Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I have never of dreamt of being a banker at any point in my life but the etiquette synonymous with banking keeps me interested in the affairs therein.

Banking halls are places where you cannot fully understand the logic behind some of their way of doing things. Besides tying pens to dirty strings for their customers, banks are also full of one rude teller here and one tough-for-nothing security officer there. It seems they are worried with people answering phones in the banking halls instead of rectifying the laziness of their systems which sometimes keep customers waiting on the queue for hours just for a simple transaction.

I remember some years ago, some bank employed young and beautiful ladies to stand in the banking halls and smile to customers all day long. To make the innovation worse, these ladies were also assigned to guide customers to some place where a water dispenser and a bottle of orange squash were placed. It proved a bad idea because both the ladies and the squash disappeared within few months.

The point I am trying to drive home is that, banks seem so busy to innovate irrelevant procedures when all we need is an efficient, reliable and fast service. 

If you have checked inquisitively, you will realize that all banks seem the same. They just differ here and there on interest rates and some (hidden) costs. Almost all of them are now buying vans to reach rural masses (so they say). Why not sort out the mess for more enlightened people in urban areas before you take your trash to illiterate citizens who do not have the chance to understand some complex and abusive banking mistakes?

Having said all this, banking should be guided by ethics and those ethics should be treated as divine law. Don’t be rude to me just because I want to access my account and keep my personal information secret enough because I am your client.

Did I just say “keep my information secret?”

Ask NBS, National Bank, Inde Bank, Standard Bank and Malawi Savings Bank. These are the very institutions which broke their own ethics when it comes to keeping secrets of their clients,

Nobody seems to care that these banks cannot be trusted; or let’s say their systems are flawed when it comes to issues of confidentiality.

What really happened for people to know that Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) had borrowed money from these commercial banks to complement government’s zero deficit budget? (Never mind the reasons behind such a move)

World over, banks operate like doctor and patient. The information between them is privileged. The moment a doctor discloses information about his or her patient, he or she has broken ethics of secrecy and privacy. This is the reason after postmortems; doctors insist that information should only be disclosed by relatives unless the postmortem is in the public interest. This is also true for hotels and their clients. Lawyers are not an exception.

The transactions between MRA and the banks were in the same framework of a bank-customer relationship. Disclosure of the transaction should only be done only after the consent of the two parties. For any party to disclose information related to the transaction is breach of trust and unethical.

And then what happens to the relationship between bankers and their customers. Good as the revelation is that money was borrowed from banks, but the one who tipped Mnesa, obviously from one of the banks, has destroyed the privacy that is supposed to exist between customer and bank.

Are we wrong to speculate that the main suspect who leaked the information is one woman who is close to Mnesa and works for this blue-branded bank? She must have been the one who solicited the information for Mnesa. Where does the boundary between ethical issues and personal interests drawn?

This is an issue that the ethical committee of the Bankers Association of Malawi needs to deal with, lest the banks lose their integrity as a result of members of staff who are prepared to throw ethics to the wind for purposes of expediency.

Forget about MRA, Ken Lipenga, his lies and him being shielded. Let us focus on the integrity of our banks. Are we safe as clients? What if this malpractice also happens not to a big client like MRA but individuals or common people?

These four banks should find out who leaked confidential information into the path of George Mnesa. And they have to deal with this issue accordingly to restore their trust.  

This is just food for thought.


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