Saturday, March 08, 2008

Two day weekend for banks

Rumors are circulating that Oman's banks will officially switch to a two day weekend. The rumor goes that the switchover will be announced later this month and will come into effect the next month. I'm not sure what the details are, but the banks have jointly asked for it and this time they have the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Commerce. Last time when banks wrote to the Central Bank of Oman asking for an official two day weekend the CBO refused to take a decision and instead sent the matter for the Council of Ministers' approval. The council asked for the views of the Chamber which at the time replied saying that it's not in the interest of the economy for banks to be closed two days a week. End of Story.

Fortunately, the Chamber of Commerce is now run by a new proactive pro-business board of directors. I hope the rumor turns out to be true. I'm tired of having only Friday off every week for 12 years now. However, even if we do switch to a 5 day week, the weekend will be Friday-Saturday while my wife's job remains on a Thursday-Friday weekend unless the government switches their weekend as well.


Per Your Request said...

Why a 2 day weekend? Why not a shift system, I dont want my transactions to be held up. Sorry you have to work 6 days a week, I however dont see why retail can not be on a shift system during a half day! There is no need for the whole branch to be there.

muscati said...

Banks that want to have branches open during the weekend can choose to do that. If a bank wants to have some branches open even 7 days a week they can do that. But there's absolutely no reason why all branches and departments have to be there on the sixth day of the week. The Central Bank itself has a two day weekend.

And by the way, all the people who keep complaining about needing the bank to be open during 6 days a week, seriously how come you need banks so much?? You can do almost everything these days at ATMs and deposit machines and the internet.

TI3GIB said...

The bank business in Oman is high up there in the list in the worst customer services in a business field in Oman.

A two day weekend on top of an already terrible work timing while they sit back stealing everyone's money in interest rates and poor services ?


sythe said...

Sorry Muscati, not with you on this one.

My experience of banks in this country is that they are run by a troop of Jamaican baboons. Yes, Jamaican ones, they're smoking some funny stuff.


I've had 2 loans denied, 4 months apart, for the same reason: Bad Credit. Because someone else in the country has the same LAST name as me, and has skipped town on a loan, so I get denied. Nice research there guys.

You talk about internet banking? I'd LOVE to get my internet banking setup, it's a shame that the baboons are more interested in their latest bannana shipment than to actually fulfill my repeated (3x) requests for the internet banking details for my account to be issued to me.

Or how about during Ramadan when my paycheck wasnt processed, and sitting in someones drawer instead, because they had gone home early. That was fun. Not.

Banks here are an absolute farce, and if I didnt need one to receive payment, I just wouldnt have one here.

More to the point however. You're correct, I guess not all departments need to be open on the weekend, but BRANCHES do, for the tellers. I am just blown away that a bank closes at 1.30pm and thats it. WTF is that? Business keeps going on past that time, and a bank should thus be open to service people.

I havent seen any deposit ATM's here, but I dont doubt that they are here, but I wouldnt use one because I wouldnt trust the back office to process it correctly, and given my rather unique experience, would you blame me?

You deserve a 2 day weekend, but the tellers need to be open 6 days a week, and at least until 6pm as well. If the law is passed for a 5 day week, I fear that'll mean even POORER service from the banks here.

muscati said...

Sythe - since Oman doesn't have credit bureaus banks report their customers' credit worthiness to the CBO's central database. Whenever a customer wants to take a loan the bank would input his ID number in the CBO system and the system would give a report of how much outstanding borrowings he has withing the system (banks and leasing companies) without reporting which particular bank or leasing company. The system also report if the borrower has defaulted and what "classification" his borrowing has, ie standard, substandard, doubtful, loss, etc. They do not check by the person's name or last name.

Branches close at 1.30pm because bank hours finish at 2.30, so they use that last hour to close up and balance their books.

Deposit machines - currently I think only Oman Arab Bank and BankMuscat are actively adding them. I think BankMuscat have over 50 of them, most in very prominent locations. I haven't gone to a branch to deposit money ever since they came around 4 years ago.

Customer service: forget that I'm a banker and let me tell you this. I've ye to experience good service from a bank. When I was in the US, I banked with Bank of America and it was shit. When I graduated and came to Oman I banked with HSBC and it was shit. I worked in OIB and it was so bad that I kept my account with HSBC. I tried banking with NBO and it was shit. When I wanted to close my account they wanted to charge me for it! When I went to Scotland to do my masters, I banked with Bank of Scotland, and boy did they suck.

I will not talk about the bank I work in (I need the paycheck after all), but at least I know how much effort we are putting into improving customer service. We know where we lack. We know where we need to improve. We're working on it. I hope other banks are the same, but frankly I just don't see proof of it.

Twister said...

A 2-day weekend for banks with the current working hours (8 am to 2:30 pm) and customer service timings (8:00 am to 1:30 pm if I'm not wrong) is just nonsense...that would leave practically only about 30 working hours a week for banks...

Banks in Europe/UK/Aus/NZ/USA/Canada do take 5-day working weeks...but to compensate, they work from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday...and the level of online services in Oman is also pretty low...

While here in Australia (with ANZ bank) I can access all four of my accounts with a single login, pay bills, pay university fees, purchase bank-drafts, carry out payments to other people, and even purchase overseas and domestic Telegraphic Transfers online, the maximum my dad can do with his BankMuscat account is pay school fees and utility bills. (And it took him three weeks to get the login/password, even though he works in BankMuscat itself). And the BankMuscat's online bamking page was not working for almost 6 months in the last year...

There's no problem in having a 5-day week...but at least the banks should open for longer hours (9am-5 pmis the standard in most countries with 2-day weekends)...having a 2-day weekend with the same working hours will be a big bummer.

muscati said...

Twister - Omani private sector work hours are actually longer than those in Europe, the US or Australia. The 7.30 to 2.30 Sat to Wednesday and then again Thursday from 7.30 till 1.30 is actually longer than Mon till Friday 9 till 5. If the work week is shortened by a day, the remaining 5 days will have to be lengthened by an hour or even hour and a half. Then work will be 7.30 till 3.30 or 4. That's longer than 9 till 5, especially since 9 to 5 includes a lunch break which we won't get. Don't forget that in order to be at work by 7.30 most people leave their houses well before 7am.

Although the official hours end at 2.30pm I honestly can't remember the last time I left work at that time. Most days I'm there till 3.30 or 4, if not even later. The only day I actually leave early is Thursday where I leave at 2. When/if the work week shifts to a two day weekend I'll probably still end up staying an extra hour so I'll be working 7.30 till 5 but it will be worth it if I get a two day weekend.

PS. I don't know why your dad had problem with online banking. I've been using it monthly without stop to pay my bills for the past 6 years without any interruptions.

sythe said...

With regards to my loan apps being denied - both times when i went in to the bank to ask what was going on, they said my name was bad, and last time I demanded to see evidence, and they pulled up my last name, with a different letter after it, kinda like my name is Blogger, S and this name was Blogger, V. I said well my name isnt Blogger, V, it's Blogger, S. They said no it was me, so they clicked into the account and it turned out to be some womans account and she'd left Oman a year ago or something... and this was the SECOND time they'd denied me.

My experience with Nat West and HSBC (formerly Midland Bank)in the UK, BOA in USA and TD Canada Trust in Canada have all been positive, and I am so happy with my TD banking that I still actively use it and maintain both US$ and CAD$ currency accounts with them.

Generally banks are shit, but Oman's banks (and I'm biased because I havent worked anywhere else in the ME yet) are beyond bad. They're in another world of terrible. If the banks get a 2 day weekend, the opening hours better be extended otherwise I'll never be able to get to the bank without cutting out from work, and neither will most.

Amjad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amjad said...

actually banks here in the US do work on Saturdays. Half a day, in addition to working from 8AM to 5PM on weekdays (with one hour lunch break between 1PM and 2PM). But then again, if banks in Oman are going to take this two-days weekend on Fridays and Saturdays, it wouldn't be a big deal on customers if banks are going to have a full day on Thursdays. In fact, it would even be better especially for international transactions.

Back in Oman I'm on BankMuscat. I have an account with them since the beginning of last year and I didn't really face a lot of problems with them. Only minor ones, which aren't worth mentioning. My father has been on BankMuscat for more than 20 years now and he also didn't face major problems with them. But then again, it's good to know that the bank knows where it lacks and it's working on improving its services.

I agree with you that Bank of America is nothing but shit. I have just been with them for three months now, and they messed a lot of things upside down. Starting with an international check with an amount of $5,000 my father gave me before leaving Oman, and ending with my VISA check card. They messed everything upside down, but al-hamdulillah everything is fine now.

Kishor Cariappa said...

I have been dealing with BankMuscat for three years now, and I don't have much complaints. Their Internet banking is cool. I have a problem with their customer service ladies in their MBD branch though. They must cut down on their 'catwalks' every 5 minutes inside the branch during peak hours. It's an irritating sight when you are waiting for your turn patiently.

Undercover Dragon said...

Looks like you touched a big nerve here Muscati!

In the end, if they just opened up to international competition, it would be up to the banks and their customers. Banks that only open 2 days a week could compete with banks open 24/7...

And I agree with Per, just because a branch is open doesn't mean they can't do shifts, or get temps. You deserve a weekend, but that shouldn't stop a bank opening.

Any word on if/when the whole economy is switching to Fri/Sat?

muscati said...

Oman Daily Observer today:

“We have made a request to the Central Bank of Oman, ministries of commerce and industry and finance, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry for changing it to five-day week,” said Ganeshan Sreedhar, General Manager — Commercial Banking — of BankMuscat. Although the proposal has been in the air for quite sometime, no decision has been made so far. “Somebody has to take the initiative,” he added.

Abdulkader Askalan, Chief Executive Officer of Oman Arab Bank (OAB), earlier said his bank has requested the CBO to allow them to shift weekend holiday to Friday-Saturday. If the bank employees work on Saturday, they cannot do any business with the outside world. “That is why we are insisting on a holiday on Saturday,” he said. Askalan also noted that when banks give two days weekend offs, it has to be compensated by increasing working hours on other days.

The move will help timely execution of foreign exchange deals and trade between Oman-based institutions and their counterparts in overseas markets, which will avoid losing out in terms of treasury operations. “If all banks agree, there will not be any problem (in introducing five-day week),” said Jameel Ali Sultan, Vice-Chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).

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