Business News of Wed, 3 Dec 19970

Ghana Commercial Bank leads in Money Transfer

SAM MANU recently paid a courtesy call at the Cheapside Branch of GCB only to witness brisk activity in money transfer by everybody called "Charlie".

It is 9.30 am on a Friday morning, otherwise not a very busy day in the City of London's Square Mile, the financial heartland of UK, where the London Branch of Ghana's leading bank - the Ghana Commercial Bank is located. But at 69 Cheapside the banking hall is already full to the brim with a queue of people from all walks of life but mainly of Ghanaian origin. Albeit, it was an orderly queue as one would expect at a bank, the peace and tranquillity was occasionally disturbed by a whisper or two from one of the customers patiently awaiting to be served. With my limited knowledge of the Ga language, I could eavesdrop on one customer asking the other "Charlie, this is my fist time here oh" to which the other responded "well, as for me I always use them. They are slow but sure".

I sat down patiently on the couch and felt so comfortable that momentarily I forgot that I was in a bank and almost slipped into my usual slumber which occasions me when I am idle. I pinched myself to sit up as one customer asked in a loud Akan voice "How long does it take for the money to reach Ghana". "Forty-eight hours" was the polite reply, also in Akan, from the cashier behind the bullet proof screened counter.

I then asked myself then why did Charlie's friend say the service is slow?

Like the customers, I patiently waited until the opportunity presented itself to enable me undertake some investigative journalism.

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Charlie has finished but before he stepped into the street I approached him, introduced myself and asked if he will answer a few questions for me to which he obligingly agreed. In a few moments I was able to uncover some of the strengths and weaknesses of the London Branch of the GCB - or more specifically their money transfer services.

Two or three years ago Charlie was using GCB for his periodic transfers to his large family back home, and he does it at least once every month, but while he felt safe and secured for using their services, the speed and to an extent the convenience were the missing links.

Sometimes it was taking 3 to 4 days for the money to be received by his beneficiary in Accra while the Forex bureaux that mushroomed in the "koobi" shops across London were sending the moneys within a day or two. "Besides, the closing time of 3.00 pm is inconvenient since most banks in the UK now open till 5 p.m.", Charlie told me later.

In conclusion he said that circumstances forced him to return to GCB - the clamp down on the Forex bureaux in Ghana by the Bank of Ghana had allegedly caused a friend of his to lose over ?2,000 that he had transferred prior to the clamp down.

"But I am glad that I have returned to GCB because now I find their transfer service relatively fast, efficient, reliable and safe, but above all very cheap. For instance I have just transferred ?1,000 and all I had to pay was a flat fee of ?12. ( I was told that the new fee from January is ?15). At the "koobi" shop Forex bureaux I would have been charged 5 per cent. That is ?50. But I tell you Charlie, the GCB needs to do something about the closing time, oh", Charlie said in parting and I asked myself is everybody called Charlie in the City of London?

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Anyway, I returned to the banking hall to pick up some more vibes from the customers unobtrusively, but most importantly to collect a copy of the GCB's money transfer charges.

From what I found, as given below, I am least surprised that more and more people are now using the services of GCB because they appear to have added speed and peace of mind to the equation. I hope they will soon detach the "in" from inconvenience and extend their opening hours.

And as I descended the escalator to pick up a tube down the line back to base, I retorted to myself "When are they going to open up branches in the localities such as Tottenham and Balham as well". Next time I get the opportunity to interview, say the Manager, I'll surely take a prompt from the lawyers' jargon and "put it to the Manager" Charlie.

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