Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) is a bank that prides itself as a foremost Nigerian financial institution that fosters a culture of openness in which healthy debate is encouraged. Over the last two decades, the bank has grown from strength to strength thus making it a preferred institution for young Nigerians who aspire to become seasoned bankers.

Why join GTBank?

On the bank’s website, it justifies the reason to work for the bank by stating that “We are, first and foremost, a Learning Organization. We understand that being an employer of choice goes beyond the regular pay package. It involves listening, training, mentoring, a genuine concern for what people really care about, and acting upon them. In essence, it involves connecting to people’s hearts.” Superb! No better way to introduce this great institution to an aspiring or established professional in Nigeria’s banking sector.

The bank doesn’t stop at that; it goes on to say that “a career at Guaranty Trust Bank offers you a chance to make a difference in your life and the lives of people in your immediate community. Throughout our history, we have continued to help our staff realize their dreams, whilst creating opportunities for them to fulfill their personal and professional potential.”

Over the last 20 years, GTBank has been very successful with their people. The bank has been able to pass the vision of its founders down to every staff of the bank. Through their training consultants, Learners and Trainers and IBFC, new employees go through comprehensive entry training programs that span between 2-3 months getting fired up. They come out proud with their orange IDs, they believe so much in the bank’s vision, “we are a team driven to deliver the utmost in customer service.” While other bankers are hopping from one bank to the other seeking the next level, they strictly remain loyal. They strongly believe that a rolling stone gathers no moss. Ask anyone around about a GTBanker and they will tell you how they cherish and proudly defend the brand.

Exactly two years ago today, that story changed. GTBank lost its revered Managing Director and co-founder, Tayo Aderinokun. Tayo just like Fola Adeola was a leader who stood out in every aspect of the bank including the welfare of his staff. He was indeed the most respected CEO within and outside the bank. An award he later received from PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008. Tayo’s demise ushered in a new leadership in the bank, one that appears determined to change what hitherto was a chance to make a difference in the lives of its people and that of those in their immediate community.

On Thursday 23rd May, 2013, GTBank reduced itself from an institution highly regarded in banking sector as the most respected corporate bank in Nigeria, renowned for both its professionalism and high ethical standards to a callous employer of labour. It decided to tow the path of ignominy by unjustly sacking over 100 staff of the bank.

The bank was quick to go to press to state that it had sacked 100 and promoted 500. What the bank did not tell was how it carried out its exercise and if it fulfilled all obligations as required by law.

Reasonable Notice

To start with, where in the world do you notify people of your decision to sack them with their inability to log in to their various systems at work? Logging in to your computer system to commence the day’s operation at work was not a celebrated activity in GTBank until Segun Agbaje decided to change the face of banking that blessed Thursday. There couldn’t have been a more befitting and professional way of telling someone who had diligently and effectively worked in your institution for years that his/her services were no longer required. So many people who had saved personal items such as training materials and notes on their systems could not access their documents and files. Why? It was time to go. They were suddenly advised to contact the Human Resources (HR) department. An Assistant Manager in the head office wept. What brought tears to his eyes wasn’t the sack but the way they were dispersed from an institution they lived for like lepers. The bank was even kind enough to tell another lady who was bitter because her team met their budget for the financial year under review during her appraisal to put a new person through.

So much genuine concern for indeed helping their staff realize their dreams, whilst creating opportunities to fulfill their personal and professional potential. In the words of a Deputy General Manager who left GTBank some years back to join another top bank, “GTBank just cheapened its staff”.

The most pertinent question to then ask is why did GTBank decide to sack some staff? With the Lamido Sanusi tsunami that swept away some CEOs in the banking industry, came massive retrenchment of bankers. Thousands were laid off in defunct banks like Intercontinental and Oceanic with the new interim management teams claiming they had to downsize in order to put these banks back in healthy operation. Their reasons to some extent were valid. However, considering GTBank’s recently declared PBT of N100B, the issue had to be something else, may be performance.

The decision to sack was made after the bank’s appraisal of its staff where those who had low scores (B) were told to leave as directed by Segun during the appraisal meeting. What he failed to address was the lingering issue of victimisation and subjective appraisal by team leaders and bosses who have become tyrants in the bank. Most of these bosses hold on to personal grudges and flex their muscles only during the appraisal of their direct reports. While some of them use this as a tool to show superiority, others just do this to slow down the growth of their staff supposedly in line with Segun’s cost cutting strategy.

It was thus no surprise when some of these heads, having scored their staff so low, tried to reach out to the affected ones claiming they never expected the MD to instruct a sack of those with low scores. Now if you honestly know your team member does not deserve a B, why score him that low? If you knew Segun would erratically decide to sack, would you have honestly given the same scores? Would you consider the appraisal as fair and objective?

Most people in GTBank today grew under Tayo. There was instant reward for productivity and performance. Suddenly things changed, some employees have spent 5 years on a particular level and yet have high scores during their appraisals each year. The bank has resorted to quota system where a certain number of possible promotions (determined by the MD) is allotted to various groups within the bank. The Group Heads often claim their hands are tied, what about their mouths? They surely are following the Yoruba saying that once the mouth has tasted “dodo” (profit sharing), it certainly will reject “ododo” (the truth).

In the face of Segun’s high-handedness, the head of HR’s meekness and the absence of unions in the bank, where does an aggrieved GTBanker get able and due representation for fairness and justice assuming he or she is a victim of harassment, bullying and victimisation? The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees should ensure that all bankers join the union with emphasis placed on the need for support in the face of such unlawful dismissals. How can you sack without notice in writing? “At common law, it is implied that that either party may terminate the contract by giving reasonable notice to the other” Omehia (2011) “Dismissal in Nigeria Labour Law” pp 55.

The principal legislation on employment matters in Nigeria is the Labour Act which was enacted in 1971. The most common method of terminating a contract of employment is by the delivery of a written notice of termination of the contract on the opposite party. While the bank may claim that monetary compensation was made in lieu of notice, it came 8 days after the termination of contract. The bank failed to write to affected staff stating their severance package. Besides the narration that comes with SMS notifications for credits into account, no affected staff has a letter stating what s/he is entitled to after several years of diligence and commitment. On what grounds were those calculations made? Did it consider the length of service? Did it include benefits up to the last day of employment? Is it enough to advise them to resign voluntarily? Preposterous!

The Nigerian Court of Appeal has held that “in the absence of any definite agreement between an employer and his employee stipulating the period of notice for employee’s employment, the Court will proceed to consider what period of notice is reasonable”. Certainly not between 1-24 hours! There have been so many cases of similar dismissals arising from the MD’s spontaneous reaction to matters beyond the control of employees in question.

One of such was the unjust dismissal of a Deputy Manager, whose 10 year GTBank career was cut short few days to his wedding due to the inability of the bank’s customer to pay down on a loan that was presented to the bank’s Management Credit Committee (MCC). Be informed that the MCC is responsible for reviewing and approving all credits that are above the approval limit of the MD as determined by the Board. Its members include the MD who is the Chairman while the secretary is the head of the bank’s Credit Administration Unit, other members include all Divisional and Group Heads. This fellow was just a victim of power play or how else do you explain his dismissal from the bank for a credit that was approved by the MCC. The fact that his team was highly profitable was discounted for such erratic decisions that now characterise the Criticized Asset Committee (CAC) which is responsible for the assessment of the risk asset portfolio of the Bank. This and many cases have become the norm in GTBank. But who will come to their rescue? HR or NUBIFIE? A notification on the bank’s intranet that a staff’s customer has been listed on the CAC list sends fear down the spine of such staff. He simply doesn’t know if that will be his last day at work.

In all of these, let it be known that government is a reflection of the society. While most Nigerians blame and attack government assuming they are totally different people from the rest of us, so much injustice occur around us every day by people in positions of authority. Some of these people eventually find their ways into government. Will the situation change? It will be no surprise if GTBank does respond with a well written orange article to refute what has been stated here but there are over a 100 people willing to share their stories of subjective appraisals.

Rest in peace Tayo Aderinokun, we all miss you.

Junaid Korede Agbabiaka (JKA)


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