Traditionally, bank managers are considered very important people and therefore held in high esteem. It is therefore not uncommon for bank clients to regard the association with the bank manager as a symbol of status and a privilege. This can be attributed to the benefits of obtaining specialized, personalized and fast service and, of course, business advice that comes with years of experience in dealing with companies from different industries and segments. However, the status quo is changing very quickly in the industry.
According to a circular from the Central Bank: (FPR / DIR / EXP / 01/002), dated June 26, 2012, on the Competency Framework for the Nigerian Banking Sector, a bank manager should have the following qualifications:
- A minimum of 8 years of 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, integrity and relationship skills, among others.
However, these criteria have proven insufficient to produce the ideal managers in our current banking rooms for some important reasons:
Poor training and exposure
The level of fierce competition between the banks, in particular the FUGAZ (acronym of the 5 best banks in Nigeria: First, UBA, GTB, Access and Zenith bank) has meant that the management of the banks cares less about professionalism and training because of the associated cost of training. Bank managers come to the office every day traumatized by the pressure to come up with unbelievable and unrealistic numbers due to the comparison with the neighboring competing bank. Some have gone years without any development, settling for acquiring deposits / business to quench the insatiable greed of administrators until their service is no longer required.
FUGAZ increased its after-tax profit from 666 billion naira to 727 billion naira (Source: Financial Statements of Banks 2019 and 2020) between 2019 and 2020, which represents profitability growth of 9% in an economy that experienced a negative GDP growth rate of 1.8% in 2020.
The short-term gains have overtaken the long-term structural development of important parts of any organization – the workforce. Virtual training cannot substitute for real-time face-to-face training which can force banks to spend money on travel, facilitators and logistics.
Branch managers are usually appointed without really assessing their skills. When appointed, it does not come with a corresponding training to prepare them for such an important role, leaving them to approach the mission with their resident knowledge, which in my opinion is largely insufficient.
Excessive measurement barometer
Some banking experts are of the opinion that the role of “branch manager” is overloaded with responsibilities, ranging from aggressive sourcing for deposits and loans to acquiring new relationships, motivating and encouraging staff, attending parties or client engagements, ensuring that ATMs, washrooms, offices and banking lobbies are in perfect order or risk being made redundant or suspended. These other miscellaneous deliverables tend to distract and divert the necessary attention of the bank manager to his main responsibilities.
Experience has also shown that requests for supplies to change outdated or outdated equipment are rejected or delayed, but whenever head office mystery shoppers show up, the branch manager becomes the scapegoat.
Dehumanizing performance sessions
Bank managers are invited to regular meetings to discuss different measurement barometers, current account growth, savings account growth, total deposits growth, profits made, card issued, loan growth, incomplete documentation, turnover of the workforce in branch, atmosphere in branch. These barometers are discussed with extremely dehumanizing remarks on the part of senior executives coordinating agency directors, with insults towards them and their families, affecting their self-esteem.
Bad central support
Headquarters units such as treasury, corporate banking and other market oriented units are recognized and supported by support units before branches. Some branch managers who have direct contact with customers are frustrated with poor or almost no response or support from head office units. Experience has also shown that branch managers have to bribe or “specially manage” their colleagues at head office to get the support they need, otherwise their request would be placed lower on the priority list. These things happen every day in industry, as if it were the public sector.
Some staff members have developed “deep” relationships with senior managers and, as a result, challenge their agency managers. Some arrive late for work, perform poorly, and engage in all kinds of misdemeanors with the confidence that the branch manager is unable to discipline them when they are wrong. However, their branch manager would still be held accountable for their performance.
Many branch managers dance the tricky dance to please senior managers by being nice or looking away when these things happen. Many of these staff members are women engaged in unethical relationships with “powerful men”. The strong pressure exerted by these big bankers makes it difficult for these women to challenge them, as such a challenge could cost them their jobs or their promotion.
Banking is a responsible profession, the key to the economy of any nation. Decision makers need to be much more strategic and focus on building an emotionally, physically and technically effective management workforce to sustain the business over the long term.
The financial results we are seeing today from the industry have masked some of these problems, however, these problems would become more visible when the banking sector in Nigeria no longer gets the support of the CBN to continue earning a windfall through the fees charged to customers.
It should be noted that the industry accounts for a substantial percentage of white collar jobs in Nigeria, however, the payoff is small compared to bank returns. Some staff members develop high blood pressure from the pressure at work.
Regulators need to pay more attention to these gray areas. The professional capacity of the branch manager should not be taken for granted, but regular / periodic re-certification is essential to prevent bank managers from becoming modern day apes.