What happened to the ‘God Factor’ in our financial services industry? (1)

The Sales and Marketing Function

Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain. Use it to help others….Rick Warren

Sober reflections

These days, no week passes by without mention of negative issues in our financial institutions, businesses, government departments and agencies – not forgetting our security services. Sometimes it seems as if doing the right things doesn’t matter anymore. You may be given an assignment or a target to meet, but how you meet it is up to you and your God. In the journey of our work, people come across so many ethical challenges. Of course, it is expected. This causes a dilemma when a person is at the crossroads of decision-making. Many thoughts run through the mind. “Shall I do it? What will people think when they hear what I have done?”

When financial scandals appear in the news, many questions pop-up from the public. From this week, I shall be running a series on the role of spirituality and the ‘God factor’ in our workplaces. Today I will start with the Sales and Marketing functionaries.

Feedback from the public

Let me start with a list of some comments made by the general public when financial scandals, takeovers and liquidations are announced by the government:

  • “Don’t mind them; those banks have been winning awards recently, so what are they saying?”
  • “Where were the chartered bankers and accountants? Didn’t they have professionals on board?’ Are they not audited by the ‘Big Five’ Audit firms?”
  • “Oh, not again! Are my funds and investments going down the drain?”
  • “They squeeze every pesewa out of us to make big profits, while giving us peanuts for interest.”
  • “Jail them for causing financial loss to the depositors as well as the institutions.”
  • “What were the ‘policemen in banking’ doing all this while? I thought they had a whole team of specialists in the Banking Supervision Department of the central bank, paying visits and doing off-site inspections.”
  • “As for this, politics dey inside! There is something in the soup! What was the point in granting so many bank licences in the past few years when they were not too comfortable with some of them?”

I could go on and on. My main issue today is: what happened to the ‘God factor’ or spirituality in our workplaces? What happened to the soft issues in bank management? The ‘God factor’ here is not referring to Christianity. Every person seeks guidance from a supreme being – whether Moslem, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, traditional religion and so on.

All persons (except rationalists/atheists) believe that there is a supreme being that guides us to do good and live good lives on earth. While love and spirituality have to a degree been adopted by various religious organisations and beliefs, here love and spirituality do not imply or require a religious component or affiliation at all. Far from it. Anyone can love other people. And everyone is spiritual in their own way.

Where is our spirituality?

Given that love (or spirituality, whatever your preference) particularly encompasses compassion and consideration for other people, it follows that spoiling the world somewhere, or spoiling the world for future generations, is not acceptable and is not a loving thing to do. Love is a strange word to use in the context of business and management, but it shouldn’t be.

Love in business and work means making decisions and conducting oneself in a way that cares for people and the world we live in.

Is spirituality and love no longer fashionable in the corporate world?

Compassion for humankind should be one of the many ethical reference points for good leadership and management in business and organisations. Love, compassion, spirituality and ethics in business are not dependent on membership of a group or sect. Anyone can be loving, compassionate, spiritual and ethical; in fact, most people are – it’s just that, recently, big corporations have tended to require people not to be.

Some Ghanaian examples

21st century business is largely concerned with ‘left-side brain’ perspectives, for example: performance management, critical reasoning, total quality, strategic planning, financial results, profit etc.

These are necessary aspects of good business and management, but they are fundamentally dispassionate. I think that some aspects of the methodology in modern management is based on cold-hearted logic and dispassionate decision-making. The irony of this it is that it does produce very effective results, especially short-term. I sometimes face a dilemma with some of the theories of ‘management gurus’, because some of the methods need some customisation before application in our environment; otherwise, we find a lot of unhealthy competition among peers to meet bottom-line expectations. After trampling on everybody and achieving the bottom-line and targets, what next? Love is lost.

Let us look at some of the ungodly issues that crop up as some persons climb up, or rather hop, their way up the ladder. I will look at some exaggerated cases just to highlight the effect. Please pardon me if some of the cases seem familiar to you:

Funny but Serious Cases of the missing God-Factor at work

  • I am a branch manager. I am supposed to stay in the office thirty percent of my time, while the remaining seventy percent is for sales and mobilisation of deposits. I don’t feel like it on some days, so what do I do? I just call my operations manager to take care of the branch while I enjoy an extended Monday morning sleep. After all, I am ‘supposed to be visiting customers and striking good deals!
  • I am a star sales executive. I have been receiving big bonuses due to the magic wand that I fly about with. I know how to sweet-talk the rich and famous pot-bellied old men in town. After all, I don’t necessarily have to go to bed with them. There are several alternatives I can adopt to make them happy. Just give me the account and I will seduce you into oblivion!
  • I am an investment officer. The rains have started falling and yet ‘the ground is still hard’…the recent spiralling down of inflation rates, whether artificial or natural, is causing investors to divert their funds elsewhere – even at a higher risk. Banking is highly regulated and I have no power to increase the interest rates above the bank’s approved rates. Aha! I am aware my client wants the investment for just six months, but I convince him to accept the one-year rate and create the investment for one year. The Treasurer uses it to invest in a longer-term credit to make a margin. Alas! Six months later, the customer wants his funds back…Dislocation and mis-matching of funds.
  • I try to befriend a rich account holder in another branch of the same bank. I only have to advise him to use his local name to open another personal account in my branch. Oh the reward… I keep his cheque book for him, and ensure my stake in the deposit is always secure. My summer holidays in America are always assured!
  • I am a Sales Executive. It is the third week of the month. My targets are halfway met. Targets! Targets! Sleepless nights. Let me call my multi-banked customer to bring another big cheque and deposit it into the account to make it double the balances and window-dress it. My month-end balances look good. On the fifth of the following month, he can draw down the balances to send the funds back to the other bank account. Robbing Paul to pay Peter. Yes. Creative accounting is my trump-card, albeit a short respite while I strategise for the way forward. It is becoming a vicious cycle of lies upon lies.
  • I am aware that there are is group of young people in my area. They look rich and drive the latest cars in town. We have been wondering where their sudden aquisition of wealth is coming from. One of them, a lady, approaches me for some help. I wonder what kind of help. After all, they seem to have everything in this world. She comes to my house and confides in me that she is expecting US$200,000 from her sister in the USA, but since she is a foreigner she is unable to get the required documents to open an account. Wow…that’s easy! I get my sister to open a pseudo-account as a camouflage for her money-laundering activities. I am now the star sales personality for the month! Life is good. Lies upon lies.

Oh, where did the Chartered Institute of Bankers’ motto ‘Honesty and Integrity’ go to? Down the drain? Compounding the situation, the historical prevalence of dispassionate leadership, unloving ideas, and uncaring behaviour in some organisations have tended to worsen the situation, and so the whole selfish cycle reinforces itself.

Next week I will delve into another banking function to find out what is happening there and the state of the ‘God factor’ at work. Is it now a myth? I don’t think so.

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.

CONTACT

Website www.alkanbiz.com

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

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343