By Chola Mpasa
Those days when the banking sector was dominated by foreign nationals as MDs, the complaint was mainly that these foreigners don’t understand or have no interest about Zambians. Today, all the top performing banks are managed by Zambians, respected bankers. Take the two reds, the blue and green banks for example together they account for more than fifty percent of total revenue generated in the sector and they all headed by Zambians. I hold accounts with two of them so I m speaking from experience. This is not a complaint it’s an observation.
On charges for example, I see a monthly bank charge read MONTHLY MANAGEMENT FEE K110, K150. On the other I see a MONTHLY MAINTENANCE FEE K195. Now imagine I have banked with one bank from 1997 that is 25 years and I always pay K110 for merely holding an account. Another one same K195 monthly for merely holding an account with them. The point I am stressing is that if I left K10,000 in my bank account in January by December I will find about K1,350 gone, deducted. My appeal is that yes during the 1990s when there was no online banking, inter branch was the order of the day, batching of transactions with calculators with slips, clearing of cheques was manual were banks used to exchange physical cheques, the fixed charge could be justified. But today, technology has evolved, most tasks are now done by clients not banks. My appeal therefore to the leading top banks is lead the way abolish these monthly fixed charges across all accounts. Banks should only charge based on activities. If I draw cash, I send an ewallet, I do a ddacc, a swift transaction yes I must pay but charging for merely having an account with a bank is outdated banking, it’s arm chair banking ( nawikalafye impiya shileingila). The two red banks, the green and blue can influence this, if they abolished fixed bank charges across all accounts, the rest will follow. There is no justification today to maintain a monthly management or account maintenance fee as I have pointed out technology has changed and Zambian MDs please go to your boards at end of this Q2 and seek to abolish these “punishable fees” that have no basis. We are now the ones in charge of these banks not foreigners so let us spearhead changes that benefit Zambians in the banking sector. Farmers, marketeers, SMEs all want to keep money in banks, but these fixed monthly fees drives them away. You are free as Banks to charge any activity based charges.
My second appeal is that Banks must rethink a definition of a dormant account. For example, if I have two accounts with a Bank say two Kwacha accounts or one Kwacha and one USD. Then I am just using one of them the other one I have just kept some savings there for a rain day. How can a bank declare my savings account that is not active dormant and take it to unclaimed balances when the other account is very active? I have experienced this with one Bank in the last one month and one of my friends had one of his account closed based on the same reasoning. Yes I agree if a person has only one account and it’s dormant for say six months I have no issue if that account is declared dormant based on BoZ regulations. But where a client has multiple accounts and say one is very active and the other is not but well funded a bank wakes up and declares a well funded account dormant and closes it then there is a problem. So Banks please rethink on this one, your systems should look at the client overall not individual accounts. It’s simple with latest technology it can be done. Again you big Banks managed by Zambians lead the way on this score. My experience on this one was with one of the top three Banks not a small Bank and I was shocked when I got a call from my personal banker telling me that one of your accounts will be declared dormant, make a transaction on it. I said why, coz I am very active on the other two accounts, how can you declare a savings account dormant when it’s well funded?. Ati no it’s the system. OMG it was very embarrassing to say the least. Who runs the system? Who programs the system to do this? It’s us human beings. Let us reprogram these banking systems to stop doing these unreasonable acts. Zikomo