signals of possible risks in the department?
Didn’t he or she have friends in the office, who may have alerted the manager about their suspicions?
What could have caused this “fine lady’ or “fine gentleman” to commit such a crime?
It is not my fault!
Eventually these cases are sometimes prosecuted by the law enforcement agencies while some are investigated internally. It is not my fault, they say. They point to the devil, their manager, the bank structures, etc. The blame game then starts. The Disciplinary Committee sits on the cases and watch the progression of the Blame Game, sometimes to unhealthy levels.
KYS…..How well do you know your staff?
Dear bankers, how well do you know your staff? Friends, how well do you know each other on the job? Do you have clear cut job descriptions that guide you? Who monitors your work? Who checks the supervisor? Who is to report incidents or suspicious transactions? Dear Manager, if you’re constantly blaming someone else, are you really leading? Taking control of risks in a bank is your responsibility as the leader, no matter what stage of the game it is. It is time that all staff know each other, and become each other’s keeper. After all, a stitch in time saves nine.
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.