Monday, 5 September 2011

To save & invest don't talk to Nat West

My young son has raided his money banks and discovered he has large amounts of dosh in small change. He assiduously bagged up the coinage and trekked across to the local bank with his mum to convert his change into notes. Unfortunately the cashier in the local branch of Nat West informed my wife and son that since they were not customers she was unable to help them. Big mistake. I presume this is bank policy, in which case it is very short sighted for they have just rejected a potential customer.

My son may well have been interested in opening a savings account. No doubt Nat West, along with the other banks, will be touting for his custom when he starts work or heads off to university. They could have rejected a budding Richard Branson or future dragon from the den for all they know.

On returning home we tried to contact customer services and were led into the nightmare maze of options and menus on high tariff call charges that is the money spinning feature of so many companies. We gave up trying and I fired up the blog.

When I left school I went to work for Nat West. I got out in 1980 and headed off to pursue a brief career as a drummer, just at the time when the whole banking industry switched from being a service to a business hell bent on maximising profits at their customers' expense.

Towards the end of the 1970s Marconi's, a major local industry at the time, switched it's employees from a weekly wage paid in cash to a monthly salary paid into a bank. Each employee was told to open an account with a local bank and subsequently issued with a cheque book backed up with a cheque guarantee card. I had to print up many of these cheque books in a machine designed by Torquemada. No advice was given on how to manage or budget with this change to income and unsurprisingly some people couldn't handle it. Customers would come in part way through the month to explain that they had run out of money. As cashiers we were instructed to offer customers in such circumstances either a loan or better still a shiny new product called an Access card. In other words, we didn't give advice on how to handle finances or manage their debt, we were told to encourage people to take on further debt so that they became more dependent on the bank.

When I handed in my resignation I had an interview with the branch manager. He told me that though he was sad to see me go he thought I was doing the right thing. During our conversation he explained the changing nature of banking. One small example was the way that in the past a perk of the job was an occasional round of golf with a valued client. Now, he told me, he received regular instruction from head office as to which clients he was to entertain and he had to report back on the outcome of this aspect of his work and consequent results. I think he would have been happy if he had never seen another golf club in his life.

You will not be surprised to hear that when I left employment with Nat West one of the first things I did was to change banks. After my son's recent experience I don't think we will be going back.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


G Wright said...

My mother in-law recently downsised her house and was looking for advice on what to do with a nest egg. She made an appointment at Nat West, where she had recently opened a new current account, it being close to her new home. When she arrived for the appointment she was told that the advisor hadn't bothered to turn up after he realised how old she was and that there was little investment potential for the bank.

Nancy Wallace said...

Your experience with your son reminded me of the much better experience I had as a child (back in the days of the old £SD)My father wanted to teach me that paper money was a substitute for the real thing. He showed me the words on a £1 note signed by the governor of the Bank of England "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one pound". Then he took me into the Bank of England in the City of London and got me to hand over the note and ask for payment. The cashier courteously asked me how I would like it before handing over 20 shiny new shilling coins in exchange for the note. What has stayed in my mind was that as a child of perhaps 7 years old I was treated with as much courtesy as if I was investing millions. Now that is good customer service.