Why banks should amplify risk mitigation


April ought to be considered as a month of grace, great serenity and religiosity because of the Christians’ observance of Easter. Other than Christmas, this is arguably Christians’ longest holiday on the calendar year as it stretches for four days, from (Good) Friday to (Easter) Monday.

Pondering on one’s relationship with Christ and reconnecting with the ultimate price that the son of man had to bear on the cross is the usual mood of the celebration but the holy ghost seems not to have traversed for the gang of thieves who guttered down on Barclays bank ATMs and stole Sh14 million on the Easter Weekend.

Reports of fire incident its Murang’a branch that paralysed the operation of alarms is alarming barely a month after an estimated Sh2 billion whose authenticity remains suspect was intercepted at Barclays Queensway branch.

Assessment of the whole thing may not have found the banks’ employees’ culpable as they turned witnesses but this did not rubbish away the possibility of insider dealing.

The rapid and well calculated moves across the ATMs is a possibility that remained true only in action bank-robbery movies until it was actualised on Easter weekend.


Those abhorrent of such movies and the extent of wit, burglary and larceny that is involved, could unconditionally relate.

Until the advent and mass adoption of digital technology, bank robberies may not have been as rampant as today. Armoured couriers and routine security guards provided apposite protection for banks.

Today, there is a swirl wind of change that is punctuated with a growing trend of cheque and card fraud, robberies at ATMs as well as hacking of online accounts, which is often aided by insider criminals who take advantage of access to customer details to make card withdrawals or complete online purchases.

Extended digital knowledge, mainly videos, literature and clips uploaded to various online platforms by vloggers and bloggers accentuates the latest virility of stealing money from customers and banks.

Perhaps, banks need to reconsider their recruitment mechanisms, tap at talents whose integrity cannot be compromised and continuously identify weakness and inject improvements.

As investigation continues, rushing into a conclusion on their cause can only be premature but the correlation of recent developments at the bank is a pointer that there is a need for the banks’ management to conduct rigorous internal evaluations on what might be ailing the global brand that is set to rebrand itself Absa.

Internal restructuring and leveraging on technology and ensuring that all ATMs have CCTVs and alarms installed and they are functional is key.

It defeats logic on why there was a somewhat blatant delay in reporting the incidents with the police, a revelation that strengthens the ideation of recruiting honest talent and leveraging on technology to detect and counter fraud, moving forward is not an option but the only way.

Observation across the world reveals that stealing from banks does not reward with just a tiny fraction who successfully steal and although they do, there is an even tiny fraction that gets away with it.

In 2017, criminals who stole Sh52 million from the KCB’s Thika branch were nabbed. In January, an Equity Bank cleaner was also held and charged for stealing more than Sh24 million.

According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, which collates digital banking crime events, digital banking risks escalated in 2017.

This includes crimes involving banking apps, online banking, mobile banking and SIM swaps with incidents for mobile banking and SIM swaps spiking way above 100 percent.

Central Bank’s guidelines on cybercrime recognise that adoption of technology makes banks and customers susceptible to risks. But incessant investments in technology will go a long way in abating these crimes.

The banking sector should brainstorm on innovative and viable mitigation approaches so as to amplify and make more robust security protocols and phishing, vishing and SMiShing impossible.

Otherwise, if the trend will be allowed to escalate, people will prefer hoarding, which is bad for the economy.