A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain. – Robert Frost
A few days ago my wife and I went to our local high-street bank branch to talk about getting a new mortgage loan. We have just sold our house and are in the process of buying another. Stressful times at best and more often than not, the process is not a smooth one. And your local friendly neighbourhood bank makes the journey even more stressful. And to be honest, it’s not only the customers who suffer from the current sorry state of retail banking.
We make an appointment, a week in advance, for 9am with the lead mortgage lending officer. We turn up a 9 on the dot but not the loan officer. In fact, the local branch seems to be just pulling itself together, like a drowsy bear after a long hibernation. The front doors are open but many office lights are still off, employees are wandering in with bike helmets under their arms and in various states of disrobing their rain gear. We ask for the loan department which is downstairs, but have to wait for the loan officer to arrive.
“Why do I get the feeling that this is not the image of a great and successful global banking empire. I doubt if this is the way Bob Diamond’s office is run!”
I am beginning to see the difference between the amount of attention senior management puts on Investment and Commercial banking and the lack of attention to Retail banking. I have had dozens of meetings with the Investment side of big banks and the level of attention to detail and the overall timeliness and professionalism of staff is a far cry from what I was observing today in this retail branch.
The story continues. Our loan officer arrives in a whirlwind and we are finally settled in his tiny, windowless office in the lower-ground floor. He looks up our banking details on the computer, then needs to call the main offices to get further details. He calls, not a person, but a number at a Call Center! Even the retail branch people have to deal with the same impersonal automated call centre process as normal people.
He punches in the responses to about 4 questions, then is put in a the electronic waiting line. Even bank employees trying to help a customer and make money for the bank have to wait in an electronic queue! I am beginning to see why his energy level is so low. Finally he gets a live human being on the phone, only to be told that the department he has finally reached cannot process loans above a certain amount, so he has to dial another number, another set of questions, another wait in line . . . . And here comes the best part! After he finally gets through all the punching and waiting, he is told to call back in an hour since that particular department only opens at 10am!
Now I am feeling sorry for this poor guy. He’s trying to help a customer and is at the mercy of a banking organisation that spends very little on Retail Banking and billions on Investment and Commercial Banking. Somewhere I recently read about a banker at a conference who admitted, “We really don’t know how to make money on Retail Banking, everything is so small and needs such individual attention. Retail is not nearly as efficient at generating profits as Investment Banking!” Touché.
So, 45 minutes later we walk out with a promise from the loan officer that he will get back to us later in the day with some information and some answers. Especially since we told him we were also talking with a competitor branch.
Not a wonderful, uplifting customer experience! And I don’t think we are the only Retail Banking customers who experience lack of investment, poor systems and poor service.
One bright spot, however, the loan officer did call us back with some answers and even a suggestion or two. I wonder how much of his day he spent chasing the right department and ferreting out the right information?
How is your Retail Banking experience?
Tight Lines . . .