Monday, 5 March 2012

Things Ain’t What?

To a large degree the traditional Bank Manager has ceased to exist. Some Twenty years ago the main stream banks split 'retail' and their 'commercial' business and headed pell mell for Business Managers working separately. Later this was refined accounting for size of business, and then they realised that they had quite large accounts that didn't actually borrow much but were still worth looking after. That meant a mix of targeting responsibilities based on Turnover as well as Lending came about. This coincided with a cultural swing towards sales in a cynical and robust way that they had never done before. 
In many cases this meant the idea of service first went out the window (and is the basis of all the claims for PPI (Loan Insurance selling) that we have seen lately). At the same time many bank people couldn't, or wouldn't swallow the change in philosophy and took the opportunity to leave. This suited the Banks anyway because the retail/commercial split facilitated centralisation of just about every function one by one, leaving the High Street premises to function as little more than cashing shops. 
The idea was to create 'centres of excellence' with a concentration of skills. This achieves an economy of staff needed to push a processing system. That was fine for a while as everyone knew all about the processes anyway, but as time went by the centres began to believe that the branch folk knew nothing about what they did while the branch folk realised that the centres didn't care about them or their customers much, as they had their workflow problems to worry about and anyway they didn't have to actually look at the customer. 

Training need 
New people appeared in branches and business manager roles so a giant 'training need' opened up with anyone facing customers having to go on an ' awareness course ' to know what to expect and how to service it for the banks' systems. The more this happens the less they know by experience. The 80/20 rule applies in shovel loads. If your case is at all unusual or requires a little interpretation, and doesn't quite fit, then you will have a major problem on your hands to get past an initial negative reaction . 
A few of the old school managers are still out there but since the Banks were shedding staff at a colossal rate with their centralisation, many of those who are still there are those with a survival instinct. They may know their stuff still but they are subject to the targets and sales pressures and the latest flag waving new ideas that their younger colleagues have in their little folders. 

Clip Board Thinking
In ten years time or less there will be nobody who came up through the old pyramid structure and has all round experience including processing, cash handling, security (collateral security for loans that is), investments and trustee work, administering a business (ie - the ‘Branch’ which was largely a business in the local community) along with staff management, premises, alarms, credit balances, lending and credit control, reporting and putting together applications plus all the business experience out there etc . 
Most of the modern bank staff wouldn’t know what a garnishee order is if it sprang up and hit them. The modern answer will be that they don't need to know, because specialist departments exist to deal with these things. And so the circle is perpetuated. Or perhaps it’s a downwards spiral. The less a customer facing manager knows (and most of these bear no relation to the public's memory of such a thing), the more he or she has to rely on their clip board training. You can't do that, the computer says no has become the reality and not an excuse. That is especially so in the retail sector. Anything out of the ordinary is referred quickly away to a central processing centre which has no personal interest in sorting it out.   

Customer Loyalty 
In short, the idea that anyone has been loyal to their bank for 30 years is a whimsical throwback and has no currency whatsoever. In the face of an application for finance the bank would have the current flow of entries through the account(s) for a year or so and would take note of the last three years' Accountant's published figures but there it would stop. What a Manager might have recorded as an opinion about a business 5 years ago has no weight whatsoever. In many cases the opinion of the local manager who has actually been to and looked the local business in to eye is a minor tick on the list. 
All this means the business case for whatever is in mind now has to stand alone largely with some comforting references to past records. There has to be a ‘way forward’ and a progressive plan for the exercise contemplated. The old idea of seeing your Bank manager for a little help to get through some choppy waters is a big alarm bell, despite what it says in all the published codes of practice. Do that and you are likely to find you are shouldered into some kind of special care department where specialist managers will look after (nurse) your account at a substantial cost to you in interest or fees with a strict sequence of management activity designed to get rid of the problem or you. 
Things certainly ain’t what they used to be. In some ways that is good. In many ways it is not. Unless there is a major change in attitude and corporate culture the whole set up is designed to get worse. Bob Shepherd Associates has the experience and the contacts to do the best for you with your Bank and if you are under pressure to see how you can get out of the mire.

1 comment:

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