News came in on Friday that Access Bank sacked 1,500 staffs of Intercontinental Bank. Actually, insider reports claim that the number is much more and that some Access Bank staffs were equally sacked. At the height of banking industry consolidation and boom in 2008, Intercontinental had about 10,261 staffs. An increase of 29% from the 7,942 staffs they had in 2007. By 2011 unofficial reports put Intercontinental Bank workforce at about 3,000 just before the current sack. A massive 70.7% drop in its workforce. Access Bank in contrast had 1,219 staffs in 2008 and 729 staffs in 2007. Fast tack to 2010 Access Bank puts its official staff strength at 1,317 and that of the group at 1,754. Not a significant rise in my opinion. It’s easy to infer that the bank operates on a lean workforce because even with the addition of Intercontinental Bank Staff they still don’t get up to 4,000 staff. Some of their staff even allude to this complaining that the work force is so lean some branches only have just one marketer. No wonder they also intend to close even more branches.
Ironically, sources familiar with the banking industry believe there will still be recruitment as banks typically sack only to recruit almost immediately. I am yet to get a logical explanation why banks sack only to recruit later. Some bank executives explain the sacks are for reasons of “corporate strategy”, “strategic re-positioning”, or “based on business imperatives” as the CBN once put it. Bankers everyday live on the edge unsure of what lies ahead. They frequently get pay cuts, get subjected to one of the most inhumane treatment any employee will want to wish away. Their employment rights are regularly infringed upon whilst being given unattainable targets. I even hear some banks no longer grant consumer loans to staffs of other banks on the back of their susceptibility to getting sacked. However, the banking industry still continues to be the leading employers of entry level graduates of higher institutions. I expect the Central Bank to carve our creative ways of making sure that incessant sacks are curtailed as much as possible. With unemployment at 23.9% I don’t see how they expect the lower class of the population can benefit from the projected growth rate of 7%. In fact, a high unemployment rate only inhibits growth and grossly affects consumer demand a nemesis for manufacturers.
The banking reforms brought upon by Sanusi will never get the commendation he feels it deserves if unemployment rates continue to increase in the banking sector. Interest rate another aspect of the industry under his purview is almost at a 4 year high with consumer loans attracting 23-25% interest rates. As a regulator, it is imperative that he not only regulate the operations of the banks but also ensure that it is also growing in the overall interest of the larger economy. For the small business owner, he needs the banks to lend him money at affordable rates. For a graduate, he needs to be able to be sure he can build a career in banking if he chooses to. For a bank employee who sets out on the high way at 5am and gets home 11pm after a hard days job, he needs reassurance that he wont be suddenly logged off the banks networked when he resumes work the next morning. Right now, all of this is obviously not happening.