I have to admit that, over the years, I have developed a robust loathing of banks
, perhaps because my late father, and his late brother, both worked for one, neither of them ever having a good word to say about them.
Towards the end of my father’s career, bank employees went from being administrators of customers’ finances to being salespeople
, something he simply couldn’t abide. Elderly customers always sought him out for his wisdom, patience and genuine credibility, and this relationship of trust was totally undermined by his being expected to sell them something at every opportunity, he felt.
His exasperation grew as he neared retirement, to the point that, in one of those horrible motivational meetings only the David Ickes of this world can possibly find uplifting
, the manager goaded staff that they simply weren’t selling enough insurance.
“[Name of high-street bank]
makes enough bloody profit as it is!” my father protested, taking the stand that I think I still most admire him for today.Swiss banks
are particularly hateful institutions
. Hiding behind the concept of “discreet banking”, their unidentifiable accounts are havens for the pillaged billions of African dictators, South American “politicians” and sundry money launderers and criminal organisations worldwide. The sooner this hypocritical veil of supposed "sophistication" is removed, the better, in my humble opinion.
The current financial crisis has just served to demean banks even further. Their reckless baboonery
got us into this mess, taxpayer’s cash has been used to bail them out, and all of us are paying the price through job losses and economic turmoil.
One of my favourite students was the carioca
Marcelo, who unfortunately has found a new job in São Paulo and no longer attends his one-to-one classes with me. He told me the following story, which made him my instant personal hero
One day his bank sent him a letter telling him that the manager wanted to see him urgently. Always meticulous about his finances, he worried that there had been some kind of problem with his account, or that he’d been victim of identity theft or some other kind of fraudulent activity so common here, so he was in the queue before the bank opened the next morning, having had a restless night.
“No, sorry, I don’t understand,” he told the salesgirl for the fifth time. Drawing a deep breath, she started on the sixth rendition of her well-rehearsed sales pitch.
At the end, Marcelo stopped and thought. “So, if I understand you correctly, you’re telling me I have R$ 2,000 in credit, instantly available to me. If I decide to take this, I’ll be paying you interest on it at double the rate you pay me interest on the money I keep in my account, which I make available to your bank for your bank to invest and make profits from.”
Marcelo asked her to summon the Manager.
“You shall NEVER, EVER call me here again,” Marcelo addressed the oaf who shortly after appeared, suit and tie disguising his recent emergence from a nearby boteco
, “and if you do, I’m going to sue you for loss of earnings
, because I’m a salesman and I earn while I’m working, not while I’m wasting my time in a bank. This time I’m going to let it go,” he said, “but I’m not leaving this bank until you’ve paid me for my car parking
.” Like a schoolboy caught doing unnatural things in the bathroom sink
, the Manager scurried off to deduct some money from somebody’s wages.
If I’d been there I’d have broken into spontaneous applause, which I imagine may have become a ripple, then a torrent, as all the sweaty bank customers acknowledged this everyday hero, like in an American film where the one-legged geek finally stands up to the bullying jock
, and gets the cheerleader.