You can accuse me of doing something rather unsightly on my own doorstep here if you like, but I'm starting to hate banks.
Not because I have had a particularly bad experience with one, but because working in the financial industry has made me question just how useful they are at looking after my money. And whether they care about me at all.
On top of this, a handful of recent incidents involving huge high street banks have only served to worsen my mood – namely BBC’s recent Panorama investigation and the even more recent kerfuffle surrounding HSBC’s Canford Cliffs branch saga.
Let me very quickly explain how I came to have a bank account – no doubt this story will ring true with just about all of you.
I had a large sum of cash (£16 when you’re ten is HUGE – I used to count and recount over and over) and my parents suggested I open a junior account, which I did, at what was then Midland and is now HSBC.
When I got a little older, 16 maybe, I received a letter from the bank notifying me that I could upgrade to a ‘proper’ account. I ticked the ‘yes’ box and sent it back.
A few years later, on the eve of the start of my university life in Manchester, I upgraded again to a graduate account. And now I have some sort of adult account, with a mini cash ISA.
Through all of this I never once took an ounce of interest in the services my bank had to offer, even though I was certain of one thing: that none of them would make all that much difference.
Still, my point is that now I AM starting to take an interest and I can see now what a ruthless business a bank is.
BBC’s Panorama programme made a number of accusations (revelations, actually), but the one that stuck with me was how they allegedly get their customers to sign up to what they termed ‘additions’.
I got pretty angry at what I saw (even cursed out loud despite being the only one in the room), and that’s when I realised – I had one of those Additions.
I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called but I signed up to it, stupidly, over the phone. I remember being told the insurance meant something along the lines of: ‘If you die, your parents won’t be burdened with your debt’, and, in a fit of stupidity I still haven’t quite got over, I said yes to it.
Needless to say, the day after I saw the Panorama programme, I cancelled it (Of course I couldn’t just do this over the phone – oh no, I had to ‘write off’).
And now we have this nonsense in upmarket Canford Cliffs where, from June, HSBC will only offer face-to-face contact for those people who have signed up for its so-called “Premier” service in that branch.
This has prompted comment that it is turning up its nose at customers who earn less than £75,000 a year (i.e. most people).
HSBC claims the move makes sense because a large number of people in the area have signed up to its “Premier” service and because the branch only has four staff, but still.
I’m not saying HSBC is doing the right or the wrong thing there. What I am saying is this combination of events is getting up my nose a bit and I’m slowly morphing into a Victor Meldrew when it comes to banking.
I have absolutely no idea what can or should be done about this except to say that I am starting to realise just how important education in finance really is.
Banks make vast, vast sums of money by getting people to sign up to things they don’t need through a climate of fear.
When I was told I should sign up to the additions, I actually thought: But what if I do die tomorrow? Surely I should think about my partner.” When really what I should have thought was: “Well I’m sure it would be useful if I do die, but it is unlikely that I will, so no thanks.”
People need to know what is and isn’t useful to their financial needs, and this can only happen through education.
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Scott Sinclair on 020 7034 2636 or email [email protected]IFAonline
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