Opinions Thu, 20 Dec 2018

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The banking trap: My experience

As the end of my education for a first degree in the university was fast approaching, the realities of a difficult work-life begun to dawn on me. How can I get a decent job after national service?

There were huge expectations from my family, friends and neighbours to not only live a decent life (economically) but to be a role model for the young ones on the benefits of education. My community, the Zongo, traditionally is left behind in secular education and hence a failure to land a decent job will confirm the theories of the anti-educationist. As I reflected on my choices of dream jobs,

I finally concluded on banking as the only (and naively so) one that can meet the expectations of my people.

Banking is everything I have ever wanted; just like a number of a fresh graduate. The prestige, the appearance and ultimately the ‘fat’ salary is every graduate’s dream.

But all these can be deceptive. After pulling all the strings I have, I realised how difficult it is to get employed in the banking sector. The Human Resource departments of banks in Ghana are inundated with hundreds of resumes seeking for employment on a daily basis. At some point in time, I almost gave up the pursuit of my dream job. However, as faith will have it, I had a call to start my national service from one of the tier 1 banks in Ghana. And after National Service, I secured a permanent job as a Relationship Manager with one of the amazing banks in Ghana who have a Nigerian origin.

My first few days in the bank were truly amazing.

The salary was more than three times what I earned as national service personnel. I saved over 80% of my salary because my expenditure was low. Reality started to dawn on me when I was given deposit targets after my honeymoon induction days were over. The targets were practically impossible to achieve, or so it looks. Monthly performance meetings are nightmares for non-performing relationship managers. The system will force you to perform or force you out. However, the goodies were equally gargantuan for a fresh graduate from the Zongo. After receiving ‘armed robber’ salary, I was inundated with a series of ‘fat’ allowances and on top of it, has access to loans I can only dream of in not so distant past.

The sudden availability of riches for a young man is both a blessing and a curse in equal measure. Most staff like myself will be driven by this fortune to change their lifestyle. The first thing that comes to mind for a fresh graduate employee of a bank is to get a nice car to cement his change of status.

This move starts the series of significant hits on your salary. The car automatically moves you a notch higher in lifestyle. The roadside waakye now becomes below your standard. You now know all the famous food joints and restaurants in town. The monthly car loan repayment and your expenditure on fuel start to hit hard on your salary. At this time, you are ok as your salary can manage the hit. Prior to buying my car, I had a plot of land that I planned for developing. This dream was slowed down because of a significant increase in my expenses after getting the car loan.

I then decided to take a personal loan to quicken the pace in my building project. This move was the knockout blow for my salary. After this, my salary was barely able to meet up with the pace of my expenditure and loan obligations. I was into the trap and needed urgent ‘oxygen’ to survive. I then requested a credit card to provide me with some respite. This was actually the final nail in the coffin. My income is officially dead and buried and has no chance of catching up with my expenditure and obligations.

At this stage, most bankers carry debt that will take a good company a number of years to pay up. They sometimes barely manage to survive till the next payday. Staffs with a substantial amount in their account are mostly bombarded with personal loan requests from other colleagues.

A number of us also seek financial assistance from microfinance and other non-bank financial institutions at ‘killer’ rates further compounding the problem. The life of a banker is not as rosy as our cars and suits suggest. We are seriously sweating beneath the suits. Our debt to income ratio automatically put us in the HIPC category. Next time you see a banker, hug him and tell him it shall be well

Columnist: Mohammed Ali

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