BY: FODAY ABDULAI KAMARA (VENOM)
Since 1999 when Rokel Commercial Bank (formerly Barclays Bank) was established they have been among the best Commercial banks in Sierra Leone. The bank is named after the Rokel River, the longest river in Sierra Leone. RCB as it is commonly call serves members of the Public, Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as large Corporations. In terms of Assets, RCB is among the three largest banks in the country. 65% of the bank’s shares is owned by the Government of Sierra Leone and the remaining 35% shares owned by private Institutions, Organizations and Individuals. In order to ensure transparency and international best corporation practices, RCB Shareholders appoint Board of Directors. These Directors are responsible for keeping proper accounting records, which disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Company and enable them to ensure that the financial statements comply with International Accounting Standards, International Financial Reporting Standards, and the requirements of the Companies Act of 2009. They are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the Company and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities. The Bank currently has about 372 members of staff and is being headed by the 2nd Sierra Leonean Managing Director and CEO, Dr. Walton Ekundayo Gilpin. It has a management team of about 36 senior members of staff. As of September 2013, Rokel Commercial Bank maintains a network of branches – Main Branch, Congo Cross Branch, Industrial Area Branch, Clock Tower Branch (Eastern Police), Wilberforce Street Branch, Bo Branch, Kenema Branch, Koidu Branch, Makeni Branch, Moyamba Branch. There are other branches at Charlotte street and Murry Town junction in the west part of Freetown.
The mission of RCB is to provide banking and related financial services in a manner that builds strong, lasting and satisfying relationships with customers, employees, shareholders and the communities in which the bank operates. RCB have innovative technology in a small and developing country. RCB core values assist them in carrying out their work and provide strategies they employ to fulfil their mission. These core values are: Customer first; Dedication; Continuous improvement; Openness and Initiative; Integrity; and Team work. They have the widest distribution of ATM’s nationwide, with more than ten machines installed at various locations. They have pioneered Point-of-Sale terminals for Visa cards. Their SMS and Online Banking service provide reliable and secure information for easy monitoring of customer accounts. To keep abreast of the competition, RCB has developed a versatile game plan that hinges on the incorporation of new products and services with on-going efforts to improve the IT Infrastructure with a modern bank operating software and electronic banking.
RCB in its modernization drive has also become very customer friendly. An effective customer complaint platform now gives the Bank a human face that is critically to winning and retaining public confidence and trust. A disaster management and recovery system has been commissioned by the Bank and is in effective use by the branches. Strict adherence to exchange control procedures ensures adequate documentation for the Banks’ customers. Apart from the traditional banking services offered, the bank has made the following achievements in terms of its services and branch network since its inception on 17th September 1999: -Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) services were launched on 16th November 2001; Wide Area Network (WAN) Connectivity was introduced in December 2001; All their branches are now linked via Satellite Connectivity; Rokel became part of the SWIFT (i.e. Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) Network in September 2002; Internet Banking introduced in February 2004; and Sim Kopo Pass introduced in 2019.
Like most institution, the internal controls of RCB functions well, thus leading to a strong corporate entity. The supervision function in RCB is great even though a minority of boards controls the board of directors. RCB generates majority of its revenue from Investment on Securities that tends to increase their profits. Hence, the audit committee focuses in that sector and is very effective and provides adequate supervision.
RCB has been very proactive in their approach to credit risks (mainly Loans and advances to Customers). Management’s best estimate of the losses with loans and advances is the impairment allowances. Specific one (impairment) is calculated on an individual basis. But, if there is no evidence that impairment exist on individual basis, loans and advances are assessed collectively. In order to control impairment loans and advances, at each reporting date RCB considers evidence of impairment loans and advances and held-to-maturity investment securities at both specific and collective loans and advances level. In assessing collective impairment on loans and advances RCB uses statistical modeling of historical trends of the probability of defaulting, timing of recoveries and the amount of loss incurred, adjusted for management’s judgment as to whether current economic and credit conditions are as such that actual losses are likely to be greater or less than suggested by historical modeling. Impairment losses are recognized (detected) in profit or loss and reflect in an allowance account against loans and advances. For better controlling, RCB writes off certain loans and advances and investment securities when they are determined to be uncontrollable.
There is no gainsaying that Financial Institutions do face challenges, and RCB cannot be an exemption. But the bank has been very loyal and consistent with their service provision. Over the years they have satisfy both their Shareholders and the Public. They are one of the few banks in Sierra Leone that publishes their Annual Report to the Public.