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2D: Bankers & banking

Bankers have barely been out of the news for the last couple of years, yet – as with so many long-running stories – there are relatively few good articles that give any perspective to the day-to-day happenings. For this 2D, I’ve found two articles that do just that.

The first article I’ve chosen is from the London Review of Books, was written by John Lanchester, and was published in July. “Are we having fun yet?” uses all sorts of arresting comparisons to contextualise the behaviour of banks, and also explains aspects of it that I had previously not really understood. Here’s one example of a breathtaking statistic:

Lloyds’ total provision for PPI has now hit £6.7 billion, getting on for the full cost of the London Olympics, just from that one bank.

I often find it hard to conceptualise the value of a few billion pounds; maybe things should be costed in “London Olympics” from now on, in the same way we measure things in “Nelson’s Columns”.

Lanchester briefly touches on the computer meltdown at RBS a couple of years ago that caused a lot of disruption to me, personally, as well as to many thousands of other customers. His discussion with one banker poses on of the major questions I had at the time, and which still mystifies me to some extent:

‘It’s a mystery why people weren’t angrier,’ one banker told me. ‘I mean, how much worse can it get than people not being able to get hold of their own money? I don’t think people realised just how big a deal it was.

I also confess that I enjoyed this particular aside:

I know that lots of people refuse to subscribe to Sky because of its connection to Rupert Murdoch, but News Corp owns only 39 per cent of BSkyB and the Murdoch family owns only 12 per cent of News Corp. That means that more than 95 per cent of Sky is owned by not-Murdoch, which as far as I’m concerned puts it in the clear. Murdoch’s 4.68 per cent of Sky is only a fraction more than Libya’s 3.27 per cent share of Pearson: I’ve never heard of anyone refusing to buy a Penguin book because of Colonel Gaddafi.)

The second article I’ve chosen is somewhat different: a Reuters blog by Felix Salmon (which, pleasingly, mentions the LRB article above). “Adventures with ‘free’ checking, transatlantic edition” talks about the “myth” of free banking in the United States. This is something I’ve read about so often in the UK media that I’ve become somewhat immune to the shock the articles often try to induce in me. Reading about the problem in the context of a slightly different banking system helps points like this to stick:

If you think your bank is being transparent about how it’s making money from you, or if you think that your banking is free, then you’re almost certainly mistaken.

I also thought that the personal story with which Salmon opens his post offers a nice counterbalance to the rather grander scale on which Lanchester talks in his article. I think these two articles work very well together.

2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them!

This post was filed under: 2D, , , , , .

Photo-a-day 203: Ex-Rock

20120721-094615.jpg

This is Northern Rock’s flagship branch on Northumberland Street in Newcastle – as previously featured ad nauseam on 24hr news in 2007, when there was a run on the bank. It’s just finished its rebrand to Virgin Money – though it’s nice to see that they’ve left the distinctive clock in place.

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , , .

NatWest Customer Charter ad banned by ASA

I’ve written about NatWest’s awful customer charter before (here and here).

Those with an exceptional memory might remember Pledge 9, often repeated in their ads:

We pledge to stay open for business if we are the last bank in town and will consider a range of options to ensure a local banking service is available.

You might have interpreted this to mean that they’d keep a branch open if it was the only bank in town. That would clearly have been foolish, as NatWest have now clarified, in response to a complaint about the closure of the Farley branch:

The commitment was to continue providing “banking services” wherever they were the last bank in town … Customers in Farley could still receive a full banking service from the Pudsey branch, just over a mile and a half away.

Yep, hosting a branch in a different town (Pudsey) is considered by NatWest to be providing a “full banking service” in Farley.

The ASA wasn’t impressed by this wriggling, and has promptly banned the ad for being misleading and lacking substantiation.

NatWest’s charter is awful, unstretching claptrap, and yet they can’t even keep to that. I wonder if this debacle will make it into the next “independent review”? Given that the complaint was about an ad based on the charter, rather than the charter itself, I’m confident it will be ignored.

As I always say in these posts: Swtich to Smile. Switch to First Direct. Switch to The Co-op.

Switch to anyone who actually gives a damn about customer service, instead of waiting for change for a bank which clearly doesn’t know how to prioritise customer service, and whose solution to poor customer service appears to commit to more poor customer service.

The more you put up with it, the more these corporate idiots think its acceptable, and the more poor service propagates.

Swtich, switch, switch!

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous, , .




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