Banks give condoms to ladies to lure male clients to bring in deposits – Ex-banker
By BIMBO OYESOLA, UCHE USIM, ADEWALE SANYAOLU and BLAISE UDUNZE
AGNES Esosa works in the marketing unit of a popular commercial bank and was given a N500m target in 2015. Coincidentally, that was the same year she was to wed, so she was caught in a web of confusion as she ran around for two important projects.
One of the projects was the struggle to meet her target and retain her job and the other, a nice wedding to fulfil a lifetime dream.
The lady weeps every morning, for several reasons including how to maintain a tough balance; dodging men’s laps while squeezing some deposits off them, yet remaining faithful to her fiancee.
When she spoke with Saturday Sun on phone a few days ago, she had this to say: “I’m on probation at work as I speak with you because I didn’t meet my target and the marriage didn’t work. That’s even the worst thing. My fiancee complained bitterly that I never had time for him even during weekends. This is because I must chase one depositor or the other and when they fix weekend appointments, who am I to reject them? I’m the first of six children and the breadwinner of the family after the death of my father and a poor mum. I tried my best. Some men would even insult you.”
On the frequent demand for sex by prospective depositors, she said “Imagine a man demanding to sleep with you as the only condition before obliging your request to open an account with your bank as if the money is mine. The bank even told me to resign about two weeks before my fiancee ended our relationship, but some people pleaded for my retention. That was in January. So, I’m one leg in, one leg out. Women are endangered species in Nigeria and I really don’t know when this would end.”
Unfortunately, that is Nigeria’s version of 21st century banking where the traditional banking ideals have been overtaken by insatiable appetite for deposits which has also put immense pressure on staff, especially the women; who are now largely seen as corporate prostitutes.
Until the fall of the 1990s, the dream of several young school leavers was to work in the banks since the oil sector was seen as the exclusive preserve of influential Nigerians.
In those days, an average graduate undergoing the mandatory National Youth Service saw banks as good place to work and even as they prepare toward writing the necessary examinations that would land them the plum job.
The attractions then, which included fat salaries, housing/furniture loans and free medical care made the bank jobs almost irresistible. Bankers too knew how to flaunt their jobs through their well-tailored suits, shining shoes and trendy cars which made them the envy of many.
Today, after over 10 years, the glamour seems to be fading slowly leaving many of them to ask, what went wrong? Experts and ex-bankers heap the blame on a lot of factors including dwindling economy, casualisation, desperate search for deposits, unhealthy competition among the banks, army of jobless youths among others.
However, one of the reasons the banking profession appear to have lost its glamour according to some experts is the numerous abuses that some managers have brought into the practice.
Ogbonnaya Nwosu, a former bank executive blamed the declining status of the industry on the emmergen ce of new generation banks in the 90s which according to him, changed the banking landscape.
“A bank like Standard Trust, now UBA was a game changer. It was one of the new generation banks that brought some new innovations into the sector but changed a lot of things also. The traditional ones like Union Bank, First Bank, Bank of the North and all that, were not as aggressive as the new generation banks in terms of their desperation for deposits.
“The old first generation banks maintain the sanctity of banking unlike their new generation counterparts’ insatiable appetite for deposits which has since reduced bankers to corporate beggars. It’s no longer news that female marketers are now veiled prostitutes who hustle everywhere in search of deposits. Many marriages have been destroyed as the new generation banks have changed everything. Throughout my 35-year in the industry, there was nothing like marketing executives runing around for deposits. Bankers were respected. In fact, they were worshipped I dare say. Everyone wanted to become a banker. Today, I don’t want my last daughter to become a banker. I can’t stand the fright. The finer you are, the more likely you’ll be thrown into the dreaded marketing unit with unrealistic deposit targets. I don’t wish that for my enemy, let alone my daughter”, he said.
When Saturday Sun visited the electronic section at the popular Alaba International Market in Lagos last Friday, three female bankers from one of the new generation banks were spotted dancing skelewu before an importer, all in a bid to make him open an account with their bank. One of them who identified herself as Rose told Saturday Sun that dancing for the importer and his boys was much easier than being harrassed sexually.
“My brother, this bank work is something you’ll do because there is no job out there anymore. Every man wants to sleep with you before giving you as little as N10,000 deposit. No man wants to deal with you decently and professionally. It’s that bad. If you refuse, a thousand and one girls are ready to take such deposit because in today’s banking, every kobo counts. The bank management knew there are thousands of jobless graduates and it’s soldier go, soldier come thing”, she lamented.
Another worrisome trend that has made banking profession lose its attraction is the degrading practicecalled casualisation.
According to Remi Oladunjoye, a banker with one of the newly-merged banks, most of the staffers in the banking halls and some other units are contract/casual workers as some banks don’t want their workers unionised under any guise.
“These bank managements prefer National Diploma holders to university degree holders.They register firms for consultancy services and outsource some jobs to them. These guys now bring in ND holders as causal staffers. Only some intakes with university degrees are staffed. So, the two categories of staffers have different career paths and as such different pay packets. Banks prefer the ND holders or casual staff because they are cheaper for them pay. They are not entitled to a lot of things and they are okay for the banks since there are no jobs out there. So, with a good number of staff being contract workers, and earning slashed emoluments, the allure of job is gone”, he said.
Meanwhile, some financial experts are of the view that the banking sector has lost its focus having been distracted by the search for deposits from customers without serious commitment to core business of financial intermediation for national economic growth .
This is more so as dwindling economy and the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has dealt a hard blow on banks having been prematurely weaned from government’s liquidity breasts.
Many banks are being forced to think outside the box to remain afloat and not relying on deposits from government’s ministries, departments and agencies. These developments have also created such other challenges as unhealthy competition among banks now putting immense pressure on staff and management.
For many who sadly had taking to banking as a profession, it has been lamentations and stories of regrets and unfulfilled dreams.
Confirming the trend in the sector to Saturday Sun, an ex-banker, Nze Wilfred Nwachukwu, said “I was a victim of this wicked and exploitative act in 2012 after putting in three-year of service and I was retrenched without any benefit of pre-information. I was only sent off the job without genuine reason.”
He explained that in December 2012, more than 500 outsourced staff including himself were retrenched through SMS without any benefits from the bank.
“The current practice now is recruiting people without employment letter as outsourced staff and at the end send them off after using them to achieve their objectives. Contract staffers in most banks don’t have leave, allowances or medical capitation but render the same service with those who are staffed.
“The outsourced staffers are being used as cheap labour and sacrificed at any time without due process. The ugly side of this is that they are the ones that perform the ‘heart of the job’ while most of the top shots relax and earn fat salary.
“It is so pathetic that people will be indiscriminately retrenched all because they are contract staff or ‘restructuring’ which is the dubious term banks use,” he stated.
He called on Nigerian Labour Congress to urgently look into the issue of downsizing in the banking industry and other employers of labour.
A staff of another highly rated new generation bank that just announced the downsizing of its staff with the claim of shoring up performance, opening opportunities for new hands and enhancing service delivery, who simply gave his name as Kingsley said, “I got my letter of disengagement on a Wednesday, I was devastated, but at the same time I knew it will get to this point, because most of the commercial banks in Nigeria hold very fat accounts of government agencies and ministries that run into billions of naira.
“Some of these funds are not withdrawn for six months or even more and banks trade with them and make profits. So, once you shut that angle of business, certainly, the banks will bleed. So, if, other people are not expecting sacks, then they must be day dreaming”.
A worker with another bank, who proffered anonymity, said that the Nigerian economic policies right now is directly or indirectly affecting every sector.
According to him, with the implementation of TSA, removal of CoT and the restrictions on foreign currency transactions, banks no longer make enough profit thereby making them to resort to downsizing.
“Secondly, the incidence of outsourcing in the banking industry cannot be over emphasised in the recent times. This is done so as to reduce the cost of doing business, however, the issue of the employee welfare varies from bank to bank but people have not got much choice but to endure it because of the unemployment problem in the system,” the source said.
Another bank executive in one of the tier-2 banks confirmed to Saturday Sun that plans are ongoing to downsize for the reason of restructuring the bank for better performances.
The source stated further that most of the staff to be laid off are those on temporary appointments. He said, “The problem is that, if you lay off permanent staff at once, you also have to pay them all their entitlements otherwise they will take you to court. Yes, majority of the people we truly do not need are unfortunately the permanent staff, but because of the confusion and litigation that will follow, we decided to sack those with temporary appointments. It was a painful decision, but we have to do it in order to save the bank.
“The bank is planning to prepare their disengagement letters and most of them will be communicated soon. I tell you, not only here, all the banks will follow this line. That is the situation”.
For Thomas Ayeni, who had a dream to work in a bank ever since he was in the high school, it was a long wait of about five years after graduation before his dream could be fulfilled. During the waiting period he took appointment as a teacher, and eventually, one of his uncles, who equally worked in a bank provided the link for him. It was indeed a dream come true as he worked in the logistic department of one of the old generation banks then. He was paid a good salary and lived in a standard apartment, which he could not afford as a teacher.
It was all a good story as he moved up the ladder. But a twist came to his upmobile and secured world in 2004, when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) came up with the policy to prune the existing 89 banks in the country to 25. This brought a lot of challenges to the banks coupled with the N25 billion capitalisation target.
The banks had to devise several ways to survive. Though his bank survived and he likewise was lucky to be counted among the last men standing after a huge rationalisation that shook the industry. But since then, it has never been business as usual. Things have really fallen apart with lots of undue pressure.
When the heat was too much, he sought a way out. He discovered that some of his colleagues who had left the sector in the heat of the merger had sought greener pastures abroad. He contacted them and he eventually joined the bandwagon. Though he had been able to move his family with him, but he was not happy with the job he does, which is a way apart from his career line. But his case as he said, “ it’s that of a bird in hand, I have no choice now than to take what I have . If I have my way I won’t hesitate to return home, but even the present economic situation in the country has further put us all in a tight corner.”
If Ayeni, an ex-bank worker, was disillusioned, Mofe Ajani, (not real name), a much younger banker still in the system is presently devastated. Ajani, an HND holder joined his bank in 2008, but he was employed with his ND certificate, and from 2008 to 2015, he has never been promoted and still remains on the same salary he earned when he joined the bank eight years ago.
According to him, the practice in most of the banks was to employ ND holders as tellers, whom they will pay poorly as against the university graduate.
To say that he is frustrated is an understatement as he said he could not wait to get out of the system. He said, “I had high hopes of working in the bank after bagging a degree in accountancy. I was told I could only be employed with my ND certificate, I didn’t really mind, because I thought things would be normalised later. But I was wrong, as I’ve been on the same salary now for eight years, no promotion and even the new staff just coming into the bank, earn the same salary as those of us who have spent these long years. The implication is that even if we spend 15 years, we will still be on the same salary, as we have some of our colleagues who have spent up to those years earning the same salary.”
Speaking on why banking job is no longer attractive to him, Ayeni said there is no job security in addition to lack of promotion.
“There is no job security, which is the most important thing for an employee. You can go to the office in the morning and get booted out in the evening. You will only be directed to report at the headquarters and before you return, you are off the system. There is a case of a senior manager who was just employed and because he said he could not work with some top managers, those managers were asked to go, just like that.
“We also have unrealistic target to meet, most especially those in the marketing department and failure to do that means end of the job. The female workers are more stressed. In the banking job, you resume at 7.30am, but there is no closing time. Though the bank closes to customers at 4.00 pm, and we are mandated to leave the premises by 6pm, but that is only official, as most often,we have to reconcile our books and may have to attend meetings at other branches. At the end of the day, we may not get home until midnight, it is abysmal for a married woman who leaves home by 6.a.m and gets home 12 midnight.
”Our appraisal module is equally unrealistic, it is done twice in a year, and you are expected to score above 80 percent, withunrealistic, it is done twice in a year, and you out no record of query, for those in marketing if they fulfill this, they will be promoted in a year, for those of us in the operation it is two years of four appraisals. The target is so stringent that it’s been very difficult for us to meet.”
On the qualification, Ayeni said those who came in with ND were often advised to update their certificates for conversion, but lamented that even after doing that, the management failed to promote them.
“It is unfortunate, we train the new hands and still get paid the same salary. The management employs graduate now on contract as customer relations officers with lesser salary, everyday the job gets lesser and lesser attractive”, he lamented.
Ayeni said the unfortunate thing is that bankers, due to the nature of their jobs are often cut off from the society. “Practically, a banker after leaving the job finds it difficult to fit into the society. We hardly have any social life, leave the house as early as 6 in the morning and get back late in the night, Saturday, we go to work to attend to the ATM and on Sunday, there may be some meetings to attend, so by the time you retire, you will find out that there is nobody to relate with, and all these with nothing to show for as retirement benefits, unless you belong to the top management.”
Labour unions react
Former General Secretary of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Peter Obukese Orere, traced the problem to 2004, when the CBN decided to reduce banks from 89 to 25 for more effectiveness and liquidation. He recalled that this was followed with merger and acquisition as banks struggled to meet the N25 billion capitalization set by the apex bank.
He said, “The result of this was that we see banks looking frantically for deposits. Therefore, they threw caution to the wind and devised all means to meet the CBN’s target. The banks, most especially the new generation banks went all the way out to employ young girls to get deposits. There were times banks gave condoms to ladies to go about looking for new clients to bring in deposits, it’s as bad as that.”
Orere recalled one of the sordid cases the union had to intervene before the lady banker’s job was saved.
“ There was a pathetic case where a rich client specifically called a bank manager to send a female banker to his hotel room in Sheraton if ever the bank would get his deposit. The manager called the lady who had just delivered a baby to report at the hotel or else she would lose her job. The lady went to the hotel, with her baby and the husband, but equally reported to us. It was the union that saved the situation, there were several cases like that. Though the banks often denied the cases, but we got those reports on daily basis.
Orere said the merger period was the worst in the history of banking in Nigeria, adding that the banking institution never recovered from that damage.
“Though as unions we protested, but the then CBN Governor assured us that job would not be lost, but rather more branches would be created, but the opposite was what we got, with more of our members losing their jobs without adequate severance packages.
The CBN had instructed the banks to pay the workers ten years exit packages, but some only paid five, while others refused to pay anything at all. So the society loses interest in banking jobs, and it becomes less attractive.”
He explained that technology in form of ATM and others further worsen the situation, as banks now need to employ less hands to attend to customers.
The new TSA, he believed may further spell more doom for the industry and may force most of the existing banks to return to the old ways of attracting depositors.
The Vice President of ASSBIFI, Amina Danesi, in her candid opinion believed that the banking industry was losing the attraction primarily due to the unrealistic target given to the workers.
She noted that banking industry is naturally supposed to mediate between those who have surplus and the destitute, but lamented that the capitalists of this world have no satisfaction with what they have and the undue rivalry among the banks has further destroyed the tenets of the industry.
“The quality of people running the industry now is questionable in terms of morals and etiquette. There is need for us to return to the old ways to understand the code of ethics in the sector”, she said.
She said that due to the unrealistic target, a lot of damage had been done, both to the industry and the employees.
She stated that many homes have been broken while people now see female bankers in the marketing department as prostitutes.
She also recalled a story where a senior manager who did not care how her subordinates meet their targets lost her marriage to one of the ladies she sent out to get deposits under any means.
According to her, “The Senior manager put undue pressure on the young lady to get her deposit, telling her she cared less how she gets it, in spite of the fact that the lady told her that she knew nobody. When the pressure became unbearable, the young banker by providence, was introduced to a big man, who turned out to be the husband of her boss, the man fell in love with the young banker and eventually divorced his wife, the lady’s superior and married the young banker.”
Danesi said the trauma that most of the ladies used for marketing and unrealistic target suffered was enormous and unbearable, which include physical, psychological and social.
“With most of the female bankers in the marketing being looked down upon as prostitutes, it may affect good hands from coming into the industry”, she warned.
She however said that the unions in the industry have been doing a lot of sensitisaton and encouraging workers on the need to know their rights and appropriately fight for their rights.
“For those who have courage to come to the unions, we have been there for them, but some people prefer to suffer in silence, a lot of them enter without understanding their rights.
“Capitalists of today will suppress people and forbid them from crying out. There was a case of sexual harassment from a top executive against a junior staff. The union was informed, after a thorough investigation, the bank executive was forced to resign.”
On the TSA, the labour leader said it ought not to have any negative impact on any bank who knows its onions and very professional.
“Banks did not start with getting government money. It’s just a fraction of our earnings. Those relying on TSA are lazy, if we move to market we will get more. You will marvel how much a bank can get from a market like Idumota and other markets all over the country. I think it is time to think outside the box. It is time for banks to go out and see how we can support the real sector, the manufacturing sector. How much is bank putting into agric, we need to develop products that will make farmers able to repay their loans.”
Saturday Sun findings also showed that banking jobs have become less attractive because of measures impairing on the profitability and operations of the sector, which include the recent implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the complete phasing out of Commission on Turnover (CoT), foreign exchange challenge and other previous regulatory headwinds of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Another disturbing finding revealed that job seekers and those in the system today no longer consider banking employment as a plum job because of the exploitation and enslavement of workers as most financial institutions are fully involved in outsourcing a number of job functions, a development that has seen some of them transfer a significant number of their employees to third-party companies. The recent practice in the sector see these recruiting firms engaging workers known as ‘contract staff’ without letters of engagement; denied of all substantial benefits accrued to workers as specified by labour law and could be sacked at will. Also, the syndrome of corporate prostitution has taken toll on the lives of mostly women in the banking sector. Some banks are crossing the line when it comes to, professionalism, ethics and securing the rights of every employee in their their bid to grow deposit base for profitability. In order to attract the big shots to invest with such banks, female workers are let loose as bait and tagged “marketers.” Thus, the female bankers have turned to prostitution by condition and not by choice. The toll this ugly “flesh trade” has taken on the private lives of those concerned, the self worth of the persons concerned and by extension, the entire moral status and image of the nation is quite great and it makes the issue a national tragedy.
They have to convince the wealthy men to save millions with them by whatever means they can. The big men often ask to sleep with such ladies in return, so as to seal the deal. Failure for such a lady to meet up her exorbitant annual target would require the immediate termination of her job.
In his submission, a former Corporate Affairs Manager of Afribank, Mr. Lanre Alabi, maintained that banking is still a dream job in terms of prestige, pay, opportunities for growth, and continued relevance in the scheme of things.
“It pays well and it gives the right challenges. Note that there are three commodities that can never be in short demand. They are food, money and health products. As long as people will continue to need money, they will continue to need the services of banks,’’ he said.
Alabi, who is now the Lead Consultant at Prospers Strategy and Marketing Communications Limited, argued that banks are not in isolation of the economy because government policies dictate the direction of the economy, adding that as the economy changes direction, the structure and business portfolio of banks equally change, leading to strategic realignments in human capital.
He maintained that in the 70s-80s, when armchair banking was the order of the day, there was no need for bank marketers.
Comparing modern day banking with what obtained in the 70s-80s, Alabi said today’s bankers survive by observing the trends of the movement of funds especially in emerging businesses.
‘‘They innovate and create services that best suit the needs of customers. Not many people go to the banking hall these days. They need to ask themselves how do you reach out to someone you don’t see or may not likely see? They need to be able to device creative methods of reaching out to the customer to create value that improves the customer, not diminish him,’’ the ex-banker noted.
According to him, marketing came to the front burner in the 90s to the present, stressing that as long as there is competition, marketing will continue to be on the front burner and the dynamics will continue to change.
‘’Every job has its own peculiarities in terms of time, challenges, and expectations. For the banks, it is even more interesting in terms of prestige and reward. A permanent secretary in a state earns N450,000 a month while a manager with 10 times more tasks earns much more than that. In banks, the reward is commensurate with the work you are given. Bank workers get targets and are constantly challenged to create, innovate and achieve results. These may be stressful but the pay is worth the stress,’’ he noted.
Alabi stated that the economy is readjusting to current realities because the government believes that a good starting point is to curb corruption, eliminate wastages, stop rent seekers on their tracks and stimulate investment in the real sector, adding that for every policy, new opportunities emerge.
‘‘Where there are opportunities, there are banks. Every entrepreneur needs money to actualise his vision. This is what banks provide. Banks on their own are innovating and expanding their scope of businesses.
They are recruiting new staff to help them actualise their new goals while at the same time letting off others whose services are no longer required due to realignment of their business operations.’’