Having a family member, relative or friend working in the banking sector in Nigeria, there’s this unusual expectation of them walking around with crisp naira notes in white (or branded) envelopes and handing them out to people like they are seeking re-election.
But that is not usually the case when we meet them. Not only do they not carry around with them crisp new aira notes, they certainly do not dish around money just because they work in the bank even though the assumption is that they earn big.
Sadly, some of these bankers have been consistently disappointing us in recent years and more are set to fail us in our anticipation of their “money-sharing duties” this year and these may well be the reasons:
Unequal pay system
Nigerian banks account for two of the top 10 earning CEOs in Nigeria and are the most profitable sector on the Nigerian Exchange Limited. This, however, does not cascade downwards to their members of staff as an Aljazeera report quoted the NBS that over 42% of bank workers are contract staff while only a third of the full-time employees are senior staffers.
This report does not actually represent what can be observed in an average Nigerian bank branch of 19 staffers where only 3 members of staff may be full time with important-sounding job titles that do not match their near entry-level grades. The contract staff employees make up a huge number of those we consider as bankers in our friend and family circles, and whose ego hinder from letting us in on the open secret of their contract status.
To the layman observer, they are all bankers although some have earned as low as N65,000.00 monthly for the past 8 years.
Increased cost of debt
Bankers are expected to be financially savvy. In other words, Bankers are expected to have knowledge about loans, in local parlance they are expected to know where to get loans – and they do. Nigerian bankers do.
In a financial system such as Nigeria’s that is beginning to leverage BVN and internet technology to create credit, bankers have become the guinea pig of instalment payments and 24hour personal loans because of their fixed salary date and perceived integrity.
Microfinance Banks have made commercial Bank staff their target market while commercial banks constantly barrage their staff with their loan products. Some have been known to compel recruits to acquire luxury items from partner distributors, as they test their loan products in-house at lower interest rates. After all, you can’t sell what you don’t use. Right?
The cost of financing these debts has increased as Nigeria’s economic reality changes, further impoverishing these bankers who robust personal loan portfolios.
Rehashing data on Nigeria’s unemployment rate would be akin to playing a broken record, but I have to meet my word count on this article so I will have to crave your indulgence.
At 33%, Nigeria’s unemployment was the second highest on the global list in March 2021, having quadrupled in the past five years and expected to hit 40% by the end of 2021 forcing more Nigerians into poverty.
With Nigeria’s extended family structure, one can safely deduce that the number of dependents on our banker benefactors have increased as they have more people to support including their ex-colleagues given how eager Nigerian banks have been to add staff to the unemployment pool in the past 18 months before the intervention of CBN.
A friend once quipped that Nigerian bankers were “warriors”. No, not a compliment. He likened their layoffs to the deaths of warriors – suddenly, on the battlefield.
The reality of the insecurity of a Nigerian banking job is beginning to dawn on those in the system like never before and forcing them to seek alternative sources of income. They now double as real estate agents, currency traders, mobile money agents, sportsbet franchise owners, crypto traders and travel agents to potentially break the fall when they are eventually laid off.
In the same vein, they have tied their cash flows in other investments, and every kobo given out is viewed from the lens of the opportunity cost to their future.
While it is likely that a few banks have increased staff salaries in the past 5 years, it is highly unlikely that these increments can match Nigeria’s inflation as it keeps breaking new highs.
Year on year, Nigerian bankers continue to have less disposable income forcing an economic squeeze on their dependents as Nigeria’s economic turmoil deepens. Potential increments in actual salary figures have been swallowed up by Nigeria’s macro-economics, once again showing that no group of the population is immune to the present Nigerian reality. Sooner or later we may have to answer this question: are you poor yet?