The predominant expectation for the banking profession across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and other African countries is that these suited professionals are often rich and do not lack much as far as what-money-can-buy is concerned. Survey conducted over a 1 year period among bankers in Ghana suggests that this belief isn’t true –for most bankers. In fact, some bankers have become broke at some point in their careers and sometimes, the situation drags on for a long period.
I found out that one of the main causes of a banker’s financial drought is often the urge to meet the high uncontrollable expectations and demands of the people around them. Family members (both nuclear and extended), friends and even acquaintances expect you to be able to provide for the basic demands they make without hesitations.
Bankers I spoke with mentioned that these demands are often small in monetary terms (below $100) but it is the frequency of such demands that eat deep into their income, leaving them at the end of the month with nothing to save. In some circumstances, these demands force them into debt.
Living the Banker’s Life
Again on expectation, this time subtle and not demanding, bankers have this belief that “as bankers we are expected to dress in high-end clothing, drive certain cars, live in good neighborhood and in a good house, enroll our kids in the best schools…”. Even on weekends they’re expected to dress gorgeously and shop from the choicest malls.
Salaries are often stretched to meet this seemingly bourgeois lifestyle, even though bankers are among the best paid workers in Ghana and other countries on the continent. Bankers have access to cheaper loans than the rest of the population and this often provides a quick route to obtain finance to fund the banker’s life. The repayment is another drain on the pocket.
Life on Loans
It is not strange to see bankers live completely on loans after the first two years of their careers when they get access to staff loans. Auto loans, personal loans, consumer finance and mortgages are accessible by qualified bankers. These loans are often replaced or refinanced by other loans and the years keep passing by, with a life lived solely on loans.
What happens when loans cannot be obtained (for example employer suspends access to staff loans)? Life begins to hit you hard. It is like walking on giant balloons. Eventually, one would burst and the fall would be great. Projects undertaken and assets acquired with the view of funding them with staff loans become a burden on the banker. Next thing is they’re borrowing from colleagues at work and even friends outside the banking profession. Some resort to borrowing from smaller financial institutions such as microfinance institutions, with the accompanying high interest rates.
The banking profession is one that is comparatively highly rewarding (salaries, bonuses, cheap loans etc) but if expectations on the banking professional are not managed well, it could become a stressful career.