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Who do we blame for the collapsing of banks?

I was at Family Bank, Kisumu Express Branch moments ago (Friday, morning). I was greeted by an empty banking hall – two customers in front of me and only one teller. It was about 10 am in the morning. Usually the queue is pretty long during this time of the day. Today it wasn’t.

The last time I was here was on Monday this week. I withdrew almost to the last coin of what I had in my family’s business account. I needed the money to pay for a business expense.

I remember the lady teller asking me if the fears had gotten to me.

“Unatoa yote juu umeogopa (Are you withdrawing everything out of fear) ?”

She dis not specify what “fears” she was referring to but I needed not to be a nuclear scientist to know that she was talking about the on-going speculations about the stability of the bank. Besides the counter was a newspaper cutout with a press release from the bank assuring clients of their stability and asking them to ignore the rumors. If you ask me, I think the frequent statements did more harm than good.

Part of that statement blames the bank’s woes on a few individuals on social media for spreading malicious rumor against the institution.

I looked at the teller’s face and I saw her disappointment. I am a regular client and she has served me severally before. I was under no obligation to explain my withdrawal.

So I looked at her straight in the eye and said, “if you check your system you would realize that the money I am just taking out is from a cheque I deposited last week. I wouldn’t have brought the cheque here if the rumors had gotten to me.”

So today I was at the bank again. To deposit another cheque. I am not not stupid but I believe they still have a chance to stay in business despite the panic withdrawals that could threaten the stability of even the most stable of financial institutions. I believe the bank can still do with a little trust from clients like me and you.

When banks go down, a lot of people suffer. I remember the teller’s face again, she was probably her family’s sole bread winner. Knowing how our families usually are, she probably has a few relatives’ kids in the village she is paying school fees for. So she was justified in being disappointed in me and my ilk.

Family is not the first bank in these waters though. There was Imperial Bank then Chase Bank before it. Before they all went down, there was unbridled greed from their directors and managers. Eventually led to loss of livelihoods for staff members and so much anguish for depositors who could not then access their cash.

So when thing like this happens, I wish the bank employees would throw their disappointment in the right direction. It’s good that as I write this, the Director of Public Prosecution has already recommended charges against Family Bank’s former CEO and key Managers at various branches. Finally they will face consequences of their greed – that is if they did not loot enough to buy “justice.”

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