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Hoi Yee:  Banks . . . I would change them by having less people.

My relationship with financial banks has intensified greatly since we started our business.  I remember applying for a credit card facility so that clients could pay with plastic.  Five bank staff showed up in our small office and had to stand because there were not enough chairs.  We had to take them out to lunch to have the meeting.  We were granted the credit card facility, but I never saw those five people again.  When I received a letter informing us of the increased fees, I was unable to reach any of those five people on the phone.  The letter simply said “Please note your right to terminate our services should you not agree to the new terms.”

When I closed one of our bank accounts, I had to speak to four persons.  They had to send documents to other people in faraway offices.  There were countless mistakes, missing papers and authorizations, and none of the persons I was dealing with knew any of the workers in those faraway offices.  It took several weeks for the account to be properly closed. 

When I asked for a copy of a 1-page statement, I have to sign five pages in ten different places and personally hand them to a person at the bank, who sends them on to someone anonymous in yet another faraway office.

But, in the midst of all these faceless dealings, I have developed a wonderful relationship with one banker, Larry.  He calls me prior to his days off and tells me I can call him on his mobile.  He reminds me of documents I need to send him and calls to tell me when he has received them.  My loan requests and mortgages have been successful, 100% of the time.  He even hand delivers gifts to my office and calls beforehand to make sure I’m there. 

Let banks have fewer anonymous faces . . . and more Larrys.

Julia:  If I had a free hand to change banks, I’d begin by ridding them of ‘relationship managers’.  My own manager seems to be so busy building relationships with other clients that she doesn’t have time for me.  I end up leaving voice messages on her machine, which, by the way, tells me that my “call is important to us”.  Who is “us”?  I thought it was just “her” and “me”.

I’d also get rid of the deluge of marketing materials that come through my letter-box each week telling me how to pay for my children’s education or save for my retirement.  I find it rather insulting that banks have caused such huge global financial problems, yet still have the audacity to advise me on how to spend or save my money!  I’d also stop free calendars, diaries and red lai-see envelopes that end up in my wastepaper basket.  I’d reduce large reception areas, marble floors and huge desks.  As for centralized departments – it’d back to local people who know me.  I’d also insist on statements that are free of nonsensical numerical codes, and simply show what I’ve received and from whom, and what I’ve paid for and whom I’ve paid.

I want to see bank training programmes focus on how employees’ can give comfort to their clients, and build real trust by explaining financial products with everyday words and easy to understand charts that don’t make me feel like a chimpanzee at an IT seminar.

Could we rethink the whole system and go back to piggy banks?  We could make them secure so that we could keep them safely at home.  Of course, we wouldn’t get any interest, (what’s 0.001% anyway!).  At least we’d know exactly how much we have.  And, I could end those unsatisfactory relationships with people who are never there for me.