Having personally suffered ATM disappointments by two banks on a recent visit to Dormaa-Ahenkro, I was interested when I came across a rant against Ghanaian banks in an internet video, by someone who identified himself as KINGSLEY KOMLA ELIKEM MORTEY.
My first frustration happened on Friday, May 11, when I went to the GCB Bank to cash money from the Automated Teller Machine, only to see an apologetic notice pasted there that the machine was not in use.
Alas, my cheque book was in Accra! Anyway, I went into the banking hall to ask for a counter cheque. The formalities took a while, but the Customer Service Representative who attended to me was quite helpful and, thankfully, I was able to cash some money.
When I asked why their ATM had been out of order, apparently for a long time, he explained that it was to do with the erratic power supply in the town, but they were trying to resolve the problem.
Later, I found out that there was another ATM, at the ADB Bank. So the next day, I went to check it out.
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On arrival there, I noticed that, ominously, it didn’t have the ‘Gh Link’ sticker indicating that it was a ‘universal’ cash dispenser. I met another hopeful person there, a woman who said she, too, had come to try to use her GCB card in the ADB machine. Well, we didn’t succeed!
Admittedly unstable power is a real problem at Dormaa-Ahenkro. Sometimes the power is so weak that it can’t even power a fridge.
But, I wondered, why was the ATM of the ADB Bank, a few metres away from the GCB Bank, working? Was it not connected to the same Dormaa electricity system?
Anyhow, given my experience with the two different banks at Dormaa-Ahenkro, Kingsley’s tirade on a social media platform instantly attracted my attention – and sympathy.
A summary of the transcript follows:
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One of the things I feel we need to deal with, for our economy to grow, is the behaviour and attitude of our banks.
Take the queues in our banks. You get into a banking hall and there is a long queue because there is just one teller, or just two of them. Meanwhile, there are 30 bank staff in the offices. They don’t come out to assist, to get rid of the queues.
Banks here have chairs and couches in their offices because they expect you to come and sit down!
You will not go to any bank in the United States, for example, or in any developed country where you will see chairs for you to sit down. You go there to get money, or to deposit money, and you leave.
In some other countries, even the moment there is a fourth person waiting in a bank, an official will come to solve the problem so that there is no queue.
Our banks need to solve this problem of queues.
Secondly, the issue of the internet: You go into a bank and they tell you “internet no ate kɔ (the internet has gone off!)!” So you sit down and wait.
Why can’t the banks come together and raise real money and build a solid, reliable internet system? You can’t continue to tell your customers that “internet no ate kɔ!”
Then there is the issue of the way they behave: One time I went to a branch of my bank, Barclays Bank, in Accra, and I signed my signature. The teller said there was a little difference between the two signatures, the one in their system and the one I had just signed.
She would not serve me because of the little difference in the signature!
I said: “There are many security questions you could ask me to ascertain that this account belongs to me. You won’t do that. You’re asking me to go back to my original branch!” I had to leave and go back to my branch!
And they don’t care if your original branch is in Bolga or Tamale or Hohoe or Ho! They don’t care! Period!
Now the question I asked myself: If I, with some education, am struggling with issues of signature, then what about the market women, the farmers, the artisans; people we’re trying to bring into the tax net; people who need to come into the banking system. How will they surmount such problems?
No wonder people want to keep their money on them for quick access, thus encouraging robbery.
For example, if I live in Accra and I’m going to Kumasi, I should be able to go to Kumasi and withdraw money there. But because it’s likely that when I get to Kumasi the bank will tell me: “internet no ate kɔ”, I will take my cash with me – and I can be attacked by armed robbers on the way!
Also, in Ghana, our attitude is as though our attention is on how our bankers present themselves, how the tellers dress. It’s not about the work they do.
In the US, the bankers are in T-shirts or regular clothes, anything. Their focus is on delivering; here the preoccupation is on how fashionably they dress!
The banking system should change! They need to get out of the bureaucracy, and the suits. They should wear regular clothes. If it’s the air conditioners making the banks too cold, they should regulate them!
In conclusion, Kingsley stressed the need to get the banking system working better, to boost the Ghanaian economy.
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Of course Kingsley’s complaints are familiar.
And how is it that a big, bustling town like Dormaa-Ahenkro, a district capital, has only two ATMs? Also, if there are only two in a town, shouldn’t they both be on the universal link in case one develops a fault?
In the advanced countries, more people use bank cards to make payments, hence fewer visits to banking halls.
Obviously, when more Ghanaians are educated and more people are using cards to pay for goods and services through the Government’s promised cashless society, the bank queues will reduce.
But for now, achieving a cashless society seems to be a distant dream.
Furthermore, first we need to get the country producing, and exporting to earn the money to put into the banks!
Meanwhile, Kingsley, let’s hope the banks will take the concerns on board.