Don’t bank on it

It’s interesting to look back and see how much things have changed along my route. For instance, I remember when the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange was a sprawling circle, reputed to be the biggest in West Africa – thus explaining why some people still call the bus-stops “Roundabout” – complete with maize planted in the middle by some opportunistic local who saw nothing but free farmland for the taking. Housing complexes and office towers have arisen where there was once nothing but dirt, and now, on almost every high building in town you see signage for one of our many banks.

Indeed, even in the most residential parts of East Legon, a bank is never really far away. When I was much younger, this select club of moneymen was tossed afar in the middle of the city, a world away from home and comforts.

As we passed a bank in a trotro I was in, a man wearing a pained expression and a terribly loud red blazer lamented to any who would offer him the attention he craved about some downright shabby treatment he had received. Nobody could keep a straight face. It was impossible to separate fact from fiction as his willing audience goaded him on with questions and insinuations of their own. We were busily lambasting the corporate suits whose sole mission in life, depending on who you listen to, is to milk the public dry and wrinkled.

You would be surprised at how some customers happen to be hopelessly ignorant about basic banking procedures. I have personally seen many enter a banking hall looking totally clueless. They probably have countless pitiful tales about their banking tribulations. Unfortunately, even in Cape Town, I suffered at the hands of the folks at Standard Bank while attempting to do a money transfer. It was a harrowing experience, being tossed this way and that until I was finally told that it was impossible for me to perform the function. Forget what the website said about ease of transaction. I was all but ready to rip out my hair a handful at a time.

As a university student it was like Independence Day when I finally got my ATM card. The line at GCB KNUST was infamously dreadful. And it started from outside before the bank opened for business. Checking your balance was nightmarish in itself. The queue snaked its way all over, and it easily took an hour to get to the front. Forget about that lecture if you thought you were taking a quick dash to get some money. On one fateful occasion, an official received a stinging tongue-lashing from me after he told me that my signature was wrong. I never knew I had it in me.

In the years since, banks have sprung up like termites out of a smoke-filled anthill, snapping young graduates up, irrespective of what they did. They come from fields as wide and as unrelated as the tired overused cliché, Archaeology to Zoology. Gone are the older female cashiers, replaced by picture perfect stilettoed beauties. Maybe we grew to expect that with this explosion would come one minute queues and the like. Not a chance. To me, it seems the bending line is still an ego booster to the banks. One time, as if being in a banking hall wasn’t bad enough, the situation worsened as I stood behind a man pulling wad after wad of cash from his Ghana-must-go bag. It was like the dark pre-redenomination days all over again. I just resigned to my fate and slowly allowed my mind to drift.

My guess is that on your own commute is a whole mob of banks that you have either had the pleasure or misfortune of being in. Have you had your account suffer recession and told there was nothing that could be done? Or have you been turned away because a minor detail – by your own definition, to be fair – is missing?

The man spewing venom about the whole industry would just not let it rest. He was on fire. By the time I got to Ridge, bankers were still the hot topic. Our mate was distastefully snickering at a story of two bankers, decked in suits and ties, walking the dusty streets of Accra in search of clients. He failed to see the logic in working up foot mileage for this cause, dying a slow death in Accra’s sweltering heat. I saw his point. A few steps ahead to my left, I could see the headquarters of Stanbic Bank and Fidelity Bank in the distance. Perhaps, these two bankers the mate was having a round laugh at would give anything to have a corner office with a view of the city. If work doesn’t kill them first.


About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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5 Responses to Don’t bank on it

  1. moshi says:

    talk of bank experiencies, imagine moi. so broke or lets partially say, almost broke yesterday. so i called up my best friend and asked for a loan. he doubled the loan and ask i should relax inpaying it back. so i asked for the transaction details for the bank through which he sent the money to. had it and i was delayed to the bank by my boss after work. got there and the banker informed me about them not receiving my transaction. What. all that was going through my mind was, how can an electronic transaction not be reflected on your screen the next second they push the button. its like an email. sent and received. sweetly asked how is this because she was , what was that expression u used. Gone were the older female cashiers, replaced by picture perfect stilettoed beauties. i cooled my self off by hitting on her, i waited for her to enquir of this transaction of mine from the head office. waited everything went through and just when the manager wa about signing asked for my ID. i spent the whole day there only to be asked for my ID. i know i was wrong but if i was to be informed about my ID, i would have gone home and brought it. after all home is not far from here. gosh. i went home broke. banks.

    In the years since, banks have sprung up like termites out of a smoke-filled anthill, snapping young graduates up, irrespective of what they did. They come from fields as wide and as unrelated as the tired overused cliché, Archaeology to Zoology.

  2. dannie says:

    Well I honestly wouldn’t know much about how it feels like to be in the banking halls of Ghana because as soon as I opened my account with Ecobank (which I’m seriously considering changing to GTBank) I requested for an ATM card and once i received it I didn’t feel the need to step in that banking hall for anything again.

    Annoying banking systems! And from what you say happened to you in SA, am I permitted to assume it’s an international conspiracy by banks against their customers?

  3. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    I think it’s under GCB that I’ve suffered the most. Can you believe they actually gave me a bundle of old near-tattered ¢1000 notes? Those were the smelliest pieces of filth I had ever had dished to me from a bank. That was a new low … even for Ghana Commercial Bank.

  4. AJ says:

    OMG I always read ur blog and never comment but I must say this one I just had to because I have had numerous encounters with many banks just as I have had it with almost every telco in the country. So I have a savings a/c with Stanbic and just yesterday I requested for my statement-mind u i am not even required to ask…the bank promised me this service.i opened the account filled a form and they promised that annually i will receive a statement, you choose what option you want via email , post etc. which i filled- i chose the email option. so i had to go through this last year and cannot believe it is being repeated this year..I am tellin this lady i have not received my statement and january is almost over and she is asking me to come into the bank to fill a book, and come back 48 hours or so for the paper. so I explained what was supposed to happen and the woman is saying oh if i want it via email, i need to fill an indemnity sheet, so i’m like what is the point of the fields in the account opening form then and she’s like oh they can’t even send me an electronic copy something about their systems and at the same time she is offering me internet banking at 5 cedis per month have internet banking facilities but cannot send e-copies of client’s statements- and she doesn’t know when this service will be available(this reminded me of MTN publishing 4G in the newspapers when people in their offices did not even know what i was talking about).basically my point is, it is almost a pet peeve for me when a bank expects me to request for something they are expected to do …like i walk to an atm machine only to realise my card has expired , like seriously shouldn’t the bank know and send me a replacement, just about the time when this is about to happen, or you promise me monthly statements but expect me to walk in to the bank and say hi its the end of the month where is my statement…o dear we have a long way to go…btw if any1 knows any bank in the country that has great service i will be pleased to move.

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