Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Banks to Sack More Workers

The banking industry may yet again send scores of its workers to the job market this year following rising cost of running their business, analysts have said.

The rising overhead cost is mostly a fallout of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directives to deposit money banks (DMBs) to reduce charges on turnover (COT) from N5 per N1,000 to N3 and the removal of the N100 charged by banks for withdrawal of money through automated teller machines (ATMs).

Part of the fallout is that most banks now keep one ATM operational at a time in a bid to save cost. Most banks that have three or more ATMs have one or more out of operations as the weight of servicing becomes heavier with the removal of N100 charges.

LEADERSHIP investigations revealed that the banks are not happy about the development, but have little choice over the decisions of the regulatory body.

The banks are particularly sore that the decision of not charging fees for usage of their ATMs negates the very principle of banking. According to them, put plainly, banks are usually in the business of buying and selling money.

The area of disagreement is that a customer of bank A uses the ATM of bank A to collect money from a bank B's ATM for free. The issue, according to them, is that though the banking halls are actually being decongested, money they got from depositors at a cost is being collected by customers of other banks at no cost at all.

The problem, analysts said, is two-pronged. The first one, according to them, is that as banks deploy more ATM machines and bank customers gleefully use ATM more because it is at no cost, and frees the banking halls, as such, bank cashiers have their jobs hanging in the balance, unless they are deployed to other areas where they will be more productive.

Banks' staff's fate remains hanging delicately when the other problem is looked at. This is because by the time banks spend more money deploying ATMs, servicing them, providing power 24 hours a week to keep them running, the cost will be unbearable, and as such the staff will just have to pay the price.

Bismarck Rewane, chief executive of Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited, said if you can now draw money from any ATM of any bank, it means the number of customers using the ATMs will increase; therefore the number of customers using cashiers would also reduce.

According to him, if there are fewer customers for cashiers to attend to, the bank will have no choice than recoup the funds spent on acquiring ATMs by letting some cashiers and other staff go.

"There is going to be a cut-back in the number of cashiers because if a cashier attends to 2,000 customers in a day and now because of the increased use of the ATMs, the cahier is attending to 500 customers, the bank is definitely going to restructure and either let go of the cashier or transfer him to another department where he would be more profitable," said Rewane.

Okechukwu Unegbu, former president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria (CIBN), said unless the banks have agreed at the Bankers Committee level, it is unimaginable that a customer of bank A collects money from bank B through the ATM.

He said that, in other climes, when one uses the credit card of another bank to collect money from another bank, charges are applied.

Unegbu nonetheless said banks could be cutting down on overheads through hidden charges. He wondered what the meaning of a so-called management fee charged by banks means.

He added that some of the banks were yet to revert to N3 per every N1,000 as COT. Instead, they still collect N5, he said.

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