Risk Watch with Alberta Quarcoopome: The complex journey of a banker (6)


the front desk executive (contd)

Last week, I took you through the complex journey of a front desk executive in a bank. The role has its good bad and ugly side but eventually it is very rewarding when one gets the experience of managing customers from all walks of life, with different personalities, needs, wants and desires. With the requisite training, monitoring and emotional intelligence, a typical front desk officer should feel satisfied at the end of each day, having performed a win-win banker-customer relationship. Last week, the typical roles of front desk officers were examined.

Let me take you through some aspects of my second book  “MY FRONT DESK EXPERIENCE – A YOUNG BANKER’S STORY, (published in 2016) which covers a three-day story of a young front desk officer in a busy branch. Even though some of the functions have been replaced by technology, it is good to know how it all started.

“Let me put myself in the shoes of a Front Desk Officer (FDO) in a Bank. I am a twenty seven year old lady who has eventually secured a job after staying at home for two years after graduation. I am six months into the job after going through an orientation and some brief on- the- job training. I am at the front desk working under a male colleague who is two years my senior.  As an FDO, I am supposed to be one of the first to reach the office. I l My alarm clock buzzes me up promptly at 4.30am. I should be out of the house by 5.30 am to ensure I am not late.  Accra is a big city and the traffic situation is horrendous. Today, the alarm did not buz….but my mental faculties have adjusted to the wake up time, so I woke up at 5.00 am. The stress begins. I have to rush through my morning shower to enable me catch a bus at the road junction. “ Accra, UTC! Circle, Circle,” shouted the Driver’s Mate. I manage to scramble into one. I am struck with the usual morning “freshness” coming out of the arm pit of the Driver’s Mate. I make sure my skirt suit is properly protected from any protruding nails or rusted iron objects jutting out of the bus to cause fear and panic among the passengers.


Finally, I arrive at the office at 7.45am. My senior gives me a “look” that talks. We open to customers at 8.30am, but a lot goes on inside the banking hall before that time. Some customers just can’t wait. They are already scattered around the premises waiting for the opening of the “Jerusalem Gates” at 8.30am. I was too tired to eat supper last night. My stomach is giving the warning signals. Today is month end, and many salaried workers and wage earners will be crowding the banking hall, so I need to have some “concrete” the famous “ garri and beans”, or “Waakye” to lay a good foundation in my stomach. For all you know, that may be the only meal for the day.

I eagerly start my usual morning routine…. Re-stocking the counters to ensure pens, withdrawal and deposit vouchers, the bank’s brochures are in place, not forgetting to check for any feedback forms in the “Almighty” suggestion box. Do you know that the glass, wooden or plastic container sitting quietly in the corner can facilitate your early promotion, exit, transfer or anything you can think of? NEVER under-estimate the power of the suggestion box! It is just like the voters ballot boxes of the Electoral Commission. It can send a whole country into frenzy. It is sitting there watching you twenty four hours a day, whether you like it or not. If I continue to let the customers’ feedback forms, which contain both good and bad feedback, sit in the box unattended to,  I will be held in “contempt” and even summoned to meet the panel of judges at our Head office!

I quickly rush over my breakfast, check in to the washroom to freshen up and powder my face, to make sure I look “customer friendly”. At 8.30 am sharp, the Jerusalem gates are opened by the Security Guard, to allow the customers inside. While some of them rush to queue to cash their money, the business customers or their agents walk with confidence to deposit their cash with the Receiving Tellers. A young man called Stanley, approaches me, “Sister, may I have my balance?” I sometimes wonder why Stanley never checks his balance with the ATM but rather waste time to come to sit in front of me. It’s a Friday morning. Ooh I remember, this man has been plaguing my life for the past three weeks. He makes sure he avoids every other staff and always waits for me to serve him, even when others are free. He looks at me with those annoying looks, literally “undressing me with his eyes”! I have a feeling he has a hidden agenda. He likes flattering me about my appearance, dressing, hair, and so on. One day he placed two fifty Ghana cedi notes in an envelope for me to take it to lunch. I hadn’t done anything special, just doing my work. Although I was damn broke, my instincts told me he was not genuine. There is nothing like free lunch.  When he refused to take it back from me, I credited his account. I am not comfortable around him. For the sake of the almighty “Customer Service with a smile”, I held back my feelings and forced a smile on my face. Lest I forget, he also happens to be the known agent of one of our key customers. Although he is a “small fry”, the bank cannot afford to lose the account of his employer. I know that the bank’s earnings from transactions executed on his employers’ Corporate account, are big enough to pay the salaries of about five staff members. I prefer to work honestly for my salary than flirt around with some nitwit, who most probably wants to use me for his selfish deeds. Moreover, my branch manager has always cautioned us to be polite, but cautious of the so-called “known agents”.

I don’t want him to spoil my day, so I flashed him a smile and checked his balance, but of course making sure I conduct my due diligence on his picture and signature on my PC, making sure it is the correct account. I asked him why he does not want to check his account transaction on the ATM, to save time.

“Why should I go and stand in front of a machine when there are beautiful faces like yours to admire. After all, I want you to see the fat balances that I am building up to pay for your dowry!” I smiled back without any comments and serve him. At least I have reminded him to use the ATM more often to check his balance and cash his money, to reduce the pressure on us.

The queue is mounting. Some customers are being referred to me by the Tellers for assistance. Can you imagine so many pretty ladies in expensive dresses cannot write? Some customers pretend to be literates during the process of account opening, and request that you complete the account opening forms for them. They sometimes present a written paper with addresses, addresses, references, etc. Surprisingly they are able to sign, but don’t be fooled. The moment of truth is when they have to complete an internal form staff to perform transactions. Can I give them ATM cards, SMS alert services, internet banking?  This is dicey. If I am not smart enough to realize the risk of delivering such products, all these products and services given to these ladies will be transferred on a silver platter to the wrong person or third parties, which can end up in fraud on the customer’s account. Now I know that she shouldn’t even be given an ATM card and Pin number. She will just transfer it to her husband or boyfriend! Can you imagine that several customers hand over their ATM cards to husbands, boyfriends, work mates and children to use on their behalf? In mining towns, many miners who go down to the pit always hand over their cards to other people, causing pilfering and disputes of some of the transactions generated.

Let me pause for now.



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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