By OBINNA EZUGWU

One of Nigeria’s top commercial banks, Access Bank Plc has revealed it is considering slashing a huge chunk of its workforce as part of efforts to navigate the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

The Group Managing Director/CEO, of the Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe who gave the hint of the impending mass sack in a video call to members of the Bank’s staff, however said the move will affect mainly outsourced staff, whom he emphasised constitute about 75 percent its workforce.

The Access Bank CEO also noted in the video currently in circulation, that himself would be taking about 40 percent salary cut, pointing out that all members of staff would also have their salaries slashed, even as he said there would unavoidable branch closures as part of measures to keep the Bank afloat in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era.

“I think if there is one thing that has come out of this whole lock down period, it is the fact that digital is the way forward; is the fact that we do not need the same compliment of staff to take us to where we are going,” Wigwe said.
“It’s also shown that non essential services, particularly out outsourced staff may not be at the level required going into the future. So we probably don’t need as many security men as required. Even to the fact that we are not going to have all of our branches open between now and December.

“We certainly don’t need all the security men, we don’t need all the tea girls; we don’t need all the tellers, etcetera. So, that number of staff which represents 75 percent of our staff strength, is one that, I think, we basically need to speak with their employers with the view to getting them to rationalise to the levels that we think will be necessary to basically sustain a mean but actually customer-service oriented institution.

“We are going to be looking at that, and as I speak to you today, several discussions are going on with a view to making sure that we rationalize and bring those numbers to an acceptable number for our institution, given the days ahead that we see.

Also hinting at salary cuts, Wigwe said, “The second one has to do with our professional cost. That is the one that is very tricky. And it’s tricky because I do understand and appreciate the fact that it’s going to bring its own pain to staff. We are basically going to make the adjustments the same way it sounded when we spoke ten days ago with respect to basically cutting down cost.

“I will be there first to take the heat. And I’m going to take the largest pay cut, which will be as much as 40 percent. The rest shall have to cascade right through the institution. Everybody may have to make some adjustments of some sort.

“Let me quickly say that it’s not the best of times. We understand the difficulties the people are going through. But we also understand the higher calling of creating an institution that can continue to provide for us, and the fact that tomorrow, when things do improve, we shall reverse to what is normal. But the important thing is that those changes are required when we see great difficulties coming in to make sure that if there is one institution left standing in this country as a bank, it must be Access. That’s the decision we have to take.”