Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So you want to be a Banker (Part 3)

BlogFam!! I'm sorry my stories are hiccuping. What to blame? Dissertation. I am neck deep in birthing my project. Just sent a 2nd revised draft to my Sup. I pray she doesn't suggest any dramatic changes! How are you all doing? Thank you so much for your faithful readership and 'commentorship'. (Sting, what did you say about people who form new words again?)
I will be back at full throttle soonest!

My story will be incomplete if I don’t talk of ‘the Customer’.
Customers understood the competition and desperation and enjoyed playing the marketers against each other. The Nigerian bank customer was truly king.
The unnecessary close relations that develop between bankers and customers especially family and friends in the name of relationship management created room for unethical business deals. If your cousin’s business is in your branch and you have the clout you will be tempted to bend rules to make his loans get approved faster etc etc just saying.
Same if a customer is doing 'you' a favour by banking with you. They get to feel they deserve some payment in kind. Like you using your powers as a bank staff to cover dud cheques, using your personal money to make up under-funded accounts, print shady statements for Visa purposes, launder money and yea, sexual favours.
You don’t do it, you‘ll be accused of not being ‘sharp enough’.

Take the example of Chief Zulu, a typical business or high net worth individual. He has a minimum of 6 bank accounts because of various friends, family and girlfriends spread across the banks. He also gets to move his money according to his whims.
Chief Zulu has just received a juicy govt contract worth N500m. While the cheque is still in the post, the banks begin to pay their respects. Business lunches, dinnesr, gifts and a lot of empty credit promises.
Chief Zulu being a most generous man, distributes his wealth: 
N100m to Dayo, his nephew in bank AB, 
N100m to Kingsley, his brother in law in Bank EF, 
N150m to Ada, his oldest bank account in Bank JK, 
N100m to Alhaji, his old school mate in Bank OP and 
N50m for the reigning bank galfriend in Bank XY. 
Of all the deposits, the N50m is the most flexible and movable. If reigning girlfriend misbehaves, it goes to the next gf (intra bank or interbank). Also depending on how obliging or good in bed new gf is, or as we say ‘how the love is shacking him’, Chief Zulu may increase her holding to N100m. He wisely keeps the funds as call deposits or 30 day deposits which gives him enough leeway to revoke his generosity lol.

I remember a galfriend’s story about her highnetworth customer who she advised to consolidate his accounts into three or less accounts (of course her bank must be one of the prime accounts!), she said he retorted ‘Why should I? Do you realize how my account officer in other banks care for me? All I need to do is call and they are here easing my stress while you have never offered even a simple blow job, acting like a saint. It's just cause I like you that's why I am still using your bank". I kid you not.

You may also meet Mrs. Moneybags who practically turns you into her lackey cause she has N100m in your bank coffers. Expect phone calls at 9pm asking about a N150 naira charge on her account that she doesn’t understand. Expect tantrums. Expect to massage her ego, tell her how beautiful she is .. always. Expect her to dump her marital problems on you. And note - the day she detects a frown or a reluctance to do her bidding, she moves her money to the next willing banker. If you are a guy, other services might be expected of you…..
I didnt say anything oo
Advanced ‘deposit’ fraud? That happened a lot.
During one bank ‘year-end’ period (month that a particular bank closes its records for the year), I remember one of my otherwise gentleman customers whom I had been bugging for a deposit, calling me to come and pick a N4m cheque. It was 5pm. I wasn’t too comfortable with the time considering that I was on the mainland and he was on the Island but hey I thought of the boost of presenting a N4m cheque the next day and off I went. Between traffic and waiting cause he had a meeting, I got to see him at about 7. Got the cheque which was postdated to 2 days probs. He  proposed we go for drinks before I leave. I shrugged yes. No biggie. I got generally squeamish when he started getting touchy feely as we were talking and I said ‘’Bros, mba(no) that aint the deal. He then asked to see me over the weekend, I said No, can do. Other days? No Siree. We aint going that way. We said goodnight amicably I thought. I hopped on a taxi and left.
Two days later he sent me a text that something came up and I shouldn’t bother paying in the cheque till further notice. huh??

That year end another customer, Mr Wangdu came, dangling a N500m cheque. The zonal manager and the branch manger courted him like a beauty pageant queen. Mr Wangdu finally gave them the cheque. It was Friday, 30th of August, the Bank’s year end. The 700m swelled the bank’s coffers. The branch posted profits based on ‘yet to be earned’ interest. Bank manager was praised for hitting such a sweet deal.
Remember Bank cheques clear in three working days in Nigeria? Well, Aug 31st was Saturday, Sept 1st was Sunday, Sept 2nd was Monday – Mr Wangdu calls the branch manager a bit distraught. He needs a N2m overdraft.  He didnt meet the criteria for receiving an overdraft cause his account was only 2 weeks old. But the zonal manager gave a 'wink of approval'. How can you deny a man that potentially has 700m, a paltry N2m? A bank in need is a friend indeed innit?
Loan was given on the double which Mr Wangdu promptly withdrew from his account.
Sept 3rd - the 700m cheque returned. With the sundry charges for returned cheque etc etc he was owing the bank -N100,000. When he was notified, he said ‘sorry, pls represent the cheque”. Another 3 working days and cheque was returned yet again. Account was now in red to the tune of N210,000 which was increasing daily.
All of a sudden, Mr. Wangdu was MIA. Office was locked. Phone unreachable.
Guess who is repaying the overdraft and sundry? The account officer and bank manager. The bank called it negligence. Per chance it had gone the right way, they would have been feted.

Do you still want to work in the bank?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So you want to be a banker (Part 2)

Marketing started in earnest.
High heels-check, trouser suits-check, hair-check, jewelry-check, eager smile-check. I was a banker...... or so i thought!
My second day at work I was given a sheet of paper and told to write down the names of all the wealthy family friends and relatives I knew and give an estimate of their net worth. Then state the deadline by which I would have converted them to customers of the bank????
Coming from an average middle income, non-politically affiliated family you can imagine my struggle to give an impressive list. 
So I lied..
Chief B.Y. Dogonyaro (my latest Godparents)  - N30m
Otunba Abiola MBO – N25m
Sir Ginger (my new elevated millionaire Dad) N18m
Rev Mrs. Do Good of Do Good Ministries – N16m (I was advised to join the church quick quick and volunteer to be an usher)
Mr. Smith of XYZ Oil servicing Company (now that got my manager very excited ‘Oil $$$’)- 100m
Yahoo Ltd owned by Mr. Yahoo – net worth N50m

It was crazy. God help you if one of the relatives you noted their name is relatively popular e.g. A politician, you will become the most revered marketer. Revered cause you are expected to bring Uncle's loot to the bank. Maligned if you are unsuccessful. A 'threat sackletter' from the bank is sometimes helpful in making Uncle more sympathetic to your cause (did someone say blackmail?).
Charity begins at home right? I started calling uncles, family friends who I never was close to in earnest, ask begging them to open an account with my bank, friends and neighbors. It was something I had never been easy with, calling favors and owing ‘people favors’ per se, but it had to be done. I tried to be pragmatic and think of it like a game. A popularity contest. 

That notion worked for a while, till I found out my KPI (Key Performance Index) which no one had mentioned at the interview, and desperation crept in.
Deposits are the sum total of monies the account holders you manage keep with the Bank
Risk assets are the sum total of monies taken in loans by the account holders you manage
Income is the interest earned on the deposits and on the loans given out

Bank marketing is a lot like sales...duh, it was sales. But unlike sales of goods where there is an instant gain for the customer when he buys the product (drugs, cleaning agent, cosmetics) in banking you are telling people to .. errr, come and save their money with your bank / take loans from your bank trusting that your bank doesn’t renege on the contract e.g raise interest rates arbitrarily. 
Knowing the Nigerian banking climate, what with recent memories of near collapse of some banks due to misappropriation by directors etc, you can’t blame Nigerians for being distrustful. Most people have more faith in their closets and home safes.

There were also other issues.

1.       1. Products and Services
They say customers listen to Radio WITFM (what’s in this for me). Well, what do most customers want?
Incentives - Personal banking could have come with better incentives like what I see here…where you get value added incentives like computer/phone insurance, travel insurance. Discounts in favourite shops. Small things that make a customer think they are getting ‘value’ for banking with you. 
Credit: For their personal use. To start up businesses. But how many get that? Very few. Banks are afraid to give cause customers aren’t ready to pay back and a lack of social security number and national ID makes it impossible to trace defaulters. So we ask for collaterals like share certificates, land, houses. Only few can produce acceptable legal documents which can hold in court.  Businesses are unregistered. Bank accounts run like personal accounts. How do you lend money to a customer whose account turnover isn’t more than N100,000 monthly, but he wants to borrow N1m?
Salary earners had it easier, we have particular groups we lend money to – telecom staff, fellow bank staff and people in civil service. Also staff of long established blue chip companies. The idea being their incomes are steady. They don’t change jobs. Even if they do, they are only moving to bigger and better jobs. If you don’t belong to any of these groups, Credit? Fogerrit….
Some banks took risks and truly helped a lot of businesses. Some, like mine played by the book.
All in all, sales in the bank was up to ‘personal relationships’ of the marketer.

2.      2. Fellow bank staff
Where do I start? Is it the manager that can’t write a coherent letter? Or the zonal manager that accompanies you on a marketing call only to end up embarrassing you cause he can’t differentiate between a long term loan and a short term overdraft?
Or the team leader who takes the pool car out (grounding every other marketer) to MTN office ostensibly to sell our credit products to her ‘connections there’ when she is actually out on a long lunch date?
Or the inefficiency in bank operations that causes cheque book printing to take months, ATM card request 2 months, Cheque confirmation hours?
Or Is it the lunatic customer service person who inadvertently  pisses off customers that you’ve spent months wooing? 
The latter one just gets my goat. You’ve been following up this prospect Mr WYU: attended all his family wedding and christening events, bought the aso-ebi, called him every other day, texted him daily, etc etc. He finally opens an account with your bank (just to get you off his back). And you bide your time thinking soon soon. 
All the while he has only met you, or some other member of your marketing team and maybe your boss (when I say personal banking I mean it literally. We bring the bank to him, account opening forms etc for those who can’t be bothered -which is most, na you dey beg na- I fill all the forms, and just point to where he signs).

As good team members, we update other colleagues of the progress of Mr. WYU’s wooing during branch meetings.
Imagine then one fine morning, Mr. WYU wakes up on the good side of his bed and decides to come to the bank, to pick his cheque book. And surprise you. And he meets the idiotic Customer Service Officer who thinks her job function means she is ruler of all she surveys.
Mr. WYU: Hello, I came to pick the cheque book for WYU LTD. My name is Mr. WYU.
CSO: (slowly looking up from her blackberry with irritated eyes and pouting lips) What?
Mr. WYU: (repeats himself)
CSO: "Please I can’t attend to you now. Can’t you see I am busy? Come back in 2 hrs time"
And Mr WYU leaves your bank with the 20m cheque he wanted to pay in thinking ‘what kind of bank is this?’!

Sigh. Only God’s grace and the gap toothed smile of her baby boy on her desktop screen, stopped me from helping some people lose their jobs. Only that.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So you want to be a Banker (Part 1)

Whenever I tell friends about my experience as a marketer in the bank, they say, "you should write about it". Really you should. I still don’t know if I should. Well maybe some parts, cause you see, I am not ungrateful for the work experience I got. Nor am I ungrateful for the income I earned (it wasn’t that much but it was sufficient). Nor am I ungrateful for some of the wonderful people I met. But I decided after 2.5yr that a career in the bank was not for me and I quit. Took a stroke inducing pay cut and began again with my first love – public health.

How did it all start?
After my NYSC in Makurdi,  I relocated to Lagos and took up work with a Vet clinic. I have regaled you guys with my stories here and here. I really loved the work but the pay was  crazy. Unworthy of the 6 yrs I had spent acquiring my degree. Worst I started having a complex seeing my friends who worked in more corporate establishments all looking ‘suited up’ and earning 4 times my pay while I HAD to wear jeans and the ubiquitous white coat (Had to cause ‘you don’t want some happy but untrained puppy messing up your suits with dirty paws or pee; nor can you perform a surgery standing in 6 inch heels).
So against my better wishes, I applied and I got the job easy peasy. I passed their tests with flying colors. I knew my onions, I was confident and I had a spanking academic record; something I realised was quite deficient amongst my numerous fellow applicants.

Anyways, in the final interview before I got the job offer, the GMD liking-loving my vivacious can-do attitude (What can I say?! I try when I have to) gave me a marketing spiel saying ‘We are a big bank, with a large customer base. We don’t ‘market’ rather our biggest problem is how to manage ALL the customers we have and keep them loyal. I see you are intelligent and have a great rapport with people and I can envision you managing banking relationships excellently and being a good face for the bank [something like that],  so would you prefer going out to meet customers in their own turf and have a vantage view of how the bank can benefit their business or would you prefer to let them come to meet you?”

I thought of high powered business lunches, being chauffeured around in those executive bank cars, becoming a valued consultant-banker to the customers and turning their businesses around etc etc. My future glittered. So I chose to go out and meet customers and rued the minute I came out and an older staff helpfully translated all that long grammar: Customer Service or Marketing.

Fast forward to collecting my offer letter and reporting to work a week after, was I posted to a branch that has existed for 15 years and already has a strong bedrock of customers? No.
I was posted to a branch that was going to open its doors to customers for the first time in a fortnight. Zero customer base. Zero income, Zero liability and a loss of N75m in assets to pay for!!

Somebody kill me. 

To be Continued.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This is Oyiboland: Mind the Gap!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since you left Nigeria for Oyiboland, you must have heard these two magic words Safety and Health.

Not sure? Let me jog your memory:

Those bright red, yellow or blue notices on your walls, entrance or some conspicuous part of the wall in a public place with 'WARNING' and/or emergency numbers in bold and large font? Yeah those ones. You can find them in every public building, the cleaners lovingly polish it weekly and changing it in case it looks faded. This is so you have no excuse for breaking the safety and health rules.

Or can you remember that winter night when in the middle of your deep snooze, you were woken by the sound of a piercing strident alarm. You jumped out of your bed half-assed, grabbed your Intl passport and wallet and ran out into the freezing cold in your pajamas along with other disheveled housemates? Five mins after the alarm goes silent, and a cheery porter tells you ‘Sorry, we were having a fire drill’. Safety and health!

Mind the gaps! At every train stop, in some buses too, a recorded voice warns ‘Mind the gaps between the door and the ground’. You look around and wonder ‘I have eyes na’. Well, safety and health!

You have just booked a conference room for your postgraduate event, the event guy asks for the maximum number of attendees coming to the conference.. Cause you see the room can only take a maximum of 200 people sitting and standing’. Your Nigerian self looks at him remembering overcrowded churches back home, wedding reception venues and you wonder ‘Shuo which one concern you with how many people I have in a room I am paying for? If they want, they can lap themselves na.. No they can’t. Health and Safety!

I told you about our solemn walk on the streets of Durham city centre on Good Friday didnt I?. I recall telling the priest walking next to me, “In Nigeria, high school kids would have acted out the passion of Christ during the procession. Someone would have volunteered to be Jesus carrying a light cross and being flogged (lightly with newspaper or something)”. The priest looked at my innocent face and smiled, “Health and safety dear”.

They are renovating the road to the library and my department. The area being renovated is a stretch of about 100mSq. The area cordoned off with a metal fence is 400m by 400mSq foot. The walk from my house to the library which usually takes a maximum of 8mins now takes 20 mins cause of the detour. Sigh. Health and Safety.

Every public place has designated ‘Fire Exit Doors’, every bus has Fire Exit Windows. I think of Nigerian homes with their maximum security double steel doors, burglary proofs and I shudder….

I remember when I went to assist at my church’s miners’ gala, a parishioner wanted to light the barbeque and he brought out this half-litre bottle of kerosene with bright yellow label screaming  “INFLAMMABLE! HANDLE WITH CARE”. You should have seen how he was cradling it like “oh boy! This is a  dangerous dangerous thing” and he whispered to me “I am not supposed to use this, you know, safety and health”.
Now that got me laughing seriously. The use of generators, kerosene stoves and fuel makes Nigeria a health and safety hazard on a 9.5 scale!!!

Anyway, I do understand the premise of safety and health policies, “healthy work/school environment, healthy staff, improved productivity, lower worker compensation cost, reduced medical expenditure but, health and safety shouldn’t be a substitute for common sense!!

Or how do you explain this:
Or this:
Mary Ubaudi of Madison County, Ill. was a passenger in a car that got into a wreck. She put most of the blame on the deepest pocket available: Mazda Motors, who made the car she was riding in. Ubaudi demanded "in excess of $150,000" from the automaker, claiming it "failed to provide instructions regarding the safe and proper use of a seatbelt."
I concur with the commenter who said ‘I hope Mazda's attorneys make her swear in court that she has never before worn a seatbelt, has never flown on an airliner, and that she's too stupid to figure out how to fasten a seatbelt.

LOL. Got any annoying health and safety policies to share?

Have a great weekend people..or whats left of it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Being the Change You Want to See

So, so much has happened this past week. London burning, and the shame I see on Brits that the looters are letting them down. Now Africans can dare to talk about their uncivilized children too. Well...if the shoe fits??
As we were discussing the riots in the communal kitchen, I exclaimed (not with prejudice) “this madness cannot happen in Nigeria or Africa”. My South African housemate looked at me and started laughing and was like “True, The police would have shot rubber bullets at them that first day and if they persist, hmmm some batons”.
Yeah, Africa knows how to take care of children or adults who want to show themselves (misbehave). Not very lawful, respectful of their human rights and dignity but damn in this kind of madness, it does have its uses.

I only realized how worried I really was when in the middle of dinner yesterday, the spirit moved me and I just dropped my food and started praying for Durham, asking God to protect it and turn the madness away from our little city. My housemate had warned that she saw a number of young men in hoodies milling about the town centre earlier in the day. That was alarming. Nobody walks around Durham town centre in hoodies. Just happy moms and their buggies.
Durham police haven’t seen much action in the past 1 yr if not 10 yrs except a hit and run driver killing a 12yr old cat or 2 drunk guys disturbing the peace on a Friday night. No, I fear that they would not be able to cope. We have so many mom and pop shops, I prayed that these business owners didn’t become victims of wanton destruction. Well, so far nothing. Thanking God.

My girlfriend in Nigeria sent me a message ‘Ginger, better shine your eyes and target some correct designer shop in your High street. Lol.

On another level, yesterday wasn’t a too happy day for me. While I was decrying the madness going on in my host country, I happened upon a video on Nawa4u’s page straight from Nigerian hell. Somebody, a human being created by God, born of a mother, filmed the barbaric burning of 2 men somewhere in Nigeria. From the dousing with fuel to the burning. As I watched mesmerized, unable to click ‘stop’ one part of my brain was trying to convince me that those were two goats not human beings.
What was the rationale behind the video? Voyeurism? Cause the videoing murdering accomplice, filmed only the FEET OF THE MURDERERS. Justice would have been to reveal the FACE of the murderers. That way, if in some future, when this country decides to right itself, injured parties can persecute. People should not take laws into their hands and get away with it!! Our security is non-existence, the police and legal system a sham, the government doesn’t care, So? Should that make us turn on ourselves?
We can’t keep thinking like animals. We are a higher creation. We have hearts, we have brains. We are supposed to be way ahead of animals yet even animals show more mercy to each other. Watch national geographic if you doubt me.

To add salt to injury, I went to TNotes page and there was the video of 3 lesbians being brutalized, raped and sodomised by some animals men. I had heard about that video. I couldn’t click play. I had cried enough over Nigeria for one day.

I am no preacher but I am talking to YOU reading this, YOU can make a difference. YOU can be your brother’s keeper. YOU can say stop, even if you are in the middle of mad people. We can’t keep living in fear, minding our business.
NIL put up a video about the East London woman who was standing on the streets roundly condemning the looters. Why do you think that video is ‘going viral’? She didn’t stop anyone physically, but she let her voice be heard. That is action. That is bravery. It may seem like ‘a little’ but I can assure you that one or two looters listened and because of her words stopped and went home. That is power. Don’t doubt your power.

I remember one evening in 2003, I was in a danfo bus heading to Dugbe from school (UI). This passenger had an altercation with a policeman over a seat. I can’t recall the exact problem but trust me the policeman had pulled unholy rank which needled the young man. He reproached the policeman reminding him that he was supposed to be an upholder of law. The Policeman was unable to defend his actions and was mumbling his response till the bus approached Sango police station. Then he galvanized into action. His voice became loud and challenging ‘you dare to speak to a policeman rudely, you will see’. He grabbed the young man by the collar, commanding the driver to stop in front of the station. He managed to drag the young man off and the bus driver made to drive off, I was sitting behind him and pulled him sharply on the shirt. I said ‘Driver, we are not going anywhere. We are not leaving that young man behind’.
I was in tee shirt and jeans. Obviously young. Obviously a student. Yet 4 other passengers got up and said ‘She is right. We can’t leave that young man behind to his fate. That policeman was wrong’. The driver had no choice and 13 of us walked into the station.
The DPO noticing the crowd came to ask what was wrong. We explained to him and he sent someone to fetch the police guy and the passenger (they had already taken him to a different part of the station to beat him up). He reprimanded his police officer, apologized and told us to go.

Some of you may think that was a fluke. A miracle. Then believe that more miracles can happen.
Some of you may think that young man was mad, stupid. But I repeat, ‘we can’t keep living in fear’.

That day, I learnt that I had power. That I could make a difference. We all can.
You too can say don’t burn that human being. Let us take him to the police instead
You too can say, ‘don’t beat that boy Police, he did no wrong’
You too can refuse to give that N20/100/200 bribe
You too can say Mother , why are you beating that son so hard, I know he did wrong but there are other ways’
You have to be the change you want to see.

I listened to a commencement speech by Obama to Northwestern University in 2006 when he was still senator. Beautiful speech as always but what struck me especially was when he said that this generation has lost empathy. We don’t feel anymore. ‘It’s not my business’, ‘He deserves it’, ‘He dug his own grave’ etc.
Me, I have a very sensitive conscience. I want to look into the mirror when I come home at night and say ‘I loved my neighbor today’. ‘I cared in spite of the cost‘.
I am not asking for martyrs but your willingness to speak out is sometimes the spark others in the crowd need to help. At other times you may be the lone voice in the wilderness. Embrace the opportunity.
You have to be the change you want to see.


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