GCB Bank’s growth has been by God’s grace — First female MD, Helen Lokko
As part of activities marking the GCB Bank’s 70th anniversary, an interview was held with the first female Managing Director of the bank, then known as the Ghana Commercial Bank, Mrs Helen Lokko (HL). Below are excerpts of the interview.
CB Bank (GCB): Introduce yourself and share your sentiments on GCB’s 70th anniversary.
Helen Lokko (HL): Thank you for the opportunity. For me what this means is that, first and foremost it is a sign of God’s grace and goodness.
The bank itself is 70 years old and I am still alive to be part of the celebration they are planning for this occasion and I thank God and I bless them that at least they have remembered those of us of old and I am very delighted that I have lived to see this day.
GCB: What do you think has contributed to the continuous existence of GCB Bank?
HL: Growth is a God-given asset and right. Be it an institution or human being, some banks started well but we don’t remember them anymore. By His grace we came along, and we are proud that we have grown with Ghana, the country itself.
And if today we still think, and I know we are, GCB is the premiere Bank of Ghana and it is a thing that we should all be proud of. At the beginning, from what I know, it was touch and go. It was also political, and most people didn’t think the African could do this at all. And if you know, when we started, Management was made up of Europeans. They didn’t give us a chance.
Nobody felt that the indigenous Ghanaian, African, could do this successfully. But we’ve been in there right from day one and we are still in there and I don’t see anything but a bright future. The good God who gave us GCB is still around and will be forever around. So, all things come and go, human beings come and go. So do institutions.
We hope we will last as long as is necessary. Change is something that is part of life. Sometimes in the middle of change you lose your identity and you may not be remembered thereafter. Sometimes you can go on and on till you become extinct. And extinction is a fact of life. It may happen because things have changed.
When I step into the grounds of GCB I marvel, and I wonder that is this the bank I knew? When I start climbing the steps into the bank, goose pimples fall over me and it’s a natural happening. Therefore, I pray that the vision that the founders of the bank were given, the doubters who gave the bank no chance at all. I hope some of us through those who have taken over live long enough to be there.
And if we pass on and are no more found it should be a natural thing and not an accident. Many banks came into being and sometimes through their own faults, they fall apart. Other times political decisions get rid of them, but we have stayed 70 years. It is a grand age and I hope that we will move from there to face the century and beyond and wherever we are we shall forever be proud OF GCB just as we are now.
GCB: How do you want to see GCB in the next generation?
HL: GCB has had the luck to be founded, established, started operations and is carried on by men of vision. I will emphasise this; the politicians
dream dreams but it takes those on the ground to let those dreams come into being and I believe we’ve been lucky.
When it started, it was a united effort between the colonial days and Kwame Nkrumah and the rest. How far we will get depends on not only the founders, not only our political leaders (because in Africa politicians must be involved. No matter what you do, they’ve become part of the system) but the staff as well. Without them you are going nowhere. They can make or mar your existence or otherwise.
And for me, I think we do not lack vision, we do not lack men and women who can see beyond the now. They see ahead and they think. If I look at what some of the staff that came around have achieved and continue to achieve, the management that have succeeded one after the other, by God’s grace they’ve all been given a challenge and at my human level I see that it has been a progressive development.
I see no reason why GCB shouldn’t also be there, and I pray that we will always be at the forefront. When you know some of the customers that we have nurtured and grown and who have influenced us; the opportunities, the health that we have received and given; humanity will exist as long as the good Lord desires it to and if that is so we should be ahead of the pack.
The acquisition of knowledge never ends and as we move along, the visionary leaders that we have got should always try to give those who can see chances to develop themselves. And if you know who we were and still are and the opportunities that we have had because of our relationship with GCB, I see no reason why we shouldn’t continue because we are as human as those who are there now.
And at this stage in time, all I can do is to applaud them and tell them that we live and learn, we make mistakes, we learn from our mistakes. The competition will be rife, it will change but we should grow with it because change and growth are inevitable.
If you do not take advantage of it, you shall become extinct and you will be known no more. But if we take the challenge as we have done in the past, the opportunities that are open to the present generation, no doubt we will continue. My prayer is that wherever we are, we will always be there applauding you and praying that you persevere. Thank you.
GCB: If you have to advise the staff and management that we have now, what will you have for the management and the future generations who would want to join GCB’s family?
HL: The existence of the bank like any other institution depends on management and the staff on the job. Times have changed. There was a time when your own innate intelligence and desire to work in the bank and the love for progress propelled you.
Now things have changed and times are moving very fast. I am telling you that I see no reason why that should come to a dead end.
Development will continue and as long as GCB remains visionary and tries with the help and grace of God to give its own staff the chances and the opportunities, I remember so many things that came to pass because we took the chance.
Not because we knew it would be successful. Management sometimes can be full of itself and would feel that they are alone. But we are like a coin. There are two sides, no matter what you do, there is staff, there is a management and there is God above.
Things have moved fast and staff at every level have risen to the occasion. Go and take old newspapers and read about the advertisements for jobs, the opportunities, the qualifications, what to except just as much as the salary and you compare, if you will be research minded enough, you will be amazed how things have changed. What you needed at the time to be employed.
Today before you get in there you must be miles ahead. Competition within the bank, competition in the financial industry, competition within the country, competition with banking outside the country.
For example, the wearing of uniforms; we didn’t start with uniforms, how come we started wearing uniforms and what has been the trend since? What goes on in the industry? The staff see and they always compare. Especially since you are employing ladies as well. So far as we know, fashion does not change much with the males, but with the females you should have been there to see what went on before uniforms were changed. And this will continue. I won’t be surprised we will look like machines or space people in the future.
Change is inevitable, I see a brighter future. What happens in the bank is related to what goes on in our country and beyond. And we will grow together with the world, otherwise we shall become extinct. And nobody wants that, whether we will be there for a longer stretch or not depends on what we do with our training and I feel that GCB has always spearheaded.
When uniforms started to come, GCB males joined us. Before it was just women and the men said we have the same qualifications. It all started because if you are going to give allowances for uniforms, what about the males? You have to take care of them so my answer to your question is, the future is bright.
Humanity always expects a brighter tomorrow and there is no reason why we shouldn’t because we believe that when we employ, we employ the best. If you are not, we train you. Why was the training school established? If you know the history, you will know why it was done. And I believe further development will take place.
I am quite sure that if I came back to this country and walked the financial scene, GCB would be there. We ventured out of the country and if politics plays the way that works our way, we shall always be there. If I do not expect a brighter tomorrow then me myself, what’s wrong with me? Because we always hope for a better tomorrow for our kith and kin. GCB is our second home and if we are going to grow to become better, management must interact with staff, and let us envision ourselves as forward-looking people. We love our jobs, take good care of each other and the sky will be the limit.
GCB, Ghana Commercial Bank, the premiere Bank of Ghana, you are celebrating your 70 years of existence. It is a blessing from above, so we pray and thank the good Lord who has brought us this far and we continue to ask him to guide us, to make us love GCB to such an extent that it will become not only our source of livelihood but indeed our second home.
I wish you all the best and I am elated to have seen the 70th. I will not ask to be around to see the 100th existence of the bank but when that time arrives, those of you who will be around, remember that life starts from first year and it moves on and on. I wish you the best.
And management, know that we have always been a coin. It doesn’t matter how many sided, how many faces but we all belong and as long as we cooperate and we see the same vision and set our sights high and as long as we realise that it’s the Lord who blesses but we are his hands and feet and if we the staff, if we management, if we the people do not rise up to the occasion, we will be dead before even our first birthday.
You have your 70th birthday today. I wish you the best of luck. May the years ahead bring you not only prosperity but true development so that we can all look back and say but for GCB where will we be? God be your helper. Happy anniversary, happy birthday GCB, God bless us all. Amen.