Special Report: Inside the World of Low-profile Bank Workers

By Ali Smart

ALI SMART in this report captures the agonies of university and polytechnic  graduates working as bank tellers, cashiers, clerks, office assistants, etc., who scrape by on paychecks a little above the national minimum wage

THERE is a high turnover of staff in the banks. Unlike in the immediate past, banking jobs no longer offer the kind of attraction that would make prospective employees want to stay on the job to build an otherwise promising and successful career. This is especially so for low-profile bank workers, including tellers, cashiers, clerks, office assistants, tea boys/girls, drivers, dispatch riders, etc., most of who form the very junior cadre.

The devil is in the details

Independent checks by Rovingnaija.com revealed that there is a trend across the banking sector where you find that the low profile workers like tellers, cashiers, clerks and others do not progress like their counterparts who are full-time staff with most of them with no prospect after ten years they go without any benefit.

Investigation by Rovingnaija revealed that an air of uncertainty permeates these categories of workers such that they have no qualms at all about taking any risk whatsoever so long as it can guarantee them the desired reward.

INVESTIGATION by Rovingnaija shows that low cadre bank jobs are readily available compared to senior positions but then the reward for such jobs are hardly ever enticing to get willing employees.

Although the minimum entry requirements for bank cashiers in some banks is a national diploma, most applicants applying for such jobs are usually university or polytechnic graduates, who out of desperation for jobs are willing to accept anything including pay cuts. Most of these tellers when they get into the system do so with the false hope of becoming fully integrated into the system.

According to a source in one of the banks, the maximum a graduate (temporary staff) collects as salary is N50,000, while some of the permanent staff, who don’t work as much as the temporary staff, earn as much as N100,000.

An insider’s sad tale

THE story of Kehinde Afolabi, a graduate of Accounting from the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, captures the trauma and anguish being experienced daily by this category of underpaid, unmotivated bank staff that have come to accept suffering as a metaphor of existence.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Rovingnaija, Afolabi, who joined the employ of GTB in March 2013 as a temporary staff was recruited through Integrated Corporate Services Limited, an outsourcing firm in Ilupeju, Lagos, after successfully completing several written and oral tests administered by the recruitment agency.

When he received his temporary employment letter as a staff on three months’ probation with total monthly package of N58, 000 he gladly jumped at the offer and considered himself lucky as many of his contemporaries were yet to get any form of employment almost three years after undergoing the compulsory National Youths Service scheme.

But seven years down the line nothing has changed in his circumstances, career-wise especially.

“The company started me with N58, 000 in my first year. After two years my salary was increased to N83, 000 then after three years it rose to N94,000 as final increment. I have not had any more increment again ever since. I’m counting another three years when I would have stayed for 10 years after which I would be asked to go. The job security is not there.”

“I joined the bank as a contract staff alright but with assurance that my employment would be regularised in a matter of two years if I apply myself on the job in terms of good performance,” he began. “But I’m almost in my seven years now, the prospect of getting full employment is not still certain.”

For a family man with four mouths to feed, aged parents, with siblings, his paycheck is hardly enough.   As a temporary staff, one of the first challenges he had to contend with was how to get to work from Ota, an uptown district in Ogun State to the Lagos Island on a daily basis and resume at his desk before 7:30am.

It was a tough job indeed because there were quite a few times he got to work late and that earned some memos which are in form of queries, he recalled.

But after saving up for two and half years he was able to rent a house on Lagos mainland to enable him resume early at work and perhaps be in the good books of his bosses in order to be considered for promotion. But that has remained a pipedream.

“From my experience, applicants with B.Sc. stand a chance of getting full employment compared to their counterparts from the polytechnics. When I came in as a fresh recruit over 15 of us got temporary employment with majority of us from the polytechnics and about six from the universities. Of the 15 of us who came in only two were given full employment and these were university graduates.”

“When I started working in 2013, I was able to manage my salary then since I wasn’t yet married. But today, it’s almost difficult surviving on my meager income if you consider all the expenses I have to incur on a daily basis,” he said with a tone of regret.

For the meager income they work their bones up and even do overtime with no extra perks.

Given a choice Afolabi is willing to throw in the towel anytime soon because as he said, there is no future for him in the banking sector.

“I’m seriously considering leaving the banking job this December. I think I have had enough,” he said with a tone of finality.

Tales of woes

AFOLABI is not alone. For many of these categories of workers, they suffer a lot of privations more than they are willing to admit.

Speaking with a cross-section of staff of other new generation banks, they all shared similar sad tales.

Esther Okechukwu, 34plus was recruited by an agency as a cashier in one of the branch offices of the then Diamond Bank now Access Bank Plc, where she worked from mid-2014 to late 2018.

Miss Okechukwu, a Banking and Finance graduate from the Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, was employed as a contract staff. She put in over 13 hours every working day including Saturdays but was however forced out of the job because of the negligence of her supervisor, who made her carry the can when a bank transaction went wrong.

“When I joined the company, I got assurances that if I’m able to prove my worth and mettle, I would be in mainstream job. I therefore worked my bones every other day just to make sure I got the big break. But sadly, it never came.”

Pressed further, she said, if place of reward, she received gratuitous insults both from haughty customers, unappreciative bosses.

“The woman who was my supervisor practically forced mew out of the job. Apart from making me do her tasks, she connived with her contemporaries who are on permanent employ of the bank to instigate my summary dismissal when a transaction went wrong. I not only got sacked but was made to forfeit almost seven month’s salary to cover for an infraction I know nothing about,” she lamented.

Hard work not a guarantee

Unlike the case of Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, the Minister of State for Labour, who in 1974 as a messenger at Balogun Ayinfalu Badejo & Co, an audit firm, rose through the ranks to become the Managing Partner/Chief Executive Officer of the same firm in a record 16 years, not many are that lucky. 

Findings by Rovingnaija revealed that most of the recruitment firms who recruit for banks, including ICS Outsourcing Limited,owned by Fola Adeola, co-founder of GTB, Michael Stevens, Phillips Consulting, People Temp Recruiting, hardly guarantee job security for prospective employees. More often than not, most of the agencies offer temporary placement.

When our correspondent visited ICS website, we found that there were over 200 vacancies alone for low cadre staff compared to other senior positions, a development which pointed to the fact that banks the categories of workers were in demand.

Rising concern by stakeholders

STAKEHOLDERS within the banking sphere have continued to raise concerns over casualisation within the sector.

Firing the first salvo, Mrs. Oyinkansola Olasanoye, National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) lamented that her union is really concerned about the plight of these categories of workers.  

“Yes we are concerned about that. We are actually working out something with the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to look at the regulations too in respect to that. I believe before the year runs out, something will be achieved even if they don’t belong to the union but working under banking and even Central Bank of Nigeria towards a unified status. Even the Nigeria Employers’​ Consultative Association (NECA) the body representing employers is working out a comprehensive, collective bargaining programme that would ensure reasonable paychecks for these categories of workers because if they are part of the union and knows their right, they wouldn’t be experiencing all manner of such. Rather than making nose, we are working towards such regulation and proper legal framework within this collective framework that gives us right on the worker to be able to change the template.”

Junior cadre workers linked to fraud

FROM available information, majority of these junior cadre workers have reportedly been linked to fraud within the banking sector in recent times.

According to the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), the banking industry lost the sum of N12.30 billion to various frauds between 2014 and 2017. Mr. Adebisi Shonubi, Managing Director, NIBBS, disclosed this at the third Annual Banking Security Summit organised by MAXUT Consulting in partnership with OneSpan, a global data security company in Lagos.

Shonubi said the figure was lost in 41,461 fraud cases between 2014 and 2017. Specifically, he noted that 2014 fraud volume stood at 1,461, 10,743 (2015), 19,531 in 2016 and 25,043 in 2017.

Speaking on “Industry fraud overview with focus on mobile & payments related frauds,” Shonubi said the industry lost N6.22 billion in 2014 on attempted fraud value of N7.76 billion.

Shonubi who was represented by Mr Olufemi Fadairo, Head, Industry Security Services, said the sum of N2.26 billion was lost in 2015 on attempted fraud value of N4.37 billion in 2015. According to him, the industry lost the sum of N2.19 billion in 2016 on attempted fraud value of N4.37 billion.

Shonubi said gender fraud analysis during the period showed males accounted for 73 per cent, while females accounted for 23 per cent.

He said more fraud cases were reported in 2017, with an increase of 28 per cent compared with 2016 but with less financial loss.

On fraud channel, Shonubi said the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) accounted for the highest fraud in 2017 with an actual loss of N497.64 million with a fraud volume of 9,823.

According to him, mobile trailed with N347.65 million loss on 5,055 fraud volume, while across the counter transactions accounted for N259. 02 million loss in 314 fraud volume.

SHARING his experience, Afolabi, recalled that few years ago, a staff of GTB, who was on temporary employment made away with over N9million without any trace.

According to him, the fellow planned what was considered a major heist in the branch without the knowledge of eagle-eye supervisors.

“The money he took was in dollars but when converted it was close to N9 million. He ran away with it without any trace. What happened is that he already perfected his travelling papers because that night he has prepared everything he want to go with and that’s how he ran away and when they went to arrest his wife she said she knows nothing about it and they later freed his wife. But I don’t know how they ended the case. Since then, we have not had any issue of theft within my branch,” he recalled.

To prevent such eventualities, Rovingnaija learnt that one of the security required before majority of the low cadre staff are employed these days is to get guarantors and sureties who are made to sign stringent agreements.

But given the perpetual sufferings and ill-will that most of these sets of job attract not many are willing to take such risk, at least not any more.

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Olusegun Fayose

Olusegun Sunday Fayose, founder of RovingNaija.com is a Marketing Communication executive with experience in Corporate Communication, Public Relations, Branding and Advertising. He is also a seasoned media professional with roots in print, broadcast and online journalism. Segun, who last managed the Group Corporate Communication function of MultiChoice Nigeria, is upbeat that through responsible, fair, accurate and courageous reporting; and the support of readers, followers and patrons, Nigeria takes a step closer to a regime of accountability, fairness and equity in governance.

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