Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: The complex journey of a banker (1)


“Good Banking is produced not by good laws, but by good bankers.” — Hartley Withers, prominent British financial journalist around the turn of the 19th century

Dear Readers, last week started with my article on the need to pause and self-reflect before making new year resolutions. It is during our pause for self-reflection that we witness bankers go through complex journeys at work, taking them several decades of great times, good times, bad times and the ugly times! Bankers can be seen through different lenses since the profession involves several types of activities regulated by the central bank.

Let us take the case of a twenty-seven-year-old man with a few years banking experience. His expectations were so high after graduation; but unfortunately, his impression about banking was quickly changed within his first week of appointment. He realised that not all that glitters is gold!

At this juncture, I will like to take you back to some extracts from my first article of ‘The Risk Watch’, published over ten years ago on 13th October, 2013, titled ‘NOT ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD’. I will then continue the real journey next week.

“The average entrant into the banking world sometimes focuses more on the overall aesthetics around the job, the ‘cool’ factor, than the intricacies of the job itself. After all, the bank premises are usually beautiful and serene, and the huge bill boards dotted around town always depict beautiful people with offers of mouth-watering packages.

Glitz and Glitter:

Now let’s start with the perceptions about banking being full of ‘glitz and glitter’.

  • They wear nice looking suits and shoes and sit in airconditioned offices, drinking tea and coffee….Hmmm Abrofusem’.
  • They drive posh cars and cruise around town during the weekends, with their ‘chicks’ and boos feeling good….Life is Good!
  • You can get a loan quickly to rent an apartment and move out of your parents house as soon as possible………..Life is sweet! Privacy is Heaven!
  • Oooh, just give yourself time, the almighty mortgage loan will be approved. …The chicks will be running to me to chill every weekend…What a blast!”.
  • I will have a big wedding………After all, the bank will support me with loans, even if I start marriage with debts!
  • During church services, my Pastor will now give me respect…….After all, I will put in more cash to ensure my “DAYBORN” group in Church becomes first during the monthly offering sessions!!!
  • The bank will sponsor me on courses abroad. As for the “FOREIGN EXPE”, it is a “Must have”. I have to “spread” some goodies to my colleagues and Chicks and Guys, when I return, not forgetting the per diem allowance… Ha. Ha. ha.

These are a few of some very basic and immature perceptions. I can go on and on, but let me stop here for now.

The Darker side:

  • Oh My God! Nobody told me about the long hours!
  • Nothing I do seems to please the customers!.
  • How can I SMILE the whole day? Am I a Machine? Don’t they know that I am not in a good mood? Ha. Ba!
  • Don’t they know that being held up in a Teller cubicle and even standing most of the day makes you feet hurt and you feel like an animal in a zoo, with all the customers watching your every move?
  • The least frown or “non-customer” friendly countenance you exhibit when you think no-one is watching you earns you a stern look or even a query from your Manager.
  • Oooh, I am hungry. When can I have some time off to have lunch? Can’t I even go out to have lunch with my friends? The beginning of Ulcer!
  • Long monotonous work… Sales targets! Customer service benchmarks, timing of activities and transactions performed, Reports! Is anybody thinking about me, my aching back, my swollen ankles, my head is aching from long hours on the computer!
  • During the technical breakdown and shutting down of the IT banking system….Customers have long faces……This time you should look concerned, no smiling, otherwise they will think you are glad about it. Customers cannot be served, their transfers cannot be effected, business customers are barking! Do you want to kill my business?
  • Customers want their loans processed in a jiffy. Whatever they are made to believe, sometimes it is impossible in One or two days……..There are times I cannot even fathom what their businesses are all about, but I have to appreciate their cash flow problems, show empathy…… Oh My God, the persistent phone calls……….”Has my loan been approved, my suppliers are waiting? I need to pay my bills, don’t waste time”…….Anytime a phone rings, I “jump in my skin.” My pulse is beating fast. I am even afraid of my official cell phone. You can’t put it off.
  • My girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse is complaining that I hardly have time for them, my family or social functions. I just want to sleep on weekends. Am I getting too tired to perform? Head ache, headaches. Am I in the right place?
  • Mistakes on the job. My job is on the line. Cash shortages…….suspicion from colleagues and the boss. Errors in analysis……..Lazy………. lateness to work………….angry bosses and customers!
  • Burn out!………Overwork from the boss. Sometimes when you are hardworking, meticulous, honest, reliable and churn out the reports in good time to save the Manager’s skin.
  • Not much quality time for kids………..Are they safe at home? What movies are they watching, which friends are visiting them? Is the gas cooker properly shut off? How is their Studies Teacher performing……….Any pedophiles in the neighbourhood? Keep praying that all is well.
  • You arrive home late. Oh not again! I pray that the maid servant is not tempting my husband. I trust him and love him, BUT he is a MAN. He is human. God help him to withstand the temptations from my fellow “homo sapiens” when I am not at home.

 Finally the almighty STRESS!!!

These are a few hints about the darker side of working in the bank. On the whole, the journey in banking is similar to any activity in life and work. There are risks involved, and we have to perform a balancing act between risk and return to get the best out of both worlds and have a good work-life balance. 

Despite these perceptions about the glitz and glitter and the darker side, banking is an exciting job. It can be fun at times but also challenging. To ensure you enjoy working in a bank, we need to have a good balance of both sides, topped up with a risk management culture which will guide us to avoid taking the banking service for granted. This will guarantee a good banking career and enable you share experiences with others in due time”.

The banking sector serves as the backbone of the global economy, facilitating financial transactions, managing assets, and ensuring the efficient flow of capital. Behind the polished façade of gleaming bank branches and sophisticated online platforms, there exists a dedicated workforce of bank employees who tirelessly work to ensure that the wheels of the financial world keep turning.

As seen from extracts of my first article, certain aspects of operations in a bank are far from a walk in the park. The workers encounter a multitude of challenges that often go unnoticed by the customers they serve. From stringent regulatory requirements and demanding customer expectations to the ever-evolving landscape of financial technology, the journey of a bank employee is rife with complexities and pressures.

Next week, we will look at the story of some bankers in middle and senior management, explore strategies that banks – both large and small – have employed to engage their employees effectively.

By addressing these challenges and fostering a culture of support and development, banks can not only enhance employee satisfaction, but also boost productivity and deliver superior customer service. We will explore the journey as we navigate the intricate challenges faced by bank employees and discover the innovative approaches that banks are taking to create a thriving and engaged staff.

To be continued

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.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

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

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343

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