By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
LAGOS — First City Monument Bank, FCMB, in its acquisition bid of Finbank will today determine the fate of about 550 staff of Finbank whose services overlapped with employees of FCMB.

The 550 staff will be given the option to resign and pursue any other career of their choice through the generous severance package being worked out by the management of the two banks.

The package, apart from the financial provisions for those affected, also has counselling and training session that would enable them adapt to a new environment and possibly a small business of their own.

Giving the hint of the progress of the merger between FCMB and Finbank, Managing Director of FCMB, Mr. Ladi Balogun, said in the process of trying to achieve the synergy of the two banks, the decision was taken to close a number of branches of Finbank that were considered not to be viable. Finbank, he said, had a total branch network of 183 and 44 of these branches will be shut down based on the fact that some of them are close to FCMB branches that are profit making and those in some other places that are not profitable. He disclosed that 320 staff of FCMB were earlier disengaged in preparation for the merger and integration of the two banks.

He said: “The bank’s customers have been fully briefed and we are engaged in what we call below the line communication with them and also communicate with them directly.

“We believe that the process has gone very smoothly. Unfortunately about 550 Finbank staff have been given the opportunity to resign, that 550 have almost unanimously taken up the opportunity of the offer to resign. That is a relatively small number when you compare to other banks that have gone through this exercise.

“We are retaining 70 per cent of the staff of Finbank, we also ensure we put in place very robust welfare package for those that will be affected. It includes training budget, which will be used to help prepare them if they want to go into entrepreneurship or if they want to continue in the banking industry; proper counselling, to make sure that the process is well managed and does not create too much shock for them. We have ensured that we have paid very healthy severance package when compared with what has been done by other banks.

“We have retained medical insurance for all employees and four children and we have allowed them to keep all the assets of the banks that they have— their cars, generators and so forth. Of course, any benefits that they are entitled to prior to this exercise, such as gratuity has also been retained. Why staff rationalization is necessary in any merger exercise that one may do is important that we do it with human face; we believe we have done that.

“We have been very pain taking in selecting that that will be affected and we believe that the number 550 was the optimum number; we believe that in terms of the labour market in the next five year this merger will create multiple jobs than it has destroyed. In the areas where we will be standing, we will still be recruiting.

“A lot of the redundancy and the branches that have been closed came about because of overlap between FCMB and Finbank branches; branches that were considered not viable and could not be turned around. These were the major driver for this closure.”

“The rational for this acquisition or merger is to increase our reach, and move us from what may be described as a fairly niche player in the retail business to a mass market player in the retail business still retaining our strength in corporate and.

“We certainly believe that the merger will create greater career opportunity for staff of Finbank and FCMB that is retained largely because; with a bigger institution you have a higher responsibility.

Finbank at the moment has 1, 800 staff as against FCMB 1,700. On the completion of the merger the new FCMB will have total staff strength of 3,000.

He said that the merger between FCMB and Finbank will be concluded by the end of June 2012. He said that FCMB in preparation for the exercise had earlier in the year disengaged 320 of its own staff.

According to the bank, the guiding principle in the selection of those to go was merit and performance. The bank said the best in the pool of staff in both banks were retained. It said that the cost of the exercise is still being worked out and that the management of the bank is engaged in discussion with the trade unions.

Finbank was one of the banks the CBN said was in grave situation and sacked it Managing Director along with four others in August 2009. It was offered for sale by CBN and FCMB had bided to acquire the bank and was given the node by CBN.

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