Backward Banks

Posted on Tuesday 3rd March 2009 at 00:00
For me, a poor, penniless student with no property, no morgage, no deposit for a morgage, no shares and no capital, the recession has, so far, had very little impact on my life. Perhaps this will change in a few months when I try to get myself the well paid, exciting graduate job that the government promised me I'd get, if only I'd go to university first, but for now I find myself disconnected from the issue that has made headlines virtually everyday for the last 18 months.

In fact, the most obvious sign that there is a recession, so far as I can tell, besides the fact that I now own the bank withwhom I hold such a large overdraft, is the change of blogging hierarchy on the BBC News Front Page. Back in the Good Old Days there was a permanent spot reserved for the blog of the Beeb's Political Editor Nick Robinson, who's regular takes on the latest political stories provided us with welcome relief when the news was going a little bit slowly. Now though we are enduring the dark days, and poor Nick has been replaced by the man blamed for the run on Northern Rock. A man who, in all probability, might actually be Satan himself: the BBC's Business Editor Robert Peston.

Ok, he probably isn't Satan - if he was he'd be working for ITV - but it'd be hard to deny that he's loving the current economic turmoil and the massive shove into the limelight it's given him. I remember glancing at the headlines on the BBC website the other day and spotting the following, amusing little arrangement. The leading article was reporting another major problem with the economy. I think it was a report on another bank admitting massive losses or something, and under it was a list of related stories, as you usually get. It looked something like this:

Bank of Monkeys Reports 4bn Losses

Housing Market Falls Further

Bananas R Us Goes Into Administration

4,500 Jobs Lost At Chocolate Teapots Ltd

And then, at the bottom of the list, was this cheerful entry:

Peston: Good News At Last

That man has serious issues...Anyway, so we are in a recession, and if Satan Peston is to be believed, it is all the fault of poor banking practices, which I have to say, I'm perfectly willing to go along with. Recently, I've had far more to do with my bank than I'm used to; partly because I'm earning less than I used to be, and so am having to juggle my finances a bit to keep in the black, and partly because the Fabulous L and I are spending this coming weekend in Brussels, enjoying our first ever romantic weekend away, and so there's been a lot of buying of Eurostar tickets and booking hotels and buying Euros and what not to be done, all of which involves banks.

So, what I want to know is this: Why does it take 4 whole days for L to transfer some money from her account to mine via the electronic wonderfulness of the internet, using services provided by banks, who are, after all, specialists at moving money, when it takes less than a minute for a girl in M&S to take a wad of notes from me, count them, tell me what I'll get in Euros if I go either under or over, count out the Euros and hand them to me in and nice little envelope? *Pants*

It's absurd! How can banks justify these waiting times, which haven't changed since coins were first invented, in the 21st Century. It takes less than a second to send enough information down a phoneline to securely authorise a transaction. Less than a second. It is a tiny, tiny amount of data, even taking encryption into account. There is more data in this paragraph than is needed to move money from one account to another, and yet our banks tell us it takes 4 working days. Working days? What are those? I use my money 7 days a week and I expect it to work 7 days a week. I don't expect it to take weekends off and finish early on a Friday; especially not when I'm having to work evenings and sometimes weekends to earn it!

I tried to visit my bank at 9 o clock one Wednesday morning before Christmas, and found it to be closed. Why? Because they were having a staff meeting, and they were too sodding lazy to come in an hour early to do so, meaning that the bank couldn't open until 10. 10 in the morning! I know bars that open earlier than that!

*Deep Breath*

I'm sorry, dear reader, that this is fast turning into an insane rant, of the sort you probably don't want to listen to, but am I the only one who sees the sheer insanity of the situation? The government is worrying itself over bad banking practices suck as risk management, which may be all very well, but how are they able to deal with something like that in banks when the sector as a whole hasn't even mastered basic customer service skills? How can anyone hope to reform practices that are so complicated even the bankers don't really understand them, when they can't even master the art of being open on time?

Why is it that we live in a world where I can spend my money in Tesco at 3 in the morning, but I can't deposit a cheque at 6 in the evening? Or at the weekends? Or bank holidays?

It seems to me that if the government wish to make good on their promise to overhaul the banking system, perhaps they'd be better off starting at the bottom again and working their way up. At least then they wouldn't be building on foundations of sand.

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