BusinessDay

Nigerian banks race to retain talent

The growing number of young and upwardly mobile professionals flocking to other countries in recent years is forcing Nigerian banks to adopt desperate measures in a bid to retain talent.

The banks are also contending with the exodus of talent to tech and fintech companies in the country that are luring skilled workers with better pay and more flexible working conditions.

BusinessDay findings show that the development is putting more pressure on the lenders to rethink their hiring and compensation strategies in order to retain skilled employees, especially tech talent.

The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the total staff strength of deposit money banks in the country declined to 95,026 in the fourth quarter of 2020 from 103,610 in the same period a year earlier.

This comprised 39,798 contract staff, 37,590 junior staff, 17,381 senior staff and 257 executive staff, according to the data.

“Yes, it is becoming a trend in the banking industry that staff members are resigning from their job in search of better life in other countries, due to insecurity in the country, cost of living and all that,” a banker in one of the Tier-2 banks told BusinessDay.

Kennedy Uzoka, group managing director/chief executive officer at United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), said late last month that the ‘Great Resignation’ wave that had seen a record number of employees across the globe quit their jobs had disrupted the performance of many businesses.

“UBA, in the last quarter of 2021, thoughtfully reviewed upwards the salaries of its staff as part of broad measures to retain talents,” he said in a statement announcing the bank’s first-quarter financial results. “We believe our staff is part of our success story with their welfare as a top priority.”

Jude Monye, executive director at Heritage Bank Plc, said the exit of skilled employees had made some banks to fast-track their training plans to cover the gap created.

Monye said some banks even converted their casual workers to permanent staff.

A banker who works in a Tier-2 bank told BusinessDay on condition of anonymity that banks now focus more on management training and employing graduate trainees.

“It is not really a problem in the industry because there is always a second level staff in the employment structure, so when one leaves, the second staff takes over,” the banker said.

Other strategies some banks are adopting, according to another banker, include promotion and provision of perks.

“For my own bank, there are lots of motivations; every staff member has access to a car loan. The banks are encouraging staff training. It is the highly talented workers that are leaving and the bank is motivating them to stay on the job,” he said.

The Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) recently raised the alarm over the growing shortage of general digital skills caused by the brain drain in Africa.

It said such a development would further lead to rise in cyber-attacks and crimes with catastrophic consequences for businesses, governments, and citizens.

ISSAN is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace. It is significantly involved in ensuring the security of banking systems and applications, ATMs, e-government systems, and the entire cyberspace in Nigeria.

Bloomberg reported last month that Nigerian banks had been hit by an exodus of tech talent, citing bank chief executives.

“So many of our very experienced talents, especially in the area of software engineering are either leaving the industry or leaving the country,” Abubakar Suleiman, chief executive officer of Sterling Bank Plc, was quoted as saying at the end of a meeting of bank CEOs.

He referred to it as a “great resignation”, saying the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, the umbrella professional body for lenders in the country, would “drive the process of training more skills in the area where we see deficits.”

Oyinkan Olasanoye, president of Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, expressed worry about the exit of experienced and skilful workers from the Nigerian banking sector as a result of the economic situation.

She said: “There has been massive job loss in the sector recently. Majority of them who left went to seek another opportunity because the employment situation in the country is not of any benefit to them, even the fresh graduates looking for a job have not got.

“Now the situation is that we are gradually losing experienced hands in the financial sector, and most of the people we are using to replace them are not core professionals that understand the ethics of the job.”

According to Olasanoye, over 75 per cent of workers in the banking sector are casual staff, and no law specifically protects them.

Uju Ogubunka, president of Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, said apart from the issue of insecurity, standard of living and corruption fuelling the migration to other countries, there could also be cases of insider-related abuses by some of the workers who might not want to be caught.

He called on the Central Bank of Nigeria and other regulators to do a proper check on those leaving and develop a framework to minimise the trend.

“This is not peculiar to the banking sector alone; it cuts across all other sectors as Nigerians are in search of greener pastures, given the very obvious challenges within the economy,” Ayodeji Ebo, MD/chief business officer at Optimus by Afrinvest, said.

He said the brain drain happening in the country had made it tougher to hire experienced hands. “The most concerning is the exit of nurses and doctors which is further worsening the ratio of doctors to patients in Nigeria.”

According to him, if this trend continues without any major structural reforms to make living in Nigeria worthwhile, it will continue to affect productivity and socio-economic growth.

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