Technology and future of bank work

BY: Edward Kwapong (Dr)
Dr Ernest Addison
Dr Ernest Addison

Listening to the Vice-President a few months ago talk about foreseeable cessation of physical cash payments in business transactions as a result of the boost in electronic banking, I got excited about the times ahead when we wouldn’t have to go to the banks to deposit or withdraw money.Our banks will be our phones and laptops.


The stress of queuing in banking halls will also disappear, just as the human intervention in banking transactions, not to mention the requirement to give a tip for service well delivered albeit not compulsory.

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Confidentiality of accounts will also be guaranteed. At the end of the day, time will be saved for other social and economic activities.

While thinking about this emerging trend and the enthusiasm with which the Vice-President launched the interoperability of transactions among mobile companies, my mind quickly went to the implication of automation and digitisation on the future of jobs in the banking industry, particularly in the prevailing situation of mergers and acquisitions.

It is trite knowledge that when business processes get mechanised or computerised, the degree of human intervention quite naturally reduces and jobs become threatened.


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The natural reaction of management is then to cut jobs to save cost and improve income generation, all in the interest of profits.

What does this mean for the employer, the employee and educational institutions? Indeed, this has implication for the educational policy, as well as the employment policy at the national level (government).

Employer

One may ask, would the employer, in the circumstance, bother to search for fresh graduates to enrol in graduate trainee programmes just to fit them for purpose to meet the requirements of the company’s operations?

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In the alternative, would he just resort to the labour market which is busting with talents already trained and looking desperately for jobs. If there are “off the shelf” talents, why should the employer spend money training fresh entrants onto the labour market?

In this regard, the employer would not need to look around to poach from competitors, neither would he need to head hunt for talents.

It would just be a matter of advertising, attracting, shortlisting and using modern selection tools to obtain the best from the labour market.

Since automation is not just a local phenomenon, the labour market will be filled not only with victims of redundancies from local banks but also victims from the diaspora.

The implication is that local banks will have a field day choosing from already-trained, tried and tested talents.

Again, the demand and supply situation will naturally cause employers to bargain for lower remuneration packages for a workforce which is already desperate.

In the circumstance, employers will not concern themselves with long-term career planning, as well as management development and succession planning except, perhaps, a few critical C-level positions in the banks.

Employee

Employees, for their part will not have jobs for life anymore.

Security of tenure till retirement will no longer hold and employees will forever live with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

What this will mean is that the worker will have to, at all times, brace himself up for shocks and surprises and be prepared to look elsewhere for a job.

Loyalty on the part of both the employer and the employee will not be required.

Labour movement will, therefore, be very fluid.

Indeed, it is said that in America today, if you stay in one job for more than five years, then perhaps you are not marketable.

Employees in the banking sector will have to operate with this philosophy at the back of their mind.

How then does the worker survive the threat of loss of jobs as a result of automation, computerisation and digitisation as the current trend in the banking sector? The worker will have to prepare to make himself relevant in the new dispensation by being ready to:

i. Train to acquire new skills relevant to banking.

ii. Make computer literacy a priority, with special emphasis on banking applications.

iii. Make conscious effort to acquire multiple skills (multi-skilling across banking).

iv. Explore skills outside of banking but related to banking - insurance, marketing etc.

v. Take courses in entrepreneurship – private business.

vi. Explore opportunities for teaching – share knowledge and experience in academia.

vii. Work for voluntary/non-profit organisations.
viii. Join international organisations (UN agencies).

Training institutions

In the context of the foregoing, what will be expected of educational and training institutions, including schools of administration and commerce, colleges, professional banking institutes and professional bodies.

Obviously, the curricula of these institutions will have to change to meet the changing dynamics and expectations.

While courses in principles of banking will still be relevant, there will be the need to broaden the scope of courses to cover non-core banking modules.

Courses in computerisation of banking processes will be a priority, as well as licensing in banking software applications.

Beyond banking, training institutions will have to introduce courses in some of the following areas:

• Accounting

• Auditing

• Project Management

• Sales and Marketing

• Business Processes Engineering

• Remote Sensing and Spatial Geography

• Emotional Intelligence

• Crises Management

• Critical Thinking and Decision Making

• Human Resource Management

This will require some journey of discovery to benchmark against learning institutions in highly computerised and digitised economies around the globe, including the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Japan, Korea, India and others.

National level

As a nation, perhaps the time has come to review the educational policy vis-à-vis the employment policy to ensure they move in tandem.

We are told that each year, a total of over 80,000 graduates are produced by the various tertiary institutions. Out of these, just over 5,000 get employed.

What then happens to the remaining 75,000?

Obviously, a motley assembly of unemployed graduates equipped with skills and knowledge that cannot be put to productive use.

This can not only be frustrating but a possible threat to national security.

If banking, the most burgeoning and dynamic industry, is not absorbing these young graduates but rather releasing already-trained bankers onto the labour market because of computerisation, then we are, as a nation, faced with a serious crisis.

We obviously require a round-table conference of all stakeholders to address the problem of unemployment with special emphasis on the area of job security for those already employed.