Automation bug bites FNB

The machines are taking over Bank tight-lipped on number of retrenched employees

The advent of automation in the international banking industry has brought about the replacement of humans in the daily operations of the banking system, a development that has seen major retrenchments in banks across the world.

The phenomenon has hit home as the bug is slowly gnawing away at the internal operations of local financial institutions with banks retrenching unconfirmed numbers of people from their staff complement.

The First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) is one such institution.

Responding to queries by this publication on the institution’s looming mass retrenchment, FNBB Marketing and Communications Director- Obonye Malope, asserted that the bank has since September 2016, been going through a process to review and re-engineer the bank’s operational model, processes and staffing model, an exercise that will see some employees being cut-off and others being re-deployed within the bank’s structures following a rigorous skills matching operation.

Malope could not state the number of jobs lost since the operation and how many people were to be cut off in the future but only said the project resulted in a number of redundant roles as well as additional new roles.

“The changes in the processes were accompanied by counselling sessions for the affected departments at a group counselling basis, followed by one-on-one counselling sessions,” said the Director, hinting that the issue is of a sensitive nature.

Malope continued that having operated in Botswana for the past 26 years, FNBB is revitalizing strategies for improved customer experience and business performance and also that discussions of employment are a confidential matter between employer and employee.

“FNB confirms that stakeholders such as the Labour Office (in accordance with Section 25 of the Employment Act) and the Union were duly informed and consulted on the project,” she concluded.

Despite the worrisome trend of job losses within the banking sector, Bank of Botswana (BoB) recently released a report that states that employment levels in the Botswana banking sector have shown a slight increase of 0.5 percent from 5030 employees in 2015 compared to 5055 at the same period in 2016.

The increase in employment levels has been attributed to branch expansion by some of the local commercial banks precisely those classified as “small”.

The report, however, shows these figures after noting that two other government-owned banks, being the National Development Bank (NDB) and Botswana Savings Bank (BSB) also cut a total of 12 jobs during 2016.

It continues that branch rationalization and automation are the culprits at the helm of job losses in a number of local banks as the industry has recorded declines in their employment levels during the year under review.

Banks engage the two processes to enhance the existing service delivery channels, with some having upgraded to sophisticated Auto Teller Machines (ATMs) with improved functions such as cash and cheque deposits, withdrawal of foreign currency and card-less services as well as the electronic payment of bills.

Though a welcome development by the customers because of their convenience, the functions have been seen to have dire consequences on the employment of humans as the system needs less of their manpower as the machines are doing all the work with little expense to the banks.

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