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Internal robbery, poor customer service a bad image for the banking sector

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Recent media reports about persistent bank robbery in the Liberian banking sector may not have gone well certains banking intuitions in Monrovia.

Perhaps considering the reports as ‘damaging PR’, one of the banks- the First International Bank or FIBank, chose the back pages of a number of newspapers, including the New Dawn  to save face, and of course, blaming the media for the wrong reports.

In its clarification in connection with the theft of US$300,100 at its branch in Ganta, Nimba County, the Management of Bank said the US$300,100 theft at its Ganta branch, as focused on by the papers, was not a separate amount, but inclusive of the original US$1.2m stolen from the bank in 2012- a case that is currently on docket at the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice, and not virtually a new issue as reported.

Unfortunately, what the bank deliberately thought not to dwell on is the fact that the media did not ‘manufacture’, but only reported what was made available by the police and court.

For the management of the FIBank to have created the impression to the public that the media wrongfully reported the theft case was not only unfair to its conscience, but a ‘face-saving’ PR.

What the bank must be more concerned about is to put in place the necessary mechanisms to protect the people’s money from the persistent internal robbery by its employees, other than attempting to ‘cry wolf’ on the media.

This is why we continue to draw the attention of the Government of Liberia, through the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL, to swiftly intervene to curtail this and save the image of the banking sector, as well as protect the interest of customers.

It’s not just a matter of merely intervening, but the establishment of the root cause(s) from bottom to top of such persistent internal criminal activities at the affected banks.

Once the problems are identified and properly solved without any form of sentiments in consonance with the CBL regulations, thefts may either vanish or be reduced.

At the moment, the court system is conducting trials for a number of alleged Ecobank and FIBank employees and collaborators for stealing customers’ money deposited at these banks.

One case-in-point is an alleged transfer of US$9, 000.00, through internet banking at Ecobank-Liberia by a group of four Nigerian and Liberian suspects to their Nigerian counterparts in Brazil. The Liberian suspects are reported to have allegedly conspired with some unidentified Nigerians ‘residing in Brazil’ through internet banking system and hacked into accounts, transferring the US$9,000 into account number 0043144710787101.

Another case currently in court is a theft of US$300,100.00 involving four employees of the FIBank in Ganta, Nimba County. They are reported to have admitted to the theft following their arrests on February 7, 2015, noting that “they criminally exposed and shared their individual passwords with each other… and as a result… they made away with the total sum of US$300,100.00.” 

The issue of alleged thefts at Ecobank and FIBank, now in the public domain, does not suggest that other banking institutions are not affected. Perhaps, these institutions may be concealing such information to avoid bad PR or may have put in place measures to halt the crime.

In all fairness, continuity in thefts, most especially by employees of these banking institutions, is projecting a very damaging image of the Liberian banking sector. This may even be scaring customers whose reliance for the safety of their cash is the banking sector. 

Apart from the persistent thefts, daily poor customer service in most banks in Monrovia continues to discourage many customers. 

Other than the difficulties in withdrawals and deposits, changes and ratification of customers’ financial documents may even take more than a month or two – this is very discouraging of the Liberian banking sector.

This is why the CBL must be vigorous and steadfast in regulating these banks, especially Ecobank and FIBank where there always complaints from customers.

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