The Blog

A Right Load Of Bankers

C'mon bankers. Re-invent banking. This is a big opportunity. Then you'll find your customers will come up with a more, ahem, grown up and positive sobriquet.

Millions, I guess, will have just watched Wednesday night's BBC2's programme Bankers.

Most will be left seething.

Bankers themselves revealed that their primary responsibility was to their shareholders and bonus-winners. Not their customers.

Oh no. Customers were just "wallets".

"Raping" customers' wallets, one brave banker confessed, was de rigueur.

You got paid more money if you raped your customers more.


We all know this now of course, but what really makes me angry about this practice is two specific things.

First is that grown up, well-educated men (there were no women implicated) could so easily lose sight of their moral fibre. Over night, cheating, lying and intimidating became the banking modus operandi. The idea that tripled-breasted clubby board directors had no idea what was going on is risible and absolutely no defence. Um, ever heard of fiduciary responsibility?

Yuck. Hearing some of the big bankers whimper "we didn't know" was like witnessing a sudden bout of Corporate Alzheimer's, or Institutional Naiveté. Guys, just read the manual on the basic responsibilities of a director for Pete's sake. If it's too complicated for you, get one of your children to explain it to you.

Secondly, I'm angry that grown up, well-educated men (I repeat for dramatic effect) should have forgotten that their banking businesses, in reality, have no money of their own. All their source money belongs to their customers. Customer deposits make a bank, not wanky banking 'products'.

This is important. It's not just that bankers forgot to be "customer focused" (as various stuffed shirts chimed throughout the programme), it's that they forgot who actually built their businesses in the first place.

Bankers used ordinary people's money to feather their own extraordinary nests.

It's wonderful that 'bankers' rhymes with 'wankers' and the joke is perpetuated every day in homes, offices, bars and TV Shows. An entire profession, once built on longevity, trust, experience, training and probity is now ranked by millions below ticktack men and pyramid sales schemers.

But the rhyme masks the need for a search for deeper and more meaningful adjectives for the banking fraternity.

It masks the fact that the rank and file managers in the branches up and down the country had nothing to do with the miss-selling of PPI, or the fixing of LIBOR, or dodgy interest rate deals or, for that matter, the shocking 'shared appreciation mortgages' of the 1990's.

The banking industry has been laid low by a few people at the top, not by the many people at the bottom.

History might calculate that in fact it was a mere handful of people who corrupted a genuine source of national pride and trust. Less than a thousand embarrassingly self-styled 'Masters of the Universe' perhaps.

So what to do?

Easy. When you make a mess, you clean up.

When you make a mess of customer relations, clean up customer relations.

Start with the people you screwed - your customers.

And don't just give them what they want (honesty, decency, value), that just puts you back to where you were 30 years ago. We've all moved on to a new age. The Internet, smartphones, apps, clever money management systems, and canny consumer driven propositions - they've all arrived on the scene while you bankers have been meticulously raping your customers in a positively feudal fashion.

No, don't just give your customers what they want. Use the new unsullied brains now ensconced round the boardroom tables to give your customers what they never thought possible.

Be as imaginative as you were deceiving people to now delight people.

C'mon bankers. Re-invent banking. This is a big opportunity. Then you'll find your customers will come up with a more, ahem, grown up and positive sobriquet.