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5 Vital Lessons I Learnt Working In The Biggest Bank In Kenya

After government, the second least trustworthy institution is the banking industry. Consider this; you give these people paper with a portrait of an old dude to keep for you. They charge you for that, and then lend it to strangers at an extortionate interest rate. When you come to claim your money, they make you fill forms with pens attached to chains. Then you have to wait 1 hour in a line. That is weird. As for government, don’t trust those people. If they tell you to go left, that is because they have laid a tax trap that way. Go right. I talked to JN* who worked in the biggest commercial bank in Kenya, before quitting to heed the call of entrepreneurship. This is what he had to say about being the guy on the other side of the counter.

5. Robbing a Bank Is Nearly Impossible

piggy bank broken

The only bank you can successfully break into is a piggy bank

Have you ever wanted to rob a bank? Me neither. Technically, it is possible to rob a bank using two methods. You can do it when the money is in transit or by colluding with bank staff. If you are foolish enough to rob a bank at gunpoint without inside help, you will be dead faster than it takes to read this sentence. The risk is just too high and the payoff too low. Here is why.

The only way you can rob a bank without inside help is by threatening cashiers, who by the way, sit behind a bulletproof glass window. Under every cashier’s desk, there is an alarm leading to the manager’s office. The moment the cashier sees you with a gun, he or she will press a button to warn the manager. The manager will then press a button to set off an alarm warning the public and the police officers guarding the bank to take action, the alarm is also connected to the nearest police station. Within no time, you will surrounded.

In addition, the money in a cashier’s till is not worth it. In the bank I worked for, the sum assured in every cash till is Ksh. 500,000. Therefore, at no time a cashier will have more than that cash in the till. There was a time banks used to be the stomping ground of robbers. The term Nairobbery was coined at around year 2000 because between 1998 and 1999, there was a bank robbery almost every week in Nairobi. At that time banks had laid off thousands of workers due to technological changes like ATM machines that rendered many workers redundant. That meant there were thousands of broke people with inside knowledge of how banks operate. As a result of the many robberies a set of new laws that required banks to have armed guards were enacted.

Internal banks procedures have also improved to emphasize security. A bank’s operations usually start at 6:45 am. At exactly 6:45 am, two senior branch officials called checkers enter the bank to disarm alarms and check (yeah, checkers. Banks are not very creative) whether the bank is condition to serve customers. while other bank staff waits outside. After conducting their investigation for 10 minutes, they give a non-verbal signal to other employees that it is safe to enter. Each branch has its safety signal. It could be a bottle left surreptitiously at the window, or a piece of cloth hanging somewhere. So don’t go taking bottles from bank windows; those could be safety signs.

After meetings and whatnot, at 7:45 am, the vault is opened. There are two different passwords to the vault held by two different individuals. The vault can only open when the two passwords are used at the same time. If you try the password more than three times wrongly, the vault shuts and someone has to come from HQ to open it. In addition, the vault has a time lock. That means when locking it in the evening, the lockers put a set time before which it cannot be opened. There was a time when a new password holder accidently put an 18-hour time lock. The branch operated without cash till 12:00 noon the next day.

The vault holds the cashier’s tills and cash. Once it is opened, cashiers take their tills with the money they had left over the previous day. The till has two key holes that require two different keys. One key goes home with the cashier, and the other is held by the cash officer. Before the bank opens to the public, the vault is locked.

If during the day a cashier’s till exceeds more than Ksh. 500, 000, you take the excess to the cash officer who puts it in a smaller vault called intra-day vault. The maximum the intra-day vault can hold is Ksh. 10 million. Once it hits the limit, it is moved to the main vault, which also has a limit depending on the location of the branch. Our limit was Ksh. 25 million. But smaller rural banks like that one in Othaya that was robbed off Ksh. 30 million in October have a limit of Ksh. 15 million. What happened on that day is that the HQ staff delayed in coming for the surplus Ksh. 15 million the previous evening. The next morning, all the cash was gone. What are chances that thieves will strike just when you have surplus?

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3 Comments on 5 Vital Lessons I Learnt Working In The Biggest Bank In Kenya

  1. 0


    Great story. you obviously don’t know me. I can Identify the bank u used to work for. I’m a blinking credit Admin in that bank. I got a strong feeling that you and I are f…. n kindred spirits. I have recently noted that you are a helluva better off being friends with the bank’s customers than with the bl……..clueless members of staff

  2. 1


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