Striking a Balance between Staff-Centrism and Customer-Centrism: …a re-look at bank closing times (1)

Dear Readers, do you look forward to another week at work? If yes, great, but if no, why not? You must be either tired from too much work overload at home, Church, and social events? Or worse still, the job is “getting into you”. Is the job stressing you out? Don’t you like what you are doing? Are you just going through the motions just to earn something to keep body and soul together? Perhaps the late closing hours are killing you slowly despite the big fat salary. Right? I got you there. The late closing hours! If only people knew how it feels.  

Celebration of Rhoda Addo, Janitor at The Beige Bank,

This week, my thumps up goes to Ms. Rhoda Addo, a Janitor at the Mallam Market branch of The Beige Bank. During the “Ice Breaking” or introductory session of a bank-wide training program, she chose a flower. Her reason? It represents the love and passion she has for the job. She delivered the most awesome speech among all the groups that attended the program. She said that even though her pay is not much, it puts food on the table. She therefore works with passion and feels appreciated as she beautifies the bank premises. She also exhibited good emotional intelligence skills in her daily interaction with the staff. Such people in corners need to be recognized for their passion. Well done, The Beige Bank for training all the staff of the Group!

An Advocacy

I will always give credit to the

Human Resource Specialists since they take decisions based on their technical skills and competencies. However, as a Risk person, I have noted that there seems to be a direct correlation between late closing hours, expenses on medical bills, errors, fraud and losses in a bank! How strange. Unfortunately I do not have the facts to back it up, so I wish to play an advocacy role for the re-examination of the policy on extended banking hours at the banking halls, while checking on staff who may be deliberately closing late for the wrong reasons. I am sure most of you will say…”That is a no-go area…or DON’T GO THERE. Do you want to “kill the business” or pollute the minds of the staff?”

The People Risk Factor

Please, I beg. It is only to share some thoughts with you and create some awareness since any issue that affects staff fall under the people risk category in risk management. Perhaps it is to check your facts and see whether indeed there is a correlation.

Late closure seems to always be synonymous with branch banking, but these days, the situation is also getting worse in the head office departments. Let’s halt here.  Staff of banks know that there is nothing like 8.00am to 5.00pm in banking. That is well appreciated. Sometimes workers even see the clear picture and volunteer to work late hours in order to fulfil strategic goals, meet regulatory requirements, reporting and so on. I am not talking about those.

Financial institutions have become very customer-centric in the twentieth century banking industry and the competition is equally strong. A look at various bank slogans prove how banks feel about their customers. But what about the staff, or as it is said these days, the HUMAN CAPITAL?

While emphasizing on customer centrism, I recommend that management re-examines the implications on the total well-being of the staff as well, in order to strike a good balance. I am aware of staff who deliberately close late due to various reasons. I will come to that later. Sometimes people ask why in the midst of all the electronic banking and efficient banking software solutions, bankers still close late.

The Initial Perception of Beginners

Let me take you back to my first article on The Risk Watch series, in October 2013, which was titled, “Not all that glitters is gold”. The objective was to highlight the realities of banking as a career, to enable young entrants and non-bankers alike appreciate the fact that working in a bank was not just glitz and glamour.

It is always interesting to sit on an interview panel and watch young applicants rattle about their perception of bankers as well as banking in general. Let’s look at a typical conversation at an interview:

Panelist: “What is your ambition?”

Applicant: “I want to work in a bank”

Panelist: “Why?”

Applicant: “Because it has always been my dream.”

How naïve! The Panelists could imagine the thoughts of these young, innocent and anxious-looking applicants. Sometimes the real but unspoken reasons were….”Bankers dress well, drive nice cars, have nice weddings, win the hearts of the nice girls in town, benefit from mortgages, job security, give bigger offerings at church and fund raising activities” blah, blah. It sounds funny but these misconceptions are very real among the young and upcoming school leavers.

The stark reality upon entering the banking industry is the late closing hours especially in the branches and some head office departments where transactions have to be closed before end of day. One needs to manage these beginners to enable them appreciate the goals of the institution and balance them with their own personal goals.

The “Old-Time” Branch Banking

On a more serious note, working in a bank can be very rewarding and fulfilling despite the stresses that go with it. Many decades ago, banks used to close to the public at 2.00pm. This was because closing the doors to the public marks the beginning of another phase of intensive work, such as manually writing and updating ledgers, statements, balancing books of accounts, preparing cheque books, preparing cheques to be sent to the Clearing House at Bank Of Ghana to meet the mandatory clearing cycle, checking cash with teller transactions to agree with their transactions, completing account documentation and so on. Banking halls staff closed late and reached home late.

The Extension of Banking Hours

Sometime in July 2001, we heard news that the closing hours of the bank I used to work for, was going to be extended from 3.00pm to 5.00pm. My heart missed a bit and I was quite anxious about the effects of this policy, knowing the behavior of the typical bank customer, especially those in the business districts “where cash is king”.

Well, well, we had no option than to quietly abide by the rules. Of course the bank had very good reasons for taking that decision…….to get more customers from the competition due to the flexibility of late deposits.

As for the traders, they were very grateful and knowing their rights, they all started taking things easy and waited until the last minute before sending their head porters to carry sack loads of cash in the “Ghana Must GO” bags, and entered the banking hall between one to five minutes before 5.00pm!! Can you imagine this? What were they doing during the day? They will tell you that they were “mopping up” all the cash in the system.

Some of them even wanted you to count the cash at that last minute! What could we do? We had to be professional about it and advised them on the dangers of carrying those sacks full of cash at those unholy hours. It was better to deposit some of the cash during the day rather than wait the whole day to mop up. Sometimes one is tempted to think that the slogan “Customer is King” is excellent but for some other customers it becomes “Customer is a Bully”. (it is only a serious joke).

Modern Branch Banking

What is happening now? Automation and computerization. The marvel of technology. No need for messengers. Much more recently, the power of the internet has also transformed banking to unimaginable heights! Many banking halls are quieter except for occasional queues when the systems break down or slow down.

The almighty clearing cycle has reduced. Fast and more efficient payment systems have been developed. Money transfer systems are efficient and fast. ATMs are dotted along every street corner and filling station.

One can even do transfers, check balances, and many more transactions on the smart phone and computer, even from the comfort of one’s bedroom or office. There is less demand for face to face transactions between customers and bankers. Customers are becoming more independent and savvy.

The Self-Imposed Late Sitting at Head Office

While branches necessarily had to close late due to the extended banking hours, there is also an increasing number of enforced or deliberate late closing by some staff in the head offices. Of course, certain departments like the Clearing Section cannot leave without working on the scanned emails of customers’ cheques to be processed and sent electronically to GHIPPs, the IT centers and others. However, some staff deliberately sit for long hours as a result of the following:

  • Waiting for the traffic to ease down before moving their cars.
  • Creating an erroneous impression on their bosses that they are more hardworking.
  • Browsing on the social media on their computers.
  • Idling about during the day.
  • To claim overtime.

The list goes on and on. Next week I will examine the effects of long sitting and late closing on workers. In the interim, I pray that all Human Resource managers take a look at the deliberate late closing and its effect on the bank’s bottom line.

TO BE CONTINUED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.

CONTACT

Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or albique@yahoo.com

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343