Posted by keith on February 1st, 2011
A few weeks back I had a revelation.
Many years ago I opened an account with the Midland Bank in Ipswich. Lots of the people that worked there used to come into the pub that I worked in at lunch-time and they all seemed very nice. Actually there was also a very affable man, a regular customer, who worked in Lloyds, but he told me not to open an account at Lloyds because they were “all a bunch of arseholes”. But that’s another story.
So anyway, for several years I had a great relationship with the Midland, I could wander in, ask to speak to my friend Tracy, and she would see to my banking needs without delay or embarrassment. I liked my bank. When we moved to Bishop’s Stortford I kept my account where it was because I could still ring up the Ipswich branch and speak to Tracy. One day I rang up and asked to speak to Tracy and a rather weary voice explained that I couldn’t do that but could she (let’s call her Diane) help? Oh….why can’t I speak to Tracy? New Policy. As it happened, whatever it was that I wanted was dealt with by Diane (probably an overdraft extension, I expect). Fine, then.
Time wore on and eventually the friendly 01473 (Ipswich STD code) number vanished. 0845 became my new point of contact in……..in……..well I don’t know where they all were, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Ipswich. No Tracy, not even a Diane.
More time passed and the Midland was merged with, partnered by, swallowed up by the HSBC, the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation. No matter, I thought, banking is a global business, it’s just the way it is. We had a row or two when I successfully reclaimed a few hundred quidsworth of bonkers bank charges, back in the day when one could do that sort of thing. You know, I don’t mind banks making some money, but perhaps not that much…out of me, for those reasons.
Then the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation started on their ‘The World’s Local Bank’ campaign, with which they have stuck ever since. “That’s quite clever” I thought, “they’re a global business that maintains local expertise and understands the local market on a global basis.” I don’t mind a snappy marketing phrase, I have to invent them myself sometimes in the course of my work. ‘The World’s Local Bank’ is a great strap-line, beautifully judged.
About a month ago, at work, we were all talking about the banks and trying to balance our thoughts on how we felt about the state of personal and business banking and its rather naughty commercial banking cousin. That’s when it hit me….SHIT! “The World’s Local Bank”….Jeeeesus….have I got ‘TWAT’ written on my forehead? Am I some sort of simpering village idiot being led by the nose into depositing my money into the hands of Lord-Knows-What Investments plc, just because I still lend credence to a phrase as blindingly stupid, hypocritical and self-evidently full of bullshit as THE WORLD’S LOCAL BANK? Yes yes yes, the banks are all the same, blah blah blah, but I was suddenly incredibly pissed off with them, myself and the world in general. THE. WORLD’S. LOCAL. BANK. We’ve heard it so many times that it now makes sense, but it just doesn’t. IT DOESN’T.
So I asked around, had a jolly good Google and opened an account with Smile, the Co-op’s online bank. They don’t offer a face-to-face personal service, they don’t particularly pretend to be your friend and they fit with how the world and I have changed. I’m told that if one misbehaves, Smile’s bank charges are in fact even more penal than those charged on the world’s high street (ha!), but you know what? I don’t bloody care. At least they’re not feeding me quite as much crap. And what is more, they won’t be investing my bank charges and occasional positive balances in murky arms deals or indeed anything else that their customers collectively say “no” to. They’re the best we’ve got at the moment, apart from keeping your money in a tin (which if you’re working and paying a mortgage is now practically impossible to do).
The world’s local bank (“Fragment – Consider revising”, says Microsoft Word’s grammar checker). The dog’s square ball, purple white daisies, the flourishing extinction, a whole partial orange. Piss off.
Written by James