Dec 062007
 

This is why I no longer work in retail banking, why I will never return to retail banking and why retail banking in my view is unlikely to ever return to the service ethos that I was taught by the NAB in the seventies and eighties.


Seperate studies over the years conducted by institutions I’ve worked for – Suncorp, Bank of Queensland, NAB – have all revealed that the primary driver for opening retail banking offices outside of normal retail banking hours, is lending. It’s not that banks per se believe that opening on Saturday mornings, Thursday nights or now on Sundays is a good thing because Aunty Aggie will be better able to pop in to chat about her term deposit & withdraw cash from her passbook account. They don’t. In fact, retail banks, especially the majors, couldn’t give a cubic root for the Aunty Aggies of the community. Having to service the frequenters of a banking chamber means the banks have to provide counter-jumpers and associated qualified staff resources to service these people. That means wages, and all the other HR accoutrements and for what? Cash handling, the odd insurance claim and complaints? No, reader. It’s all about lending and growth of market share.
Majors like the ANZ, CBA and wanna-be majors like Bankwest see the opportunity in the US sub-prime dramas to elbow the non-banking institutions, which traditionally source their funds from international commercial paper markets, out of the domestic loan marketplace. That’s not to say the majors don’t source funds from the same places, but the capital percentages are generally much, much less than the non-banks, giving the majors a definite advantage in current times. It’s all about loans, specifically home loans. You want a home loan? You’ll be welcomed into the inner sanctum and plied with all manner of pseudo beneficial loan products which you’ll be paying through the eye teeth for. Why? Because good loans officers don’t come cheap and having a member of full-time staff in a branch on Sunday is going to cost the Banks time-and-a-half at the least. The other alternative is to employ on contract ex-bank staff or brokers like myself, who know what they’re talking about, have some modicum of service ethic and will at least make an attempt to treat you like a person and not just another number with a dollar sign in front.
So don’t go thinking that having your bank open on a Sunday is going to be ‘you bewt’ because it won’t be, I can assure you. You’ll be presented with either a skeleton of the branches usual staff compliment grudgingly seeing to your petty cash needs because they don’t want to be there anyway, or you’ll be faced with a similar skeleton of casual, undertrained and underpaid staff who know SFA about what you might want fixed and will duck-shove your request/complaint/requirement to the full-time staff who’ll be in on Monday, and likely be inundated with all manner of Sunday requests from the ill-prepared Sunday staff. It’s a recipe for morale degradation, as if retail bank staff morale wasn’t already degraded, and even worse customer service than you think you might be getting now.
Retail banking, back in the days when as a banker you had the time and resources to adequately service your customers requirements, used to be fun. I’m one of the old hands at the game who actually enjoyed interacting with customers and satisfying their needs, I believe fervently in TQM. Total Quality Management which requires that you treat all parties you interact with as your customers, both internally and externally. It’s a special skill and one which the banks in Australia no longer pay heed to, nor bother to train their staff in. This is why banks are not respected businesses any longer and why you, the customer, despise them for their billion dollar profits while treating you increasingly like a number. Am I bitter? No, I’m just very, very disappointed in an industry which gave me my start in finance, and which has steadily distanced itself from the morals and ethics it instilled in me so very long ago. I’ll continue to do business in the private sphere, where it’s a whole lot more satisfying to deal with people who like to be treated like people and actually respond in kind.