BANKING is a lucrative and impactful component of modern capitalism. Its very essence and dynamism have defined nations and their overall socio-economic growth all over the world for centuries.
In Ghana, few Banks can claim the rarity of being an integral part of the cultural and historical outlook of the country like Absa Bank. With a previous name tag of Barclays, Absa’s repositioning in Ghana to take advantage of its African roots, was completed last year. The brand image of the entity was instantly recognisable everywhere – its unique red and white palette possess an ability to captivate customers and stakeholders alike. The repositioning came with a bold statement – “Bringing Possibility to Life” – which reflects a willingness and relentless commitment to empower and transform the way its customers, employees and key stakeholders make and create wealth. Then there was the tagline Africanacity, leaving no one in doubt as to the focus and perception of its continental reputation and status.
Absa is amongst the banks in Ghana categorised as Tier 1 in the industry due to the size of their assets, profitability, operating income and accessibility. At the height of the global pandemic in Ghana, Absa was among a few banks that displayed great anticipation and preparedness to ensure business continuity despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19. At the twilight of 2019, Absa’s top Management team started simulating activities in readiness for a full-blown pandemic. The Human Resources department recognised that the physiological and psychological safety of its employees were paramount even before the scourge of the virus became evident. Operating with an internal workplace culture that regard its people as its most important assets, the bank put measures in place to totally change the way it approached working. It kicked its remote working process into full gear, employees were put on a rotation and empowered with resources and tools to enable them work from anywhere, including their homes. Physical meetings were limited in favour of virtual platforms utilising the very best of modern digital technology.
Senior Executives, including Chief Executive Abena Osei Poku, led by example and started working remotely. Meetings that traditionally demanded physical presence were moved online and monitored for its efficiency and convenience. As People and Culture Director William Easmon reflects, “We knew the digitalfirst concept of video conferencing on laptop screens and mobile devices were fast becoming mainstay, so we decided to lead by example. When COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic in February of 2020 and the nation eventually moved into a lockdown scenario in March, the new normal and way of doing things were already familiar to our employees. We translated this awareness to our customers as well, especially at the branch level”
Absa’s approach was systematic and effective, its business continuity group met regularly to access progress and make the plan more robust and dynamic. Digital banking channels including its best-in-class banking app became first options for customers and clients instead of brick-and-mortar branches. Key business units adopted closer collaboration with their diverse pool of customers whiles anticipating their needs and responding swiftly. Internally, the HR team prioritised the need to constantly engage, promote awareness of the pandemic and inform employees on what to do and how to stay safe together with their families. Both customer and non-customer-facing areas within the organisation’s set-up were adorned with quality education images, videos and instructions on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and observe the protocols.
Absa’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) reflects a philosophy based on the principles of effective partnership amongst various internal stakeholders. It has a strong sense of making the bank a better place to work for current and potential employees. The HR leadership team makes it their responsibility to push an engagement agenda that makes everyone feel involved and appreciated. Engagement scores are currently at an all-time high, at a whooping 91%. “We have had to learn from other markets across our Group’s footprints to stay ahead of the game. We invested in new infrastructure, new laptops, mobile devices and even softphones to enable our employees stay in touch despite their physical absence. Our hybrid-working approach has yielded great dividend and we continue to see overall performance increasing with every passing day,” says Easmon.
With a career spanning over 20 years, Absa’s Director of People and Culture Mr William Easmon, has been involved in some of the most cutting-edge people initiatives in the banking sector. A recipient of several awards from diverse reputable organisations, William recognises the need to maintain his energy and commitment to elevating Absa as the leading bank for the most talented bankers in the country. “We cannot afford to rest on our laurels. It is an unmitigated journey of learning and constant reinvention. I have confidence in the quality of our people – our clients and customers constantly testify to this. I am blessed and excited to play a critical role in harnessing their individual talents and to create a remarkable force for good,” he says.
BANKING IS A LIFESTYLE. And thanks to Absa, it has become a mobility platform for the diversity of its clientele and customers in Ghana. A workforce able to anticipate and meet these demands head-on is a dream for any Human Resources practitioner. Customer needs are changing, accelerated in part by the pandemic, and banks like Absa are taking the lead in harnessing the potential and diversity of its workforce to redefine what a bank stands for.