Banker bonuses: a customer’s view

So far the debate on banker bonuses seems to have focused on two areas: the unfairness and inequality that the bonuses represent, and the value (or not) that they add to the businesses they run. The first represents the view of society as a whole, questioning whether anyone is worth a million-pound bonus on top of their million-pound salary. The second represents (or is supposed to represent) the view of the shareholders, who are putting it in perspective with the billion-pound profits of the banks they own.

However I think there is another equally valid perspective, namely that of the customers. Let’s see how well they’ve done there:

1. Customer service. I recently had a problem with my bank and rang my branch in an effort to get it sorted. I was automatically routed through to an Indian call centre where the woman I spoke to had a poor understanding of English and was obviously reading off a crib sheet. I have nothing against Indian call centres – Dell Computers have some very friendly and knowledgeable people in theirs. However I can remember 20 years back when customers actually had personal bankers – someone in your local branch who was responsible for your account and even knew you by name. Not a good performance there then.

2. Bank charges. I have been told that I will automatically be charged £25 for going overdrawn, despite the fact that I’m usually in credit and the bank is well aware that I’ve got funds elsewhere. I do have a meeting with someone I’ve never met in a few days time who may have the power to waive the fee if I jump through the appropriate hoops, but it’s a waste of my time and theirs (which ultimately I’m paying for). Not good there either.

3. Interest rates. The reason for this sorry story is that I’m trying to find a decent interest rate. The so-called savings accounts offered by the high-street banks pay laughably low rates – often less than 1%. When they do offer a higher rate, perhaps 3%, it’s only for a year, which means that every year you have to go through the process of opening an account with someone else and transfering your hard-earned savings from one account to another. And the only reason they do this is because they’re hoping you’ll forget, and leave your money where it is.

So no, I don’t think they deserve their bonuses.

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