Traditionally, bank managers are considered very important people and hence held in high esteem. It is therefore not uncommon to find bank customers consider association with the bank manager a status symbol and a privilege. This can be attributed to the perks of getting specialised, customised, timely service and of course, business counsel that comes with years of experience in dealing with businesses from different industries and segments. However, the status quo is shifting very quickly in the industry.
According to a Central Bank circular: (FPR/DIR/EXP/01/002), dated June 26, 2012, on competency framework for the Nigerian Banking industry, a bank manager is required to have the following qualifications:
- A minimum of 8 years banking experience with at least 2 years in retail banking or branch operations.
- A first degree in any discipline and relevant certifications such as ACIB (Associate of Chartered Bankers).
- Good understanding of policies and products, having integrity and people skills among others.
However, these criteria have proved insufficient to produce the ideal managers in our current banking halls for some salient reasons:
Poor training and exposure
The level of cut-throat competition among the banks especially the FUGAZ (Acronym for the 5 Top Nigeria Banks: First, UBA, GTB, Access, and Zenith bank) has ensured that the management of the banks is less concerned with professionalism and training because of the associated cost of training. Bank Managers go to the office every day traumatised by the pressure of delivering unbelievable and unrealistic numbers as a result of the comparison to the neighbour competitor bank. Some put in years upon years without any development, just acquiring deposits/business to quench the insatiable directors’ greed until their service is no longer required.
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The FUGAZ grew their profit after tax from N666 billion to N727 billion (Source: Banks Financial Statements 2019 & 2020) between 2019 to 2020 representing a 9% profitability growth in an economy that witnessed a negative GDP growth rate of 1.8% in 2020.
The short-term gains have overcome the long-term structural development of the important elements in any organisation – the workforce. Virtual training cannot substitute for real-time face-to-face training that may require the banks to spend money on travel, facilitators and logistics.
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The branch managers are usually appointed without much assessment of their skill set. When they get appointed, it does not come with corresponding training to prepare them for such an important role, leaving them to approach the assignment with their resident knowledge, which is in my opinion, largely insufficient.
Excessive barometer of measurement
Some banking experts have opined that the ‘branch manager’ role is overlaboured with responsibilities, ranging from aggressive sourcing for deposits and loans to the acquisition of new relationships, motivation and encouragement of staff, attending customer’s parties or engagements, making sure that the ATMs, restrooms, offices and banking halls are perfectly in order or risk being fired or suspended. These other sundry deliverables tend to distract and divert the needed attention of the bank manager to his/her core responsibilities.
Experience has also shown that request for supplies to change expired or dilapidated equipment are met with rejection or delay but whenever the mystery shoppers from the Head office come around, the branch manager would be made a scapegoat.
Dehumanizing performance sessions
Bank managers are invited for regular meetings to discuss the various barometers of measurement, Current Account growth, Savings Account growth, Total Deposit growth, Profit Made, Card Issued, Loan growth, Incomplete documentation, branch labour turnover, branch ambience. These barometers are discussed with extremely dehumanizing comments from the executive managers coordinating the branch managers, with insults directed at them and their families, affecting their self-esteem.
Poor central support
Head Office units like Treasury, Corporate banking, and other market-facing units get recognition and support from the support units ahead of branches. Some branch managers who have first-hand contact with customers are left frustrated as a result of poor or almost non-existent response or support from head office units. Experience has also shown that the branch managers have to give kick-backs or ‘specially manage’ their head office colleagues to get the needed support or their request would be placed on a lower cadre on the priority list. These things happen every day in the industry, as though it is the public sector.
Some staff members have developed ‘deep’ relationships with top management staff and, therefore, defy their branch managers. Some come late to work, perform poorly and engage in all sorts of misdemeanours with the comfort that the branch manager is unable to discipline them when they err. However, their branch manager would still be held responsible for their performance.
Many branch managers dance the delicate dance to please the top management people by being nice or looking the other way when these things happen. Many of these personnel are females engaged in unethical relationships with ‘powerful men.’ The powerful pressure from these top bankers makes it difficult for these ladies to defy them as such defiance could cost the ladies their job or promotion.
Banking is a responsible profession, the key to the economy of any nation. The decision-makers need to be much more strategic and focused on building a management workforce that is emotionally, physically, and technically efficient to support the business on a long-term basis.
The financial results that we see today from the industry have masked some of these problems, however, these issues would become more visible when the banking industry in Nigeria no longer gets the support of the CBN to keep earning a windfall from charges to customers.
It must be noted that the industry accounts for a substantial percentage of the white-collar jobs in Nigeria, however, the reward is poor relative to the returns of the banks. Some of the staff members develop high blood pressure from the work pressure.
The regulators need to pay closer attention to these grey areas. The professional capacity of the branch manager should not be taken for granted but a regular/periodic re-certification is critical to preventing bank managers from becoming akin to modern-day monkeys.