A friend of mine and senior media practitioner Charles Simango recently, on his Facebook wall, posted a stinging criticism of a relatively new bank’s poor customer care services.
If what he described as his experience is true, then this institution just sucks and would find it especially hard to thrive in the highly competitive financial sector.
Simango—a highly-regarded journalist and editor—also tore apart one of the country’s largest banks for its arrogance towards existing and potential customers.
Prior to that, a senior Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) official said if it were elsewhere, citizens would have been demonstrating against the country’s commercial banks largely due to poor service delivery and a ‘we-don’t-give-a-damn attitude’ or what Simango called ‘You need us, we don’t need you’ posture, especially towards small businesses and low earning individuals.
In fact, I do recall that an official from one of the big banks told me that as long as two of Malawi’s largest companies, which he named, will continue to keep their money at the commercial bank they really do not need anybody else.
The bank, he explained with hot air, makes billions from these manufacturing giants every month—enough to give individual bankers tens of millions in bonuses, especially those in top management positions.
With such an attitude, is it any wonder that this ridiculously conservative bank is fast losing its market share?
The point is that banks in Malawi are so used to making easy money that they really don’t care about you, especially if you are a small guy like me.
They happily charge exorbitantly for very shoddy services. One of them is the so-called special cheque clearance.
Ideally, this service—whose fees range from K35 000 to K45 000 depending on the bank—is supposed to ensure that the financial house clears your cheque within a day; that at least by close of business of the day you deposited your cheque, as long as it is in the morning, you should have access to your money.
But trust me this turnaround time is never respected. I have personally had this experience with three banks.
On three occasions, with three different banks, what the ‘special clearance’ was supposed to give me within a day was given four days later!
And each one of these banks still shamelessly charged me the exorbitant special clearance fees! For what I don’t know, neither could they explain!
Note that during these excruciating days of waiting for money that was supposed to be used for an emergency, my bank kept on pushing the blame on the other.
When I asked them why they had proceeded to charge me ‘special clearance’ which was not special at all, the executives I was dealing with could not provide a convincing answer.
If this is not daylight robbery by some of our banks, then what is? If banks know that they cannot meet their own turnaround time on this service, why offer it in the first place? Just to rip-off customers? Is it moral?
Banks in this country have been allowed to get away with so much that they believe they can do anything with people’s money.
And the regulator, RBM, constantly snores on the job. Where will customers turn to? Is there any wonder that our levels of financial intermediation are so low in Malawi?
Malawians are really bitter with our banks. Just this week, two officials from a certain bank came to our offices to market their products to us. It was an impressive presentation and equally impressive range of product offering.
But you know what happened? No one asked for clarity on any of the products they had just tabled.
Instead, the whole question time was consumed by bitter complaints about the attitude of this bank, its workers’ arrogance towards customers and generally poor services.
Some even went as far as mentioning names of the most arrogant officials at some of the bank’s branches. I hope they got the message.