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Tech puts over 12,000 bank jobs on the line

By Domnic Omondi | November 13th 2019
A senior Ecobank staff serves a customer during a past role swap exercise at one of the bank’s Nairobi branches. Bank teller jobs are among those threatened by digitisation. [File, Standard]

About 12,000 bank workers are living on borrowed time as banks continue to digitise their operations.

Over a third of clerical and secretarial staff in the banking sector, new Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows, have been sent home in the last three years as the technological maelstrom continues to wreak havoc in the financial space.

CBK in its latest Banking Supervision Report says in 2015, 16,503 people were working as clerical officers and secretaries in various commercial banks in the country, but this number reduced dramatically to 12,431 as of the end of last year.

“The decrease in clerical and secretarial staff could be as a result of continued automation of banking procedures and processes,” says the regulator.

According to the report, all staff levels increased except clerical and secretarial staff, with the total number of bank staff increasing by 986 to 31,889 as of December 2018.

Last year alone, about 409 people working as clerical officers and secretaries were rendered jobless as banks continued to leverage technology to reduce operational costs.

This even as employment in other ends of the chain improved following a bloodbath in 2017 when 2,792 bank workers were fired, with the support staff bearing the biggest brunt.

This development confirms a 2018 report on Future of Work by the World Economic Forum, which listed bank tellers and related clerks as some of the redundant roles that would soon be digitised.  

However, CBK noted that the increase in management, supervisory and support staff is an indicator of the banks’ business growth.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that the lenders’ reliance on technology as well as the use of low-cost agency outlets has seen at least about 700 workers laid off.

However, on the flip side, senior employees in the banking sector are getting better pay, according to the report.

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