Herbert Wigwe, Group MD, Access Bank

BY EMEKA EJERE

Access Bank Plc. has announced that a downward review of staff salaries and reduction of its workforce have become imperative as the lockdown to contain the Coronavirus pandemic hampers the operations of the tier 1 lender.

The chief executive officer of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, who gave the hint in a video that has gone viral, said he is willing to take a 40% pay cut as part of efforts to cut operating costs.

Wigwe, who empathized with staff while urging everybody to make “some adjustments of some sort,” said,

“We probably don’t need as many security men as required, even to the fact that we are not going to have all our branches open between now and December,” he said.

“We certainly don’t need all the security men. We don’t need all the tea girls. We don’t need all the cleaners. We don’t need all the tellers et cetera et cetera

“So that number of staff which represent 75% of our staff strength, I think, is the one we basically need to speak with their employers with a view to getting them to rationalise to the level that we think will be necessary to basically sustain a mean but actually a customer service-oriented institution.”

Wigwe said discussions are already ongoing with recruiting agencies and contracting firms on how to cut back on the workforce.

“The second has to do with our professional cost. Now that is one is very tricky and it is tricky because I do understand and appreciate that it is going to bring its own pain to staff. We basically have to make the adjustment the same way it sounded when we spoke ten days ago with respect to basically cutting down cost

“would be the first to take the hit and I’m going to take the largest pay cut, which would be as much as 40%.

“The rest, we shall have to cascade right through the institution.”

Wigwe, who assured that the bank will revert to what is normal when things improve, said the adjustments are necessary to survive the difficult times.

“What is important is that these adjustments are what is required at a time when we see Armageddon when we see great difficulty coming in, to make sure that if there is one institution left standing in this country as a bank, it must be Access Bank,” he said.

“We appreciate the fact that it is going to hurt people but we necessarily have to take that adjustment to ensure that we protect our franchise and make us stronger as we move into the future.”

Nigerian banks are facing the threat of rising bad-debt levels as a crash in oil prices and the risk of a naira devaluation coincide with the Covid-19 pandemic that has shuttered businesses.

Access Bank, which acquired Diamond Bank Plc last year, had 6,898 permanent staff at the end of 2019, according to a presentation on annual report.

The acquisition partly contributed to a 31% increase in operating expenses. personnel, recruitment and training costs account for more than a third of overheads after the deal boosted employee numbers and resulted in “wage harmonization” across the businesses.