Monday, May 18, 2009

Meltdown: We are hardest hit –Bankers

By Yemi Kolapo

Bankers in Nigeria have said that the on-going global financial meltdown has affected them more than workers in other sectors of the economy.

The bankers, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondent in Ikeja and Lagos on Friday, said they had been forced to cut down on spending and adopt modest lifestyles.
According to them, the high level of non-performing loans; tight liquidity; shrinking foreign credit lines, as well as the need for banks to cut costs to share up their bottom lines were factors that had made bank workers scapegoats of the ongoing financial crisis.
The bankers, who spoke in confidence, said the glamour that was associated with bank jobs in the past was mainly tied to the stress-free loans and welfare packages that came with the jobs, but that these were fast disappearing.
A staff of one of the conservative but strong banks, who corroborated his argument by showing our correspondent one of the series of monthly letters from management, said his financial and calendar year targets had been reviewed upward twice.
He said he had been mandated to rake in N70m at the end of June and an additional N80m by the end of the year, with varying sanctions for different levels of performance.
A less than 40 per cent performance, according to him, attracts a warning letter, while poorer performance may lead to dismissal.
“Where will I get that from at this time when there is no money anywhere? I’ve resigned myself to fate. The world will not come crashing on only me,” he said.
A top executive in one of the big banks that made the Forbe’s list of top 2000 world biggest companies, also said it had become difficult for many of his colleagues to cope with the changing times, adding that loans, which many of them relied on to ‘live big’ were no longer readily available.
He said, “Before, now a banker did not have to worry about getting or furnishing a house after his wedding. The house, the cars and every furniture required, including kitchen equipment are most times, obtained through easy loan arrangements, which bankers are used to anyway.
“But that no longer comes easy even in the biggest banks; so, we now have to cut our cloth according to our size, which is very difficult. The most difficult aspect of it is having to cope with fees of children already in highbrow schools. If other things can be adjusted, fees are not that flexible. It is a harrowing experience for bankers, our spouses and children.”
He noted almost all loans were currenty tied to performance, saying that his bank, for instance, would require the beneficiary to have met 70 per cent of his key deliverables before being considered.
“And is this realistic? No. So, it means when the public is crying that banks are not giving loans, we are also feeling the pinch and it is not the fault of the banks but due to the financial meltdown,” he added.
A female staff, who claimed she had worked with five banks in 15 years, linked the dwindling fringe benefits of bank jobs to the recent clampdown on Saturday banking by most banks.
She said the banking industry once had the highest job mobility “because if you are good, your old employer has nothing to fear in terms of loans outstanding because the bank beneficiary will cater for that.
“There were agitations for a more flexible working arrangement so that we can be closer to our families since the motivations for sacrificing important aspects of our lives are really not there again. Most banks have either reduced their working hours or cancelled odd day jobs,” she observed.
Another banker, who works with one of the less-flamboyant banks, rumoured to be liquidity-stressed, said staff of the bank had forgotten about up-front payments, which usually helped them to execute important projects.
“There is no job security anywhere again, so, we are being paid our worth at the end of every month. The bank can no longer risk any advance salary payments,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer, Money Market Association of Nigeria, Mr. Wale Abe, had said that since the ability of banks to lend depended on liquidity, the tight liquidity position meant there would be less money to lend.
Abe said through telephone interview with our correspondent that the increase in non-performing loans in the balance sheets of banks had hampered further lending.



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