Buffoon bankers

Published: July 12, 2011

Our banks are filled with insecure men wearing ill fitted suits. The cost of their ignorance is borne by us.

I have been working in a well reputed bank in Pakistan (whose name I will not mention) for the last five years. I have learnt a lot about banking, from credit modules to debt ratio analysis to greeting customers. What I have not as yet been able to understand is how our banking industry’s middle management is filled with buffoons wearing ill fitted suits with qualifications of no more than Bachelors in Commerce (BCom) and brains the size of a bird’s.

Why is this so?

The reason I feel the current state of the banking industry is depressing, is not only because such buffoons make comments like:

“What’s the difference between a BCom and an ACCA in the market? You can get both for Rs15,000 per month.”

But also because they they say:

“Don’t hire her/him, he speaks too much English.”

In budget meetings they say:

“Debit is debit and credit is credit.”

While taking a job interview they proudly say:

“I started my career at Rs10,000 per month.”

The best one is when they try to write emails with their three letter word angrazee.

It is because of these people that a culture based on theory X (a management theory which states employees persistently need to be pressurised as they are all inherently lazy and avoid work if they can) is taking shape at our workplaces. And in order to counter this belief, poor bank employees have started working late unnecessarily (actually they start most of their work after closing times) which affects their health, family life and social life.

When I was once asked to comment on how to improve my banks Human Resource (HR) polices and overall bank policy (which was in a HR survey by some outsourced company) I wrote:

“Regional management should adopt more open door polices.”

For writing this, my bird-brained buffoon of a manager asked for an explanation. After explaining the whole concept of an open door policy to just, all I heard him got was an “okay.” And, I gave him a free lesson on management.

The inability of these buffoons to tolerate competence and reward it accordingly is affecting us at the national level as well, as our best talent is constantly saying:

“Yaar, koi bahar jana ka chance lag jaye” (Man, I just need an opportunity to go abroad)

Sadly, they are willing to accept junior level positions abroad, just so they can get out of Pakistan and a culture where banking jobs for fresh MBAs are as low paying as the monthly salary of a taxi driver (a strange but true fact which very few people are aware of).

The main reason for such unproductive situations is that these area managers, cluster managers and regional managers have never learnt anything about motivation theories or management theories or planning and budgeting and do not have the academic understanding, which even a fresh out of university MBA has. The cost of such ignorance is borne by us.

I can only pray that once our low level managers take charge of middle management, they do not carry out the legacy of such buffoonery and incompetency, which is currently prevalent in our banking industry.

S Usto

S Usto

A banking industry professional who works in corporate financing, and has done a master in economics. He is also currently doing bi-majors in Marketing.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    Totally Agreed Man.. What we are stuck with is “the ELFY breed”. These are obese sitting elephants in our corporate sector, unwilling to train subordinates, an trying to scramble for foreign opportunities even if they are made just tellers.
    Good of you write about them.. Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/noman.ansari Noman Ansari

    Highly interesting writeup. That’s quite messed up! I just want to say that your frustrations are probably universal within any industry in Pakistan, where employees aren’t hired on merit etc.

    Also, your pic is up, so you don’t think someone from your workplace will read this? Recommend

  • Fooz

    Interesting write up..

    but you need to dearly hope your bank managers don’t visit Blogs here..or you’ll be fired lol.. not very smart on your part either now is it…

    or someone they know visit here, and shows it to them.. hasta lavista man lolRecommend

  • http://none.moc BP

    ““Yaar, koi bahar jana ka chance lag jaye””
    That makes m realize the diversity in human situations…some of us are itching to go back and then there’s your guys.Recommend

  • umair

    Actually the seith culture also prevails in our branches. Like if branch manager (BCOM) holds some big accounts of Chaudhry sahab then things like policies, professionalism and lower management concerns doesn’t matter to him/her.Recommend

  • sam

    iv been in banking for 3 years.. couldnt agree with u more.. i cal them the dinosaurs… they arent apt enough to compete they just arent and havnt the faintest idea of global trends in their own fields.. we need fresh bloodRecommend

  • Imran

    Actually this is the case of 95% of the organizations in pakistan and the sad part is
    the young generation is transfrming to the same way of working, not because they want to
    but they have to………………………….. or stay out of the organisationRecommend

  • http://russianroullete2.wordpress.com Jeddy

    Forget opening a personal bank account in any bank – everything is bound tremendous amount of red tape – too many formalities – it ceases to be a personal account – it is big news. It is as if saving money in a bank is a crime. Strangely enough closing a bank account is equally monumental task.It is said that the State Bank has made the rules. I suppose the ordinary savers are of no value to the banks and only already have millions are the ones who matter. But then they too are not satisfied – they rather save their money in banks abroad. Recommend

  • Ali Wahab

    Excellent article S. Usto. Very well written and cent percent agreed with you. Problem is that banking requires decision making. In Pakistan, Banking has become monkey business.
    Your frustration is quite correct. I underwent such frustrations myself (not because of bad middle management, but because of ineffective top management)
    Your article and its contents also remind me of movie Office Space.Recommend

  • http://caffeinedose.wordpress.com Asad

    It’s all about feeling insecure. When you have insecurity, you won’t allow fresh blood to contribute in bringing improvement in the operations. These elephants will try their best to confuse you in your own suggestions. For all the initiatives you will try to take, a default response would be “Why do you need that”?. Open door or open house whatever you call, is a very positive thing but for employees below manager level, it is not very much welcomed by managers because it allows to loose their grip on their sub-ordinates. Concept of good corporate governance is still very much vague in the minds of the people. Those who knows the benefit of it are mostly happy to keep quiet for multiple reasons such as efforts required to change the culture, people rigidness towards change and sometimes even for their own job security.

    Good postRecommend

  • Amer

    Awesome blog! Appreciate you bring out the true picture of the banking sector and the sad thing is that this is not limited to just one sector. This old school Theory X employee thinking is prevelent across the board and that’s one of the reasons Pakistani industry hasn’t even come close in managing the challenges of the new world economy. Recommend

  • MAD

    All I can add here is that in many cases even the well qualified managers act this way.Recommend

  • parvez

    The repeated use of the word buffoons put me off. You have made a point in your write up but the manner in which you have gone about doing it says a little about you as well.Recommend

  • Kafka

    Good writing. I myself was a banker once but I changed my career, not because of the reasons that you have mentioned here but because banking is a business of interest, and is forbidden in Islam. I did not want to have the surprise of my life after death…………..Recommend

  • Desi Lawyer

    It’s the lawyers that need sartorial assistance in the suits department. I’ve seen most bankers wearing suits with good fitting. Yea, they’re hot too. Recommend

  • http://www.baigarsalan.com Arsl

    Totally agreed dude ! those blood sucking oldies should go home now ! Recommend

  • Ayubee EL

    Banking is basically taking money from one party and lending that money out to another party at a higher rate. Understanding the products and managing risk (like credit analysis and debt ratio analysis that the author mentions) is no rocket science and is performed quite well by the average IBA or LUMS grad. Like anywhere in the world, the real banking essentially is a sales job…or at least that’s where the action is. Unfortunately, in Pakistan you have to interact/suck up to some real “backward” CFOs/Treasurers/Financial Controllers from local client companies (managers at multinationals are much better) who are essentially the bread and butter of your bank. These clowns do not understand the meaning of professionalism and have probably never heard of sensitivity analysis so don’t waste your time number crunching too hard. The trick is to come down to their level and talk a bit of politics (their favorite topic), tell them a great place where they can stuff their faces with Haleem, send them Ladoos on Eid and frequently complement their ugly office decorations. This is no place for well stitched suits or well spoken English. Your manager understands that and doesn’t care how well a new hire can say “absolutely”. Can he kiss some backside is the question. Bring business for the company and your company will have all the open door policies you want. On the other hand, getting exposure to and negotiating with such clients also forces you to become enterprising and creative in your approach. It makes you tough and versatile. But every person has a breaking point. When I walked into the office of a very well known Pakistani airline :) for a scheduled meeting with a very senior manager and his team, I found them sitting on the floor and eating lunch together on a chaadar. “Aayein jee, Bismillah kee jay…aur jootay utaar kay” one of them said. Very sweet of them to offer, but that’s the day I decided to take a break from Pakistani banking.Recommend

  • Ba Ha

    State bank of Pakistan is the defender of Bird Brains. And we are the sheep.Recommend

  • Omer

    Agree 100%.
    Being in Grave is better than being at bank.Recommend

  • freshman at LUMS

    woah !
    you guys are a bunch of sad bankers . and here i stand , at the brink of starting my education which would invariably lead me to the banking sector.
    i feel sad already .Recommend

  • Majid Ur Rehman

    I owe you for writing this piece! For this is not the issue with Banks only, but with all the BA (14 years) pass “managers” wherever they exist.Recommend

  • waqas

    terrific article… absolutely true.. i am an ACCA and have gone through the same things in my organization (bank). People do not recognize the difference between an ACCA and a B.Commer….. And i am so pissed off here that no one can understand.. Hope that our top management learns a lesson which seems impossible though!!!!Recommend

  • Babar Aftab

    good topic but you need to work on your vocabulary and Grammar!Recommend

  • Adeel

    A lot of ridiculous stuff, expected from our uneducated people.

    However, the statement about BCom and ACCA is sad but probably true!

    Also, mentioning your salary at interview’s is unprofessional but a lot of people in major investment and corporate banks in London (where I work) also talk about how they started off. For instance, right at the bottom cleaning the branch or standing at the till and doing everything. Very successful people such as entreprenurs also take great pride in where they started off. It is called being self-made. So if they started off earning very less and are doing well now, it isn’t a bad thing..Recommend

  • Shahab

    Mr. Usto, You have opened up the putrid entrails of this phoney banking culture in Pakistan. I wish the big bosses of this very important sector read this realistic narrative not only to reform their own ill management but also encourage the young and budding bankers in their endeavors to improve the overall culture of banking profession. Or else, there will be more of such writers as Mr. Usto coming up with more scathing and even shaming write-ups on their shallow managers. Well done Mr. Usto.Recommend

  • tipu sultan

    …..any way a nice piece to read.Recommend

  • Vaqar

    Dude, dnt get jealous of your seniors… you’ll get your chance too, Bankers are not successful when they adapt the concept of rolling stone. so keep your focus and follow the phrase “slow and steady wins the race..!”Recommend

  • XYZ

    lol, It seems like you said what we all X RBS employees are willing to say, stupid bureaucratic is that what is happening in local banksRecommend

  • bsc final year student

    terrible. sigh. dubai waghera ka koi scene koshish karni paray gi =/. Its so totally true that a lot of these guys can’t stand competence. But I am still hopeful of its evolution.Recommend

  • Marium Khan

    thnkz Mr Shuja for ur viewz, i totally agree watever u hav quoted coz pple r nt open minded n open hearted and cant bear da opnionz. dey dnt appreciate fresh blood coz of diz reasn r bankng industry iz slow pace n unable 2 grow. diz attitude of r management iz alwayz hurtful n discourage da workforce and pple who really want 2 work hard n want 2 bring a positive change in da industryRecommend