“Too many security officers live day to day. They just want to be treated with dignity” —John Wilson
Dear Readers, please read this post carefully. It went viral on social media recently, but after reading it, I started feeling guilty about some of the issues involved because most of us are guilty. As usual, I will like to take it up from the side of risk management. The shared message goes like this:
“This lady worked at a meat distribution factory. One day, when she finished with her work schedule, she went into the meat cold room (Freezer) to inspect something, but in a moment of misfortune, the door closed and she was locked inside with no help in sight. Although she screamed and knocked with all her might, her cries went unheard as no one could hear her. Most of the workers had already gone, and outside the cold room it’s impossible to hear what was going on inside.
Five hours later, whilst she was at the verge of death, the security guard of the factory eventually opened the door. She was miraculously saved from dying that day. She later asked the security guard how he had come to open the door, which wasn’t his usual work routine.
His explanation: “I’ve been working in this factory for 35 years, hundreds of workers come in and out every day, but you’re one of the few who greets me in the morning and says goodbye to me every night when leaving after work. Many treat me as if I’m invisible. Today, as you reported for work, like all other days, you greeted me in your simple manner ‘Hello’. But this evening after working hours, I curiously observed that I had not heard your “Bye, see you tomorrow”. Hence, I decided to check around the factory. I look forward to your ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ every day because they remind me that I am someone.
By not hearing your farewell today, I knew something had happened. That’s why I was searching everywhere for you and I knew it was God who remembered me of your greetings hmm ma sister God has really saved your life by your deeds.
Lady cried out praising God. (Deacon Richard Stanard, Englewood, NJ, USA)”
That was a close shave and we thank God for her life. As a banker, how do you relate to the Security Guards in your office? Assuming you got stuck in the lift, late in the night when most staff have left, with no mobile phone on you to call the Guard or friend for help. The Security Guard may not be aware of your predicament since everybody else quietly uses the lift and goes home.
Who is a Security Guard?
There’s a common misconception between security guards and peace officers. Peace officers are law enforcement officers provided by the state whose duty is to enforce the law and preserve the public peace. Security guards are crime, threat and risk prevention officers assigned to protect specific people and property. This may include detecting some of the same offenses that would cause a peace officer to act, such as a fight or burglary. The security guard’s concern is to protect persons and prevent damage or destruction to property. PREVENTION is their watchword, and they act as a deterrent to crime, to watch for impending danger and to report crimes they may encounter.
The Role of a Bank Security Guard
The bank branch security guard is responsible for the security and protection of the bank’s employees and all assets. Depending on the bank, the guard may also be expected to enforce the company’s overall safety requirements.
Guards will need to stay alert to watch for potential threats to the safety of employees and customers. Bank branch security guards will also need to investigate any suspicious behavior among the customers or employees to safeguard the financial assets of the branch.
There are times when a disgruntled customer may become a threat, and the guard will need to diffuse the situation.
Guards may also be required to know and enforce bank safety regulations.
In the case of a robbery, the guard must know how to safeguard the customers and employees, and acts as a liaison between the police and the branch.
Being a bank branch security guard can be a dangerous occupation, as often banks, especially those in large metropolitan areas, are targets for robberies. Guards are often the first person the robbers want to disarm and disable.
Looking at the above functions typically expected of a security guard, let us ask ourselves this question. Do we honestly relate to them as members of staff of the bank? Until the late 1990’s, all security guards were permanent members of staff of the banks. During the period when banking halls were choked with long queues, one could come across a security guard trying to help an illiterate customer complete a deposit slip. They were inside the banking hall assisting with queue management and so on. They were knowledgeable about the bank’s policies and were part of staff durbars, meetings, etc.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Most security companies or banks require that their security guards be fully trained to handle all kinds of security-related threats that may arise while on the job. Branch bank security guards will need to be able to stay alert while on the job. Guards must be observant and be able to recognize a threat to the bank’s security, as well as be able to report suspicious or criminal behavior to the police and bank authorities. Guards must be friendly to customers and interact well with all branch employees.
The Current Reality on the Ground
For the past two decades, most banks have outsourced the security guard function, as a measure of cost-cutting. They are no more permanent members of staff of the banks. This policy has come with great improvement in cost reduction. On the other hand, it has created a “separation of feelings” between the staff and the guards, and sometimes lack of trust between the two parties. Some security guards do not have a sense of belonging and are quite withdrawn from the rest of the staff. Let us look at some the typical activities they are seen to be performing:
- Report early for duty at 6.00 am and close at 6.00 pm, handing over to the night shift who also works from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am.
- They look dressed up in their uniforms supplied by their company for easy recognition.
- They ensure the police guards on duty complete the attendance register.
- They direct traffic in and out of the bank’s premises or parking lot.
- They sometimes collect the keys of drivers whose cars obstruct others in case they have to re-park them.
- They watch and guard all cars in the premises.
- They are on the look-out for suspicious characters on the premises, query and re-direct them.
- They record the registered numbers and model of cars and timing as they come and go.
- They record any unusual occurrence on the premises and report to the authorities.
- They open doors for customers and staff.
- They put off unwanted lights, water dispensers, shredders, printers, television sets and other electrical gadgets that the staff forget to attend to.
- In some cases, they take the keys to the nearest police station for safekeeping overnight and go for it early morning to enable the cleaners and other service providers do their job.
- They keep a keen eye on service providers to prevent theft or pilfering.
- They assist the police guard with escort duties and cash in transit operations.
Now let’s look at some of the things they do on the blind side (is it really so? Ha. ha):
- They are sent by staff for various errands – buy food, purchase other items from town! This sometimes do so whether there is a back-up personnel or not!!!!
- They help carry luggage including laptops and heavy items up the stairs or lifts to the offices of the managers.
- Carry the “losoo” or gift items from customers’ cars for delivery to various recipients in their offices or into their cars.
- Act as receptionists when the front desk person is on lunch break!!
Are they Visible or Invisible?
After all is said and done, how do you relate with your security guard? Do you greet them as they open the doors for you? Or you think he is doing his duty, so it’s no big deal? Do you know that they treat your customers as you also treat them? Are you aware they can connive with fraudsters and robbers to raid your bank? At the end of the day, on your way out of the premises, do you thank them and wish them a good day or goodnight? Of course not, they are doing their work as “invisible statues” for the bank. I have been guilty of such actions in the past but let us look at what we are missing and the potential dangers that the few bad nuts who may allow Lucifer the Devil to enter their hearts and harbour terrible things they can do to hurt the staff, customers and the bank.
Next week, we shall see how we can partner security guards to prevent losses to the organization.
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 two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.