Sunday, April 14, 2024

THE HOYOS FILE: Last man standing, at the bank


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I went into a branch of a bank last week to make a deposit and found that I had forgotten my pen. Now, since I try to do absolutely everything on my iPhone, including writing notes for shopping lists and so on, you can imagine how far down the list of “Things To Walk With” is a pen, at least for me.
They stain your shirt, they lose their caps, they are so yesterday. Although, I have to admit, when it comes to these dinosaurs, I really love the one whose brand name reminds me of that stupid joke about the dog on the aeroplane’s flight deck. Especially when the whole “point” of that story was also the consigning of the pilot to the Age of Antiquity, thanks to computer-controlled flight.
Anyway, the point of this story is that there were no pens working in the bank. Mind you, to prevent possible theft they were firmly attached to the pen stands on the counter where you find the deposit slips (yes, I had also forgotten to bring the company’s deposit book).
But when it came to the pointed end, the nibs, they had no ink or were themselves non-existent.
Apparently, in sweet irony, this bank was giving away pens the other week with merciless abandon. You will have a pen, or else.
Recently I got an email from somewhere suggesting that in Britain, pens in branches will soon become a thing of the past because the branches themselves are disappearing. Not entirely, of course, but by a significant number, due to the rise in the use of online banking services by consumers.
Let’s see if I can access that story for you (and here, please imagine the “typing” sound you hear when the pleasant computer voice at LIME says something similar as she is about to pull up your account. That hilarious sound, so unlike any keyboard I have every heard anywhere, always makes my LIME phone experience less bitter).
As she would say, “Got it.” But before I open the file, allow me to report a fun telephone encounter with a real LIME number-checker.
I asked “Can you give me the number for Limegrove Theatre?” and she answered, after checking the system, “Sorry, but we have no number for LIME at the Grove Theatre. We have one for LIME at Windsor Lodge, however . . . .”
My friends, you can’t make this stuff up. Was it my accent?
Yes, as I was saying, in an email report from Datamonitor – and why they would be targeting me with this info I have no clue – our old friend Barclays Bank is trying to move with the times at home in Britain.
Writes Daoud Fakhri, Datamonitor’s senior analyst for retail banking, “Barclays has hinted that it may restructure its branch network as routine activities continue to migrate to digital channels. This is the first real admission by any UK provider that the growth of digital banking will force a fundamental rethink of branch banking.”
As a result, he writes, Barclays may reduce staff from 140 000 to 100 000 people over the next few years, as customers make fewer visits to its branches, preferring instead to bank online.
Over the past few years, although I swore I was done with it, I have found myself standing in line at the bank, usually for far too long. Most of the time I can do everything I need to do at the ATM, and at anytime to boot, so why has this been happening?
I realised recently that it may be because of the air-conditioning. And the gossip.
If you are on the road a lot, as I am, getting in an out of the car in the blistering sun takes its toil, even if your car is has AC. So you drop in at the bank to use the ATM but instead go stand in line in order to enjoy the cold air for a few minutes, planning to slip out as soon as you cool off, thus really brightening the day of the person behind you.
But often the gossip factor kicks in: You find yourself in long conversations with other people you happen to know, also standing in line, people like yourself who probably also intended to just make an ATM dash. It is crazy. But then again, you can learn so much.
So listen, local branches of banks, don’t think you can just close down your Bajan branches except for a few big ones and leave us all in the ATM wilderness, pressing buttons with no one to talk to.
The wise analyst from Datamonitor has a similar but much more elegant note of caution for the banks. According to Mr Fakhri, “Banks need to tread carefully, however. Although branches are being used less frequently, they still have a role. Datamonitor’s 2012 Financial Services Consumer Insight Survey found that 76 per cent of UK consumers regard a conveniently located branch as essential in their choice of provider, and branches remain the most effective channel for customer acquisition.”
So, on one hand, there’s the need to lower costs, which you can sure do by closing a few branches, he says. On the other, banks have “the desire to improve levels of trust and engagement,” for which they need a branch somewhere in the thick of things.
So let us hope that our local banks will open more branches and continue to be part of the “glue” that holds our delicate social fabric together.
Now, if I can only find a branch of my bank with pens that work.


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