“Banks must act fairly and reasonably and not mislead the customer in any circumstance”.
Running a bank demands a certain level of education. Education which covers the practical side of the business and then some would, I imagine, include the softer side such as customer relations and marketing strategies and perhaps courtesy disguised as something more sophisticated titled business ethics. And to top it all, the qualified banking leaders would include the ability to assess and read the economic reality and environment in the country in which they operate.
But not our banking sector which seems to have collectively declared a unilateral declaration of independence from the environment and their customers. Instead, the bankers seem to prefer actions that defy economic sense for their customers and ultimately counter productive for the country. They have made themselves despised for their business decisions which are directly related to the knowledge that the customer is no longer king but a desperate hostage.
Customers are captives to their own hard earned money — money the banks are quick and shrewd enough to want to make maximum profit from at the expense of the very people that give rhythm to their heart beat.
For some reason, Zimbabwe’s banking masters seem to have lost the plot as they refuse to acknowledge that they are part of the environment as well as part of the solution to the stringent economic environment in which they operate. They also prefer to forget that they are in business at the grace of the very same people they frustrate with their debilitating decisions.
Banks are obligated to follow a set of rules, regulations and guidelines and in all this, the general banking code states that they have a duty to “act fairly and reasonably and to not mislead the customer in any circumstances”.
Would it be unfair to accuse the banks of deliberately aggravating customers in an already dire situation? And if that is the case, what is the objective? On one hand, the bond notes were introduced as a “meantime measure” to alleviate the customer’s woes while on the other hand the banks do not have enough money to disburse and when they did, it was at an expensive cost.
That the Reserve Bank Governor, Dr John Mangundya had to step in and rap their knuckles to correct the situation regarding bank charges at every level of transaction, is embarrassing for the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and our learned bank managers from the various banks. However, the flipside of this shows that for the customer to regain the throne, disgruntlement must be expressed because after all —mwana asingacheme anofira mumbereko (meaning one who does not complain will not get help).
In short, the RBZ governor must closely monitor the activities of the banking sector and in return, the banks must impress upon the RBZ to satisfy their monetary requirements while the banking public takes it upon itself to not suffer in silence. The current operating systems in Zimbabwe demand that EVERYONE adapts for their own survival and efficiency.
It is up to the banks to ensure they apply for the cash needed and not just sit back and wait for deposits which will obviously be subdued. The banks MUST exercise their right for the sake of their customers to gently impress upon the RBZ governor that he performs his duty and satisfy the necessary money.
The banking public of Matabeleland and the entire country has shown a general acceptance of the bond notes and even more telling is the immediate adaptation shown by transport operators and in particular, kombis. I give kombies special mention because they were the last operators to accept the use of bond coins when they were first introduced.
The public is not interested in the feelings and perceptions of the banks towards the bond notes, they just want the option to withdraw or not and to use plastic money or not. After all the day to day services of public transport demand cash transactions as this sector of the economy is yet to warm up to acquiring machinery to facilitate the use of debit or visa cards.
The festive season is such a precious time and always an opportunity for togetherness and a section of our Zimbabwean family which deserves extra special treatment is that of pensioners. It was heartbreaking to see the elderly tottering to the banks with great expectations only to be turned away for lack of money. If there is a customer who must never be disappointed, it is this customer and everyone loves a business that is concerned for the elderly, infirm and pregnant women.
Essentially, the financial institutions must develop a sixth sense that will keep them not only in step with the practical troubles of its clients but with the efforts of decision makers towards development. And most importantly, banks must drop their condescending attitudes and polish up their public relations marketing and keep in mind the needs and expectations of the banking public for whom they work. It would do good for the banks to realise that between them and the client, one is not majorly dependent on the other.
So here is hoping for better performance by not only the banks but by the RBZ too. And yes, this writer has not forgotten BAZ who should keep tab of its member’s performance in relation to their business execution instead of being upstaged by the RBZ Governor. Having a bank account means there is a contractual agreement between financial institution and customer which stipulates that both parties are expected to uphold certain business and personal practices that would render the relationship functional.
Once the banks comprehend that they are there to serve the people, they will then have moved towards becoming one of the solutions to making life bearable for all Zimbabweans and swimming against the tide in this instance might not be a wise executive decision.
Patience Madambi is a senior journalist and public relations practitioner. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org