Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wanted In Nigerian Banks: Certified Trade Professionals - 2 (Continued from last week)

The implication of all the issues that I raised in the first part of this article last week is that, since a good number of the trade staff in Nigerian banks are not certified trade professionals, they are not in touch with the current trends in the world; their staff only learn from superiors who transfer the same ignorance and errors from one generation of staff to another, they do not either understand or have distorted knowledge of the provisions of international trade rules like UCP600, ISBP, URR725, URC522, ISP98, URDG758 etc. This in turn means that Nigerian banks are sitting on the keg of gun powder in most of their trade transactions. The fact that this has not exploded does not mean all is well. As a matter of fact, a number of issues that occur in the trade transactions are either kept under the wrap from the eyes of the  management or they transfer the liability to customers who are also oblivious of what the bank has done to them.

Some of these issues are seen in the way the three principles that guide the SBLC and Demand Guarantee are being flagrantly violated in the drafting and issuance of the instruments. A number of times you see a letter of credit transaction financed by the bank is issued with ordinary inspection certificate requested as part of documents to be presented without further information. On several occasion, I have had issues with three of the Tier 1 banks who interpreted an "extend or pay" demand as an substantive demand for payment and thus causing a lot of outrage in the bank even at a very high management level. They even went as far as asking me to recall the letter and request for extension of the Guarantee as if I am the applicant. Even when the cost is very high for the customers, the only solution they propose to mitigate political or economic risk is Confirmed Letter of Credit, when there are cheaper, faster and better options. Many will give customers to accept the draft on a tenored Bill for Collection with 'pour aval' stated on it when they are not ready to guarantee that the importer will pay at maturity and so many other dangerous mistakes.

A number of Bankers who really would like to advance their careers by doing these trade certification programmes are not encouraged by either their banks of their superiors at works. Many do not have time for themselves not to talk of time to read and prepare for the exams. There is no room to even take your annual leave not to talk of examination leave. A number of young Bankers do not have the money and their banks are not willing to pay for them either because there is no provision for such or because if they become certified, some small minded bosses becomes threatened. Those that were able to squeeze out time and money to do these exams have refused to go for Re-Certification after three years because the bank did not recognise them as a subject matter expert either covertly or overtly by their redeployment to other units where these skills will be useless. It is amazing that there are almost 10,000 globally recognised certified trade finance professionals in the world and we have just about 70 of them altogether in Nigeria and yet they are neither celebrated nor appreciated.

To solve these problems, all we need is to replicate the model that has been working and  entrenched in some top accounting firms in Nigeria like PWC, KPMG, EN etc. They ensure that you have a target of when you will become a chartered accountant from the time you join them. They give you study leave to prepare for the exams and also pay the examination fee when you complete all the stages. This model varies from one firm to the other, but the summary is that, they support their staff to become certified professionals. These makes all the top and middle management staff to certified experts and thus encourage and if necessary compel the young and junior staff to pursue this goal until it is achieved. Therefore, if the management of the Nigerian banks can compel the head of trade related services like trade operations and trade finance to have this certification as a prerequisite to head the units, it will naturally trickles down to all the staff under them. Staff that have passed these exams should be encouraged, celebrated and also appreciated in the way they are treated in the units.

In conclusion, it is my hope and aspiration that Nigeria will one day, become a major trade hub in the world with hundreds or even thousands of certified trade finance professionals that will drive the trade volume to an enviable height and also sustain this through their skills in structuring and implementation of different trade process reengineering and numerous trade finance programmes and initiatives.

Bamidele Ayemibo

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