Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: The complex journey of a banker (5)


…the front desk executive

People perform best and deliver the best customer service

when they like what they do.”    Author Unknown

The front desk of many financial institutions are manned by pleasant looking ladies and gentlemen, yet despite the external beauty, some of them are not experienced enough to meet the requirements of the job. Many bank executives believe that anybody can be placed at the front desk. However in the absence of training, coaching and monitoring, these front desk personnel find themselves facing several risks in their daily multi-tasking functions.

Multi- tasking is an art and without the requisite training and skill acquisition, many  Front Desk Officers (FDOs, CCOs, CSOs) find themselves going round in a maze, exposed to several risks which sometimes end up in fraud, losses and reputational damage.

The dangers of multi-tasking

These are evident as they manage various operational risks in branch banking. It revolves around ensuring confidentiality in their dealings with customers, caution in opening accounts for prospects with suspicious transactions and unexplained volumes of cash, complying with recent regulatory and legal requirements with respect to suspicious customer transactions, avoiding fraud, attending to various types of customers with their various mannerisms, and expectations, (employees of customers, casually dressed, formally dressed, agents, illiterates, etc) and managing customer complaints.

The face of the Bank

One notable fact is that they are the “Face” of the bank and are expected to be multi-skilled and be able to do a lot of “multi-tasking”. This involves account opening, responding to enquiries both face to face with customers or on the telephone, issuing cheque books, ATM cards, delivering correspondence and other requested documents to customers, assisting customers to complete internal forms, queue management, etc. They occupy the position of the “window or glass screen” through which the bank is seen from the outside world. Since they are the first point of contact, they can “make or unmake” a bank. First impressions also leave an indelible mark in the mind of the customer.

Role and Responsibilities of Front Desk Officers

Let us look at the role and responsibilities of front desk officers in banks.

  • Identify customer needs and refer customers to appropriatebanking services: As the first point of contact between customers and the bank, the front desk officer is expected to identify customer needs and refer them to the appropriate desk for assistance. FDOs interacts with a company’s customers to provide them with information to address inquiries regarding products and services.
  • Handling Customer complaints:

While performing the above role, the FDO deals with and help resolve any customer complaints. Customer inquiries often involve some form of complaint that the FDO must handle in accordance with the company’s guidelines and policies. Sometimes, they may attempt to solve the problems or at least propose some solutions. They must make sure first that the complaints made are valid and must do whatever they can–within the bounds of their authority–to make sure the customer is satisfied when they leave or hang up the phone.

  • Provide advisory services:

FDOs are also expected to be quite knowledgeable in basic banking operations to enable them offer interim response to basic enquiries made by customers while specialist knowledge is referred to the authorized persons.

  • Account Opening and Closing

FDOs are expected to open and close accounts. This activity is very critical to the bank and their expertise is very much brought to the fore as they are expected to be able to perform proper identification and due diligence and comply with the country’s KYC (Know Your Customer) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules to ensure that only the authorized persons are allowed to open accounts.

  • Answer customer inquiries about account balances, returned cheques, etc

As a front liner, an FDO sees a lot of activity at the front desk, meeting various clients and customers with various demands. Although e-banking services product is expected to reduce enquires at the front desk, many customers continue to drop by to confirm balances, collect their correspondence, statements, returned cheques and so on. Usually FDOs work via a telephone calls and are expected to be have the requisite training in telephone etiquette and communication skills to be able to satisfy the customers.

  • Process cheque book requests

In processing cheque book requests, the FDO is expected to ensure delivery to authorized persons or customers. They also offer counter cheque services to authorized customers.

  • Manage queues

Due to their seating position, FDOs are the eye of the bank and usually sight any mounting queues or inconvenience to customers and make an effort to ease them and refer peculiar issues to their supervisors for resolution.

v  Cross-selling and Assisting in Sales

Selling the bank’s products and services may be part of an FDO’s job, even though he or she may not be part of the sales division. Some FDO’s may provide product or service information to assist customers in making a decision about a product to buy. In addition they may also help generate sales leads. For instance, after addressing a customer’s inquiry, the FDO may attempt to sell them some new products upgrades.

  • Clerical Tasks

The job of the FDO also involves clerical responsibilities. Such duties may involve answering telephone calls and making the appropriate transfers. Other duties include maintaining customer accounts, implementing changes to existing accounts, and filing documents and other paperwork.

In the performance of these functions, FDOs face several risks in their daily routines and therefore need to know how best to avoid or mitigate these risks. It is envisaged that the journey of the FDO in a bank would involve a long cruise on a “bitter-sweet” roller coaster.

Working daily sometimes gets a little stressful but when the supervisor helps to make everything go smoothly and makes sure every one’s goals are met, all staff become friendly towards each other.

The all familiar slogan of good customer service has shifted gear from satisfying the customer to a new level of “amazing or wowing “the customer. Bankers are sometimes under-promising the customer, to enable them “amaze” the customer when the transaction is performed within an exceptionally shorter period than the advertised time frame. In executing these functions, front desk executives face a strange dilemna – Balancing Risk and Good Customer Service

The Combination of Old and New Banking

Do you know that in most developing countries, our banking services are made up of a combination of the old eighteenth century and the twenty first century banking? What on earth do I mean? How can bankers combine and manage the two? Let’s face it.  On one hand, banks have gone global and are churning out all the e-banking products and services that are offered on the global scene – ATM cards, SMS, telephone banking, prestige or private banking, internet banking, as well as any banking done on a smart phone. On the other hand, we are still working in a heavily cash-based economy with most of the population, especially in the rural areas being un-banked as well as illiterate. Bringing the unbanked on board usually involves providing basic banking services involves a great deal of manual and human interaction to ensure that the semi-literates or illiterates among them are served equally well.

This is the part that requires front desk officers to be knowledgeable, be able to segment customers and give them the best-fit products and services that will reduce any risks associated with these services.

Next week, I will continue to take you through the rest of the complex journey of  front desk executives and how they manage through.




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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