Banks – stop doing this

Banks want a larger slice of the financial services pie.

Fearing that their filthy profits from money lending and transaction fee shenanigans could collapse in a future of crypto currency and decentralised finance, banks are turning their attention to other forms of ticket clipping – insurance, Kiwisaver, share trading, managed funds, and so on.

Fair enough, though their enthusiasm for shutting up shop kinda jars with taking a bigger bite of business.

Granted, banks these days offer pretty slick online services, so closing retail branches isn’t such a big deal. And on the rare occasion admin sensitives demand your appearance at the counter of a local branch, you can bet on a friendly face eager to please.

Which brings me to my most recent bank encounter and a cautionary tale for banks as they manoeuvre to play a bigger part in our finances.

The story begins with an email to refix my mortgage. I could either call the bank’s 0800 number or visit in person to tee it up.

Knowing I would soon be in the vicinity of a local branch, I went old school and strode through the automatic glass doors on a quiet mid-week morning. A smiling chap in a blue suit waved me to his counter.

I delivered my opening: “Hello there, I’m here to fix my mortgage.”

“Of course, I can help. Please, swipe your card and enter your pin, “ he said, repositioning the eftpos keypad.

Fingers poised, he performed two bursts of computer keyboard clatter.

Eyes narrowing, screen check – bingo: “Yes, I see it. Very good.”

Excellent – a quick signature and I’d be on my way.

“Sir, are you aware that <unnamed> bank offers insurance… which insurance do you have currently?”

And why not, if you aspire to be a financial services provider you’ve got to hustle when the opportunity presents. I’ll play along – small price to pay for getting the mortgage fixed.

A nod and a smile from me.

“I’m all good for insurance thanks, but by all means email what you’ve got and I’ll take a look at it.”

Give the man some hope, at least.

“Of course, yes, I can do that. Now sir, we also offer Kiwisaver. Do you have a current provider? As part of our service we are happy to do a comparison.”

Mate, you’ve had your shot. Flash him my teeth, still friendly like, the perfect prompt to get him back on the job he knew I was there to do.

Another burst of keyboard clatter.

I tugged the neck of my shirt.

“Sir, I see you have a lump sum in your account that is earning very little interest. We have a variety of investment options that could work for you.”

Give him more of the teeth, not yet gritted. Ease up on the nodding, damn head might tumble off my shoulders.

His lips mouthed words unheard. The minute hand on the wall clock gave a twitch.

“These I am sure are all fine possibilities. But let’s get down to business and fix this mortgage, shall we.”

“Oh,” he said. “I can’t do that – you’ll need to make an appointment with a banker. How are you placed next week?”

Time stood still.

Body and soul shook hands and sagged in their respective corners.

No anger, just the wretchedness of defeat and hormones of sadness awash, reminding me of the sensation when I wet my pants sitting on the mat in the school junior room.

“Ah, ok, next week,” my throat squeaked.

I turned and left, somehow smaller. The automatic doors refused to open, a fitting final insult.

The following day I received an email invitation titled: Financial Health Check.

Fixing a mortgage used to be so much easier.