Technology has no doubt changed the face of banking. Most young and upwardly mobile customers appreciate the numerous electronic banking platforms that bring banking to their mobile phones while easing banking services. Banks like the way electronic banking allows them to offer more services at reduced cost while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) champions it for its ability to deepen financial inclusion.
However, not everyone likes electronic banking. Bankers are nervous about the pace of electronic banking; fearing that technology could take over their jobs. Their fears, according to analysts, are not misplaced. Several jobs have been lost to automation in the last few years. Think of office secretaries, typists, and messengers; most of whose services have been replaced by applications (apps) on smartphones.
Indeed, most banks are bent on cutting cost and as such have deployed electronic platforms that would ensure their customers get hitch-free services at minimal cost. What are the consequences of this for job losses? To analysts, there is a reengineering in the manpower requirement of banks. “Gone are the days where banks used to open numerous branches. The average number of professional staffing in a bank has reduced from 15 to about 9 persons in the last few years,” says a banker who pleaded anonymity. Add this to the fact that banks are now deploying “automated” branches; branches that provide only electronic banking services and have less than 5 professional staff, the sceptre of job loss is not lost on bank workers. Across the country, bank ATM galleries now dot the landscape especially in high-brow environs where electronic banking usage is high. The good news for banks is that several of these automated galleries have seen a high rate of patronage by customers who admire the posh ambience. “I like the ATM gallery because the environment is cool and customers behave nicely there,” says Olamide Akande who patronise an outlet in Surulere area of Lagos. This deepens the banks’ low-cost operating structure which improves margin, but bad news for bankers; most of who are anxious over their career prospects.
Recently several banks have laid-off workers; all in a bid to improve margin. Mainstreet Bank which was acquired by Skye Bank sacked over a thousand workers. A source in the bank said the bank is integrating and cutting cost as it has deployed new technology. The few staff that were spared underwent training on the new software deployed by the bank. What’s more, several new apps developed for financial products- such as apps connecting borrowers directly to lenders-are yet to take firm hold in the developed world and are yet to be deployed here, will further spell doom for bankers.
Does this mean electronic banking transactions will soon overtake over-the-counter banking transactions? Not necessarily, so says Mr. John Igbrude, a management consultant. He believes electronic banking is still relatively small compared to over-the-counter transactions, citing CBN figures. Computer illiterate customers, senior citizens and technophobia are reasons, according a banker, that banking halls will still be ahead of electronic transactions.
All told, experts reckon the increasing pace of technological development will doubtless impact negative on job creation in the banking sector. The coming job loss, according to management experts will worsen the dire unemployment situation in the country. “Banks are known to cut cost aggressively. Technology advancement gives them leeway,” says a top banker.
By Osaze Omoragbon