Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Typical Day At FICCO?

Ever wondered what awaits your average bank client in Cagayan de Oro, on a typical banking day, but most especially after the hiatus of a long weekend? Which the previous Holy Week weekend was.

Lines and crowds galore, whether it be in the elegant premises of the big commercial banks with strategic branches scattered around the city, or in the tiny modest lobbies of the biggest multi-purpose credit union in the entire country, FICCO.

Granted that FICCO also has 19 branches and 5 satellite offices scattered throughout the province of Misamis Oriental and in some contiguous neighbors, the scene at its main office yesterday noon could be characterized as representative of the other branches smartly positioned thereabouts. Clients huddled and milled about, awaiting their numbered turns to do their specific transactions and thus be freed and able to get on with other mundane businesses. Serious dads and moms, some with petulant or antsy kids in tow, clutching either their share capital passbook, or deposit passbook, or the bright yellow passbook for loans which in my estimation outnumbered the rest.

The entire multi-storey concrete building of the main office is adequately air-conditioned, but when you crowd in an unusually large number of people, the temperature starts to rise, not only with regard to that in the room. But also in the mind of each individual member when his or her wait starts to heatedly exceed an almost interminable hour or so. Though by and large the mood was that of quiet patience and resignation, it was not difficult to feel the growing impatience, as one saw a kid slouched in one of the comfy couches, slumped and dead to the world in her deep sleep, and the mom dotingly doing her level best under the circumstances to make her feel comfortable.

I had purposely chosen to experience what it was like being part of the crowd under those trying and stressful conditions. We came in almost 30 minutes past noon and did not see daylight again till almost 2 p.m. And I can surmise that the rest also suffered the same fate, in a manner of speaking. Though I definitely have noticed in Cagayan de Oro that that would be equal opportunity suffering because in every bank office one goes, milling crowds are the daily fare, and the “take a number” process is the inevitable bullet to bite.

That long arduous wait gave us sufficient time to reflect on several things, aside from and over and above what one could read on the bulletin boards and pasted-on communications on the walls. BTW, I was mildly taken aback reading a letter from Xavier U president, Fr. Villarin, exonerating one Mr. Isagani Daba from any claims of fraud perpetrated on a certain university fund. Then I realized that Gani, who I know personally from way back, is or was an officer of the university and is also currently a director of FICCO.

Anyway, back to the serious stuff. Now that I have gratingly made my point about the daily crowds in bank offices and have mentally translated that to countless man-hours lost for those who sit and wait for long periods, unable to do any productive work. Unfortunately, I did not see any in the crowds I have seen reading textbooks, doing home or house work, or even clipping nails. Yes, many fiddled, toyed, and played with their cell phones, which is quite ubiquitous even in these unlikely gatherings. Thus, the dire prognostication. Though a sobering thought would have been that at this point in time, the over 10,000 members, or even half of them, of this main office did not collectively decide to converge as one.

Cannot any thing be done to greatly curb or even eliminate these tiresome but more importantly, economically disastrous, losses in man-hours which a beleaguered country such as the Philippines can ill afford?

Especially from motivated groups such as these whom we may impute regard highly value-laden and productive activities?

They obviously value banking services, don’t they?

Aside from giving ear to traditional time and motion studies that have earned great kudos from business past, credit union management may well serve to look at how to marshal the services of other staff members when crowds start to swell out of hand. In this particular instance, one could easily see that other staff members in the building, easily recognizable by their neat uniforms, were leisurely sauntering about among the waiting horde, obviously attending to their own duties, though unrelated to tellering and cash operations and thus, with not much or none at all impact on the gathering crowd that was not subsiding in number.

And I could have brought this urgent matter up to the sitting general manager, who is also a personal friend. Unfortunately, he was out on his lunch break and would not be back until 2 p.m.

And as a final general observation, one can readily recognize this great economic waste in many other areas of city life, such as in unnecessary congestion in traffic, where the losses extend beyond to just man-hours but leap into losses in precious scarce resources – unnecessary wear and tear of vehicles and unproductive use of expensive gas and oil.

Hopefully, some things positive ensue from this whiny piece.