In his album, Mankani Angu, Australia-based Zambian musician Larry Maluma has a song titled Every Bank Is A Robber. Well, time allowing, that is a topic needing intense discussion.
Anyhow in Zambia, the gazetted minimum wage is K260, 000.00 per month but Barclays Bank Zambia, which has just been chosen as the Bank of the Year, will ask you to pay an extra K200,000 per-month if you want to bank with them as a Prestige Customer. They call it Club Membership, the same term the Afrikaners were using just after apartheid was abolished in South Africa to deny a Black African entrance to some pubs, claiming it to be a members pub only.
Well in Zambia, we know that the majority live on less than a dollar a day. In fact, 60 percent of the population is poor. But Barclays does not care if you are unable to afford the K200, 000 every month. As a customer, you have to go to the general banking sections and cannot also go to certain branches. And where you can, you will have a few tellers attending to the over-100 of you while next door in the same bank, you have three or four tellers attending to the so-called prestige members.
Whichever way you look at it, I do not think this is the kind of banking we need in Zambia yet. This is cheap and segregative in its absolute extreme. There is certainly no room for that in Zambia right now until we perhaps empower our people. South Africa, which has a far better economy than Zambia, does not have such a system.
I tried to reason and explain to them that the client is theirs and not mine. As a compromise, they offered to accept the K300, 000 but said they will charge my uncle K200,000 for membership. I said hell no and went to Longacres Branch, which was the recommended bank
My personal experience at Barclays Bank made me wonder what our government is doing if they can allow such kind of business practices. Little wonder our politics are now segregative, based on tribal lines. One wonders where the spirit of One Zambia, One Nation has gone.
I wanted to deposit some money for some uncle of mine who needed the money to buy medication.He needed K300, 000. I decided to go the nearest Barclays Bank, which for me was Arcades Shopping Centre. I was made to wait inline for 30 minutes only to be told I could not deposit the money because the account holder was not prestige.
I tried to reason and explain to them that the client is theirs and not mine. As a compromise, they offered to accept the K300, 000 but said they will charge my uncle K200,000 for membership. I said hell no and went to Longacres Branch, which was the recommended bank. Mind you, I do not bank with them.
On arrival at Longacres, I saw a big sign for Barclays parking, when I got to the gate they would not allow me to park in the Barclays Parking area because I had no prestige card to show the security guy that I was prestige member. So, I went looking for space to park my car, having found it, I went inside the bank.
There, I stood on the queue for about for 20 minutes before I discovered I had to pick a ticket from an automatic machine at the door. Yet, when I was entering, there was no one to advise me of that. So, I went back to the machine and back in the queue.
In the end, it took me two hours to deposit 300 pin including all the movements. The first thing I did after leaving the bank was to phone my uncle and advise him to come to Lusaka in person next time he needed money from me. His response was that he has been told so by many people, and so, he has now gone to another bank.
In the end, Barclays has lost a client. Well, they may think, it is just one client, and not a major one for that matter. But if they do not give a damn about one client, why should they be supported, even if they have been here for a long time. It seems Barclays still has a colonial mentality, and wants to conduct itself like those financial institutions on Wall street who do not care about the man on Main Street.
Our minds are still fresh on how this same bank closed branches in several towns throughout the country when certain companies that used to employ people there closed. Some of these branches included those in Luanshya and Kabwe. With the mines having closed, Barclays thought they had no business being there.
However, when other competitor banks took over these branches, and when these towns proved their resilience, we saw Barclays going back there. In fact, they went further than that, opening branches in almost all areas including at markets in such areas as Lusaka’s Mtendere area.
But even with that, it seems the only person Barclays cares about are the Prestige Customers, not the common man in Mtendere who cannot afford K200, 000 per-month because that is the money he pays for his rentals as he struggles to put food on the table, send his children to school and pay hospital bills.
In case there is any doubt as to the meaning of prestige, it simply means the social ranking of a person. For you and me, who do not have a high social ranking, we do not matter much to Barclays. In fact, they are not even willing to assist us achieve that level of prestige. They only want those who have already achieved it.
Efforts by Lusakatimes to get a response from Barclays Bank to this article proved unfruitful. However the Barclays website does say this about Prestige banking:
First class service from a world class bank
You get the comprehensive range of services you would expect from one of the world’s leading international banks. Personal financial services which help you make the most of your money and your time. These include current accounts with easy access through our extensive ATM network or any of our branches; savings accounts designed to add weight to your bank balance – so that the more you save, the more you earn; and loans, which can be arranged to meet a wide range of purposes, from buying a house to paying for school fees.
Dedicated support and assistance
What’s more, you will receive a dedicated service from your own appointed Prestige Banker who will be able to introduce you to the wider range of services available from the Barclays Group.
Your Barclays Prestige Banker will have the experience to help ensure that your requirements are well looked after. They will be proactive in their approach and do what they can to ensure that banking with us is rewarding.
For a competitive monthly fee you will benefit from a number of special services, including longer opening hours, free standing orders, free money transfers, a reduced tariff, a Visa Electron Debit Card and access to our Prestige Banking Centres.