March is here and days are moving fast, soon we will be reporting Q1 results. I was told when you turn 40 years, days tend to be shorter. I trust we are gathering pace with strategy implementation and the year is getting clearer as we progress. Many thanks for your comments on Bulletin II. I’ll revisit the issue of Culture and Board’s role in the coming bulletin.
This month’s bulletin is about Branch, yes our branches and whether they are significantly contributing to the profitability of our institutions. Branch is the foundation of banking in terms of structure and strategy implementation.
This notion lately has been put to test by the rise of mobile and agency banking. However, the need for branches still stands only the purpose is continuously evolving. Traditional branches were highly transactional and service oriented. Branches of the future will be growth oriented, deepening presence, member relationship, experience and consultations. In our cases, are our branches evolving to reflect these futuristic attributes?
Through our transformation work, we interact with CEOs, yes yourselves and I always here comments such as, if only my branch managers can “wake-up”, how can I win in the market place, our branch is in third year and has not broken-even or we should not have opened that branch in that location. Yes I agree that earlier branches were opened to take services closer to members and in some cases, political reasons thus political branches.
If you have such cases, I tell you then that the choices are not many but to make the branches profitable. We do support this effort through our branch transformation program. The alternative, is closing a branch which can pose serious reputational risks and member service disruption.
A branch being a semi-autonomous profit center is a critical unit that determines and contributes to the overall profitability of the SACCO. The branch manager contributes significantly the performance of the branch, harnessing the branch team effort and maintaining the team’s morale and a positive attitude towards wining in their respective market place.
The growth, member relationship, service and risk management initiatives are implemented at the branch. If your SACCO’s growth strategy is dependent on the branch then your branch manager must the business development manager at the branch – not marketing executives. As a CEO, what are your SACCO’s branch plans? Do your branch managers understand their growth, member relationship, service and experience and risk management roles?
I normally say that branches are “Hip Bone” if there is an issue with our hip bone, we now neither the upper nor the lower body will perform effectively. Since all business happens at the branch, if our branches have issues, then you as the CEO, will have as many headaches as your number of branches.
As CEOs, your Branch Managers are your Generals that you have entrusted to conquer for you territories and enlarge your empire – in economic sense. In this regard, you cannot have a general at war who have never shot a gun. Let me explain – when I visit some organizations, I find branch managers who have never gone out to recruit members, have never sat at Teller cubicles or assisted customers at customer care desk and who don’t know how to book loans or collect them. Worse still, I find Head Office staff who have never worked at the branch – meaning they may not understand the SACCO business practically. I hope you can see through the confusion we are into. We will discuss head office another time.
Back to branch, for effective branch management and performance, get the branch manager position right. S/he is the pace setter of other branch staff and MUST lead from the front. In addition, depending on the SACCO’s business model, get the branch structure right and unblock information flows from the branch to yourselves as CEOs.
Lastly, you the CEO is the overall General, find ways of motivating your generals by visiting them often, keeping in touch with them almost on a daily basis. The ground is tough for them and at times they need to make decisions on the spot otherwise others who have been empowered will do and take the business to their respective organizations.
As we say if don’t recruit members, they will be recruited as customers by others. All in all – have generals who can win the war for you!
I have a vast consulting experience in business advisory services in private sector, public sector and development world. I have worked with World Council of Credit Unions and the founder of Strathmore Research and Consultancy Centre at Strathmore University
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