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Some guiding principles for the new bank employee

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Every new employee must tread cautiously when he enters, walks and works in new corridors of any work organisation. This is because he might not know so many things and everything about the new work place, including rules and regulations, executives of the institution, clients, stakeholders, shareholders, regulators and service providers.

The new bank employee would participate in an orientation programme organised by management. He would be educated on some laws, policies and practices of the bank so that he would not go contrary to the regulations of the institution. He would also hear some sanctions or punishments for contravening or breaking them.

Guiding principles

There are some sayings or quotes attributed to Alexander Hamilton, Peter Marshall and others:

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”

“When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.”

The new employee must have guiding principles, and must stand by them in his working life if he has to be successful in his career. He must have some standards which will guide his conduct, behaviour, attitude and performance. Those who are religious may have some ethical virtues which would teach them how to act in various circumstances.

The Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana), in collaboration with the Bank of Ghana and Ghana Association of Bankers, published the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct (referred to as the Code hereafter) to guide bank officials in the discharge of their duties. Under Integrity (Section 5.1), the Code stipulates:

“A Member shall:

  1. Act with honesty and in truth,
  2. Relate with Stakeholders in good faith,

iii. Avoid taking advantage of his position for personal benefit,

  1. Not participate in illegal or fraudulent transactions,
  2. Take personal responsibility for his actions,
  3. Exhibit transparency in the performance of his duties.”

The meaning of integrity in a dictionary indicated: “Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code”. Synonyms provided were decency, goodness, honesty and probity.

The new employee must take these provisions seriously and follow them.

There is an old adage which stipulates that ‘honesty is the best policy’. This saying is still relevant in banks and other institutions. The new bank staff must be honest in his dealings with his work colleagues, managers, clients and the general public. He must imbibe the core values of the bank. He must follow the service standards of the bank. He must be respectful and follow the code of conduct. He must not do anything to affect the image or reputation of the bank.

If you consider the mottos of some four professional bodies, you will agree with me that integrity or honesty is still very important in professional conduct.

The motto of Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana) – “Honesty and Integrity”

The motto of Institute of Chartered Accountants (Ghana) – “Honesty”

The motto of Chartered Institute of Taxation (Ghana) – “Diligence and Integrity”

The motto of Ghana Police Service – “Service with Integrity”

In fact the importance that banks attach to integrity or honesty cannot be over-emphasised. Those who speak Latin may say “res ipsa loquitur”, meaning “the matter speaks for itself”. Integrity is a priceless virtue for bankers.

Some questions to ask yourself

In doing your job and meeting ethical challenges or dilemmas, it is needful for you to see the ‘warning signs’ outlined by Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell in their book ‘Business Ethics – Ethical Decision Making and Cases’. According to them: “You’re On Thin Ethical Ice When You Hear…”:

“Well, may be just this once …”

“No one will ever know …”

“It doesn’t matter how it gets done as long as it gets done.”

“It sounds too good to be true.”

“Everyone does it.”

“Shred that document.”

“We can hide it.”

“No one will get hurt.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“This will destroy the competition.”

“We didn’t have this conversation.”

Young bankers and even older employees may also ask themselves the following questions when they are confronted with some issues or dilemmas:

“How will I feel when it is published in the newspapers?”

“What explanation will I give to my wife, family, friends, associates and church members?”

“Will I have peace of mind after the deed, and sleep soundly?”

“Will it affect my image or reputation or will I be able to lift up my head?”

“Are my intentions lawful, and deeds permitted?”

“Will my work colleagues be disappointed in me?”

 “Will I be queried if detected?”

“Will the case be taken to the Disciplinary Committee?”

What are your answers? Will you be able to justify your actions per the rules of the organisation?

Do what is right!

I will encourage you to do the right thing and let your deeds or professional conduct stand the test of time. Get to know what are discretionary and what are mandatory. If you are not bold, determined and courageous you will compromise. You must learn to comply with Standard Operating Practices (SOPs).

Don’t be encouraged to do what is wrong even if the internal control system is weak. Don’t allow staff and customers to influence and entice you to steer away from the business’ values, corporate goals and professional ethics of your organisation. The reality is that you may be tempted to do the wrong thing sometimes and for a number of reasons. You have to learn how to say “no” with tact or in a professional manner. Don’t do things hastily. Sometimes you may have to do due diligence. Remember, sometimes fake documents may even look just like the genuine ones or even better than genuine ones. You may lose a number of friends and be unpopular, but you may keep your job and livelihood.

It is needful or prudent to seek for clarification or advice on matters which are unclear or challenging to avoid falling into troubles. If you start compromising on corporate values, work related or professional ethics, you will start breaking down the ethical protective covering around you which will allow you to be trapped into illegal, fraudulent or irresponsible activities.

Some of your actions or inactions may cause regulatory non-compliance or reputational damages to your organisation. Don’t be the cause of grievous penalties against your organisation. Don’t be involved in any scandal. Remember also that you have to protect your image.

Postscript (P.S.)

Here are some other tips which will assist you.

  • Don’t use the same password for all applications.
  • Don’t share your password with anybody. In other words don’t give your password to anyone.
  • Change your password as and when necessary.
  • Don’t compromise on key holding arrangement. Don’t give your key out to another staff if the key is meant for the ATM, strong room, safe containing L/C and collection documents, mortgage and land documents, safe custody items and other sensitive documents. Handing over of such keys must be in writing.
  • Read directives, policies, procedures and regulations of your organisation.
  • Read your official mails carefully and act accordingly.
  • Don’t overstate or understate figures. Don’t falsify or manipulate figures. You may have problems with your management and the central bank.
  • Don’t suppress cash. Declare overages (surpluses) and shortages.
  • Remember the oath of secrecy you took. Be careful about the disclosures that you make. If you are not circumspect you will find yourself in trouble.
  • Don’t sign documents without checking.
  • Comply with mandates on accounts. Don’t accept irregular mandate for work or account obligations.
  • Keep good records.
  • Where necessary, request for written instruction or authorisation before you take action. Sometimes, acting on ‘word of mouth’ may land you into trouble.
  • If you work for overtime don’t overstate the number of hours of work.
  • Don’t threaten the life of any staff.
  • Stay away from forgery, fraud and fraud-related issues.
  • Keep away from every questionable activity.
  • Seek advice and be timely.
  • Don’t work fast without being accurate.
  • Don’t report for work late.
  • Don’t leave the office premises before closing time.
  • Check account names and account numbers carefully before effecting transactions on accounts.
  • Be respectful and courteous.
  • Be diligent and have an ‘enquiring mind’.
  • Read your organisation’s brochures on products and services.
  • Attend to customers as early as possible.
  • Perform your assignments on time, and don’t be tagged with giving excuses for delayed work.

The writer is Chartered Banker. Email:[email protected]

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