Academia, professional bodies and corporate entities have been urged to ensure that bankers have the right skills and capabilities to stay relevant and also to meet the changing demands of the banking industry. Hence, there has been a call for renewed focus on the role of professional training and apprenticeship by professional bodies and other training institutions.
This call was made by the Managing Director of FBNBank Ghana, Victor Yaw Asante in Accra at the 5th Burgess, Kalinauckas, Adu-Amankwah Memorial Lectures. The event is an annual event organized by Opoku Ware Old Boys Association (AKATAKYIE) to celebrate the first three headmasters of the school. This year’s lecture was on the theme “Preventing the Next Financial Crisis – Getting it Right with Training, Education, Apprenticeship.”
According to Mr. Asante, the recent financial crisis was by far the biggest in the country’s history considering the job losses and the cost of the clean-up exercise to the tax payer and emphasized the need for all to work together to prevent a similar fate in the future. “This is because performance of the financial sector is important for the advancement of any economy. This is especially true as we seek to build a resilient and stable base for industrial and technological advancement.”
According to him, “we must therefore educate, train our human resource and fully utilize apprenticeship in the process.” He mentioned “inadequate partnership between the academia, professional bodies and corporate entities and less focus on internship and apprenticeship as some of the gaps in the current method of training bankers.”
He however argued that the future of the industry looks bright given the expected rapid development in financial technology with alternative payment channels. Currently, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) classifies Ghana as the fastest growing mobile money market in Africa, ahead of Kenya which is usually considered the leader in digital transformation on the continent.
As at the end of 2019, registered number mobile money accounts stood at 32.5 million with about 14.5 million active accounts. Also, mobile money transactions had reached GH¢32 billion from GH¢ 22.6 billion in December 2018, representing a growth of 45% within the period. This, he explained, showed how crucial mobile money was and will be for the financial inclusion process going forward.
He further explained that the growing number of financial technology companies was expected to reinforce the digital transformation of the industry. However, Victor Yaw Asante noted these opportunities were susceptible to threats such as cybercrime, money laundering and sim box fraud among others. He opined that, these may require changes in regulatory regime, a sharpening of monitoring, supervision and enforcement tools. In addition, he said, this will require enhanced capacity and a strong ethical culture of the central bank’s supervisory department and that of the industry to meet the demands of the time.
This, he said, means that education, training and apprenticeship were very important and required the universities and the professional bodies to find innovative ways of training and educating their students. According to Mr. Asante, there was the need to have a renewed focus on ethics education as ethical behaviour or conduct was very fundamental in the performance of duties of bankers and finance related professionals. According to him, “ethics education should be part of pre-professional qualification programs and must be treated as both a separate unit and also integrated into other units of study. However, it was also important for professional bodies to continue to provide ethics education to its members post qualification.”
Mr. Asante, a Rotarian, mentioned that the core pillar of Rotary was ethics; reflected in the 4-way Test of Rotarians. That is, “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it bring goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
“I believe ardently that the Rotarian 4-way test was applicable universally in all sectors of human endeavor, including the financial sector” he stated.
Taking inspiration from George Santayana that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Mr. Asante, proposed that, the recent events in the industry be documented as an academic case study. This should state the causes, the consequences, the lessons and the way forward, similar to the report of the Special Investigation Commission in Iceland after the global financial crisis in 2008. He added that the case study should be made part of the curricula of all education and training institutions or departments where banking and finance was taught. Also, the production of such a case study should involve all those who matter to ensure that it was complete and fit for purpose.
Mr. Asante also asked his audience some rhetorical questions to emphasize the point that financial literacy among customers also needed critical attention. “How many of us went after investments that we knew didn’t make sense? How does one get a return of 120% per annum with any investment anywhere in the world? How many of you double your net profit every year at your organizations? How can we scream that the credit cost of 30% per annum is killing businesses and then invest in pyramid schemes that give us a return of over 100% per annum? Should the contradiction not be clear enough to us?” he questioned.
These questions reflect some of the causes of the recent crisis in the financial sector. Therefore, he stressed that customers needed to be educated to know which investment opportunities were too good to be true. In this regard, he suggested that the country should adopt the statement of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in improving financial literacy. That is, “financial education should start at school” and should be “as early as possible, probably before children reach 7 years old.” Therefore, he suggested that banks in the country adopt the Life Skills initiative of Barclays Bank (UK) to improve the level of financial literacy in the country.
Mr. Asante in his lecture also discussed the need to emphasize apprenticeship as a key requirement in the training of banking and finance professionals. According to him, “there were aspects of every profession that cannot be learned in the classroom, but must be learned where the profession was practiced.” He further stated that the inadequate focus on apprenticeship was a problem created by the institution which had not developed robust internship and apprenticeship systems.
This need not be, in his opinion, and he suggested that institutions find a way to be very relevant with training people who will be required to run them. Also, institutions must ensure that students who go on internships were not used as glorified office boys and girls to buy food for their supervisors but that they should learn on the job and gain useful, relevant skills and experience.
Education, training and apprenticeship, he said, would all come together to play a significant role in the way forward in the banking and finance industry. “But underlying it all was a strong backbone of ethical behavior that we must cultivate as a matter of necessity in this crucial and sensitive sector.” Finally, he admonished banking and finance training providers to “always be ahead of the industry in terms of identifying the skill requirement of the industry to sustain its development.”
By: Victor Yaw Asante, MD/CEO. FBNBank Ghana Limited.