Banks and other financial institutions form the least trusted sectors in the world, according to the 2013/14 Edelman Global Trust Survey.
This may be attributed partly to the financial crisis of 2008 that saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the United States and the near-collapse of many financial institutions around the world. As a result, many banking clients lost their assets, including their homes and had to start from scratch in rebuilding their lives.
Although the crisis did not hit as acutely close to home, it certainly affected public trust in the local banking sector.
Bank Windhoek (BW) executive officer for marketing and corporate communication services, Marlize Horn, told The Villager this week while she cannot speak on behalf of other banks, her organisation strongly believes in building trust.
“BW believes trust is earned and built on forging and maintaining good client relationships and providing the best possible services to each one of them. Transparency is also important in building trust beside continually assuring clients the bank has their best interests at heart,” she said.
Bankers Association of Namibia (BAN) in February 2013 launched the Code of Banking Practice, which BW fully subscribes to. It reflects the banking sector’s commitment to promote standards for sound and transparent banking practices and a big step towards the enhancement of consumer protection in Namibia.
“The Code helps clients to better understand their rights and responsibilities when dealing with banks”.
Asked whether BW is well-equipped to deal with any financial crisis similar to the 2008 one, Horn said Namibian banks are regulated by the Bank of Namibia (BoN) and are required to adhere to the rules, regulations and legal framework that govern banks, ensuring they behave responsibly and in the best interest of both parties.
“Subscribing to the central bank’s requirements as well as our bank’s own prudent and responsible credit-lending principles, for instance, ensures clients do not take out a home loan or vehicle finance they cannot afford”.
And what if such a crisis were to hit BW, would clients be compensated? This reporter asked.
“Namibia is privileged to have a stable, well-governed and regulated banking sector with banks that are stable, profitable and well-capitalised, which act responsibly and with the clients’ interests at heart,” Horn replied.
BW head of risk management, Andre Smit, said the bank’s staff is guided by a Service Charter, which sets out the minimum standards of service delivery that their clients have a right to. It also informs clients of the processes to follow when they need to lodge a complaint on the bank’s service delivery.
“At Bank Windhoek, our commitment to corporate governance and accountability is evident in our actions and our promise to our clients and stakeholders. Integrity was one of the foundations that Bank Windhoek was established and built on 32 years ago and we pledge to continue to live up to this principle for the benefit of our employees, clients and shareholders,” Smit said.