Taking Stock with Rob Stocks - April 4, 2011

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Bankers have had a hard time of it over the past few years.

First of all they took the blame for breaking the world’s financial system.

Since then they’ve faced a backlash over salaries and bonuses, not to mention threats to tax each and every one of them to the hilt as the nation looked for revenge.

Part of the problem is nobody, outside of the banking industry, really understands what these high- flying city types actually do.

Money goes in, some magic occurs, more money comes out – that’s the theory at any rate, until it all goes spectacularly wrong.

It’s all a far cry from the high street bank we all know and, occasionally, love.

You know the ones – pens on chains, racks full of slips and forms and counter staff, with their clunk click drawers through which cash and cheques are passed.

These are things that haven’t changed as long as I can remember.

So imagine my shock when I popped into My Good Wife’s local branch to do her a favour.

The place was entirely devoid of anything I’d ever associate with the good old high street bank. No pens, no chains, no counters and no people. Well, there was one person, a rather flustered looking man, pointing customers towards the various machines. If you wanted to talk to someone who actually knew something about banking there was a phone in the corner.

Now, I’m not comfortable with all this new-fangled technology. If I’m paying in money I want to know I’ve given it to a real person.

If I could follow them into the bowels of the bank and watch them put in into a box marked Rob’s money, I’d happily do so.

I just don’t trust the machine.

Even if it does manage to make the connection between your card and your actual account, and then manage to register the amount you want to deposit, once it’s eaten your money and spat out a barely legible receipt, you have no idea what’s happened to your money until the next statement arrives or the cash machine says “no”.

Sorry, but I want a bank with real people, who are able to make real decisions about things like lending without needing to go through a call centre.

I’d trust the good old-fashioned bank manager to make the right decisions about my money, and his, far more than a man in Bangalore who claims to be called Alan.

Computers are all well and good, but what banking needs right now to improve service to us average Joes, and its image, is most definitely the human touch.