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Weak IT base, fraud, others trigger return of paper in banks

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Weak IT base, fraud, others trigger return of paper in banks

By Tumininu Ojelabi Hassan

Paper documentation, especially for account related transactions, is making a return in deposit money banks, DMB, as fraud cases, weak technological infrastructure and other factors are on the increase in banks.

Unfortunately, customers have to bear the brunt of the recommencement of paper, as they have to spend more time in the banking hall as opposed to when they walked into the banks to resolve account related issues without having to fill forms, which required less time.

Due to the high cost of operations occasioned by the current macroeconomic challenges, banks resorted to rationing of paper as one of their cost-saving measures. For instance, instead of filling forms for account related issues, customers only provided their information verbally while the customer service officer or tellers inputted the customer’s details on the bank’s portal. With this, customers spent less time as opposed to spending about about 10-15 minutes filling a forms.

Based on BH findings, through our correspondent, who visited United bank for Africa (UBA), Eco bank, Access bank, Guaranty Trust Holding Company PLC (GTCO), Zenith bank, First bank on Thursday, September 28th, 2023, each customer spent an average of 30 minutes in the banking hall. Almost all the banks our correspondent visited were crowded, especially the customer service unit.

The situation at UBA, Ikosi road branch, was quite normal, 12 people were at the customer service unit, while three customer service employees attended to them, thereby elongating the waiting period. Our correspondent observed that each customer spent, at least, 30 minutes at the customer service unit. However, the queue at the counter was short, transactions were swift. Each customer spent about 15 minutes at the counter.

Marvelous Zimuzor, a customer, who wanted to upgrade her account, shared her experience at UBA, Ikosi road branch, said that having to visit the bank two times in the week and spending over one hour during each visit before upgrading her account was a stressful process for her.

“This isn’t my first time of coming here. When I came here on Monday to upgrade my account, I was told to come back on Thursday, because their NIN portal wasn’t working. When I got here, there was a long queue so I had to wait. I spent about one hour on Monday and over one hour today before I got the issue resolved,” she stated.

At Eco bank, Ojodu Berger branch, our correspondent observed that about seven customers were at the customer service unit, waiting to be attended to. Three customer service officers attended to the waiting customers. The process was quite swift, within 30 minutes about three of them had been attended to and about seven people had completed their transactions over the counter.

According to an Eco bank employee, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, despite the shift towards digital banking, the use of paper in the banking hall was paramount for documentation,a especially when opening a new account in the bank and for investigation of fraud cases.

“These days, most transactions are done online. However, there are some transactions that require the use of paper in the banking hall. For instance, an account can be opened online within minutes, but in a situation, whereby you have issues with the account, you are stuck with calling the customer care, which may take longer to resolve as opposed to going to the branch where you opened the account,” he said.

“Besides, there are a lot of fraud cases these days, using a paper is a way of curbing fraud, because paper document is used as an evidence when investigating a fraud case. For instance, when an account is opened online, a customer can claim that his phone was hacked and the account wasn’t opened by him. Some of these accounts are used for fraudulent transactions. When an account is opened in a branch, the paper document can be presented as an evidence. Before an account can be successfully opened and activated, the customer has to sign, the branch manager and the person in charge of the account opening also have to sign. It is impossible to deny what was written on a paper with one’s signature on it,” he added.

“We are trying to save cost, which is good, however, it has its own disadvantages. Digital banking is good, these days most transactions are carried out on our digital platforms but the use of paper can’t be totally replaced with digital banking because if there are issues with an account, especially if it relates to fraudulent transactions, the culprit can be easily identified through documentation. Concerning cutting cost, we have other ways of cutting costs. The use of paper isn’t cost effective, the full package of an account opening form, which is about nine pages costs N3000, nonetheless it is impossible to stop using paper due to the reasons I stated earlier, we can only try to reduce,” he explained.

At Access bank, Ojodu Berger branch, the customer service unit was had about 25 people, who were obviously tired of waiting while five customer service officers attended to them. It took about 30 minutes to attend to four customers. About three customers left angrily, when they couldn’t wait any longer. On the other hand, the transactions across the counter were carried out speedily.

Nicholas Ibe, one of the customers in the banking hall, who interacted with our correspondent registered his displeasure towards the bank as he had been waiting for more than one hour to resolve a failed transaction issue.

“I have been here for over one hour. Do we have to spend the whole day in the bank before we can be attended to? I am the 11th person out of about 25 people. I have to wait for 10 people to be attended to before I will be attended to, which means I will spend, at least, additional one hour or two hours here. I decided to come in the afternoon thinking I wouldn’t spend more than one hour; from the look of things I don’t think I will leave here anytime soon,” he lamented.

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The situation at Zenith bank, Ojodu Berger branch seemed better, as customers spent an average of 15 minutes in the banking hall to complete a transaction. Within 30 minutes, four and three customers were attended to at the counter and customer service unit respectively.

At GTCO Ojodu Berger branch, over 20 customers were seen over the counter, nine customers stood at the customer service unit waiting to be attended to. Over the counter, eight customers were attended to within 30 minutes. At the customer service unit about three customers were attended to within 30 minutes while other customers stood while waiting in the banking hall.

The situation at First bank, Ojodu Berger branch wasn’t a pleasant one. At about 2:44pm, customers were not allowed into the banking hall by the security officers, who claimed there was crowd in the banking hall. About eight customers, who were not allowed into the banking hall were outside waiting under the shade. A customer almost created a scene after she was denied entry into the banking hall. After insisting that the transaction was urgent, following some minutes of back and forth with the security officers, she gained access into the banking hall. After about 10 minutes, the eight customers waiting under the shade were granted access into the banking hall.

Over 25 people were at the customer service unit; a few customers were seated while other customers stood. In the customer service unit, less than six customers were attended to within 30 minutes.

The situation at the bank was contrary to the assertion of a First Bank employee, who claimed the use of paper in the bank was being phased out, as most transactions were carried out digitally. However, the crowd situation in the bank proved him wrong. This further indicated that the digital banking aspect of the bank is weak as most customers were in the bank to resolve account-related issues, which should have been resolved via its digital platforms.

Micheal Adegoke, a customer, who spoke with our correspondent at the bank’s branch said coming to the bank was a dreadful experience for him due to the stress he goes through anytime he visited the bank.

“I don’t like coming to the bank at all because banking stress can be overwhelming. I have been here for over one hour trying to resolve a failed transaction issue. I had to take a break from work to come here, this is 2:57pm and I am still here. It is high time these people realised that we are working, we can’t spend the whole day in the bank over something that can be resolved online. I don’t have to come into the bank to resolve some issues except it is extremely important. This waste of time discourages me from coming to the bank, because I know I will likely spend the whole day here,” he fumed.

Despite the high cost of paper as a result of inflation, it is almost impossible for commercial banks to do away with the use of paper due to its advantages, which include documentation, proof of transactions to investigate fraud cases among others.

Aside this, customers have to bear the burden of spending more time in the bank while filling forms, which would require at least 10-15 minutes depending on the volume. The manual mode of operations in the traditional banking system is rigid and time consuming compared to digital banking, which is more convenient and cost effective. Instead of going to the bank to resolve account-related issues and for transactions, customers can do all these with their smartphones without having to worry about transport fees and long queues. Digital banking further eases the burden of high cost of paper on banks. Paper should be used only when it is absolutely necessary.

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