Different Strokes, Different Banks and Covid-19  



By Rarzack Olaegbe

Meanwhile, one of them told me, the office environment is not productive. It distracts. There are needless meetings. A meeting that should close in one hour is stretched to four or five hours. These meetings, most times, do not have clear goals. Besides, there are unnecessary telephone calls. You would receive disturbing-but-can-wait emails.

Covid-19 is still around. Don’t be deceived. You may not immediately feel the adverse impact of this virus. You may think that the virus is innocuous. That you have been vaccinated, as such, you can live as you desire. Hold on. If you have not experienced the damaging impact of the virus, be careful.  That has not explained the fact that the virus is harmless.

Some businesses are cutting their losses. Others are counting their damages. For instance, Malaysia has recently exited another lockdown.  is on the verge of opening its border to visitors. A friend who lives in Malaysia said you need a police permit to live in your area. Besides, your itinerary has to be very important. Otherwise, you would not be permitted to leave your area.

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Aside from the restriction, the covid-19 has placed on individuals, some businesses and banking around the world over have felt the impact the most. On the flipside, Fintech has been the beneficiary of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. While some of the banks are closing shops, fintech start-ups are opening up. As the banks are retrenching staff, fintech start-ups are beefing up recruitment. Some of my friends worked in the technology backroom of two members of FUGAZ.

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FUGAZ is First Bank, UBA, GTB, Access Bank, and Zenith Bank. All of them have left the banks. They have joined some micro-lending fintech firms. Some are in dialogue with angle investors. Others are in a beta stage. Some have joined Fairmoney, a micro-lending fintech firm.

These are the reasons: Covid-19 protocol of maintaining social distance has compelled the techies to work from home. Staying at home is an impetus to work longer hours. While they are hole up in their various bedrooms, they are cocooned away from distractions. They are efficient. They are effective. They are responsive. But the bank’s management would not tolerate a remote work schedule. The bank wants the techies in the office on Monday through Saturday. And most times, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, one of them told me, the office environment is not productive. It distracts. There are needless meetings. A meeting that should close in one hour is stretched to four or five hours. These meetings, most times, do not have clear goals. Besides, there are unnecessary telephone calls. You would receive disturbing-but-can-wait emails. These are disruptions for the techies. This is so because the banks do not give the technology team the required space and man-hour to sweat the banking platform before it is launched.

At the end, the bank customers are unsatisfied. There are downtimes. Glitches occurred. Followed by the blame game. The bank’s management would blame the product owner. She would blame the head of technology. He would shift the blame to the techies. The techies would take the punch. In the shin calmly. They would nurse their injuries. They would bury their heads in shame. Their collective ego is bruised. Their morale is punctured. The project suffers. A project that should have ordinarily taken six weeks to implement and launch, would take six months. And the cycle continues.

These are the reasons some of them left the banks. Now, they are working remotely for different Fintech firms. The bank losses. Fintech gains. This is not about to stop. For as long as the covid-19 virus remains, the remote work culture would persist. The banks would not relent. The staff would be adamant. And the cycle continues. You can say it is different strokes for different banks.

 On the one hand

The effect of the covid-19 pandemic on people’s banking and shopping habits has accelerated bank closure in the UK. To ensure social distancing and less commute, more consumers are transacting businesses online. For instance, TSB plans to close 70 bank branches this year. About 150 staff could be sacked. TSB will have 220 sites left across the UK. The bank’s loss is Fintech gains. As more bank customers move online, micro-lending and digital banking are the sure way to go. Digital banking makes life easy for customers. It is less stressful for the banks. Each party is happy.

TSB bank said the latest closures are in response to declining branch use and more customers using digital services. The closures, which will take place between April and June 2022, will result in 150 job cuts. Those staff will be offered alternative roles at the company. TSB’s latest announcement comes after it announced a round of closure in 2021 when it shut 164 branches – or a third of its sites. In November 2019 it shut down 82 bank branches as part of its closure program.

TSB’s chief customer officer Robin Bulloch said: “Closing branches is an incredibly difficult decision to take, but we have to respond to the changes in the way people bank and provide the right mix of services for all our customers now and into the future.

TSB isn’t the only UK banking chain closing branches. Other companies are also reducing their high street presence as more bank customers switch to online banking. Lloyd’s and Halifax will close 48 sites. These two banks have already announced 100 closures in 2021.

On the other hand

As it is in the UK so it is in Nigeria. The International Monetary Fund report said that Nigeria’s banks closed 234 branches and 649 ATMs in 2020. This was due to the decline in the number of commercial bank branches in Nigeria. The number was 5,158 in 2020. In 2019 it was 5,392. More bank branches would be shut in 2022. Why? The exorbitant cost of raising bank branches. High overhead cost. Lower maintenance cost of digital platform. The emergence of ultra-responsive Fintech firms. Covid-19. While the pandemic has thrown many balls in the air, only one ball will defy gravity.

Please, which ball will it be?

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Bigmummy, you should have guessed.

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Tell me.

It is technology.

Anything you do, if it is technology-driven, it will defy gravity. You know, now that many bank customers have discovered the allure of the Fintech platforms, returning to the past is in the past. This culture will remain so for as long as Covid-19 is still around.


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