City bankers are a funny lot; they live in a world which few people inhabit. They have annual bonuses in the millions, they swig champagne as though it were water and they buy Porsches as though they were going out of fashion. At least that’s the stereotype we have all been led to believe.
But no matter how far from the truth this may be, what is clear is that the top banking executives in Britain live in a different world to the rest of us – yet they seem to think they are in the “real world”. In fact, top bankers are rather like Premiership Football Clubs – in a world of their own, where they think 22% rises in fees are acceptable.
The bankers, meanwhile, have introduced a Faster Payment System. Whoopee Doo. Yes, if you are a Barclays customer, for instance, they can make sure that if you send a payment of up to £5, (yes it has to be LESS than £5), then the money can go through in, well, a few hours. Over the coming months, Barclays, alongside other banks, will allow higher amounts of money to be paid instantly, well almost. Plus you’ll be able to have some standing orders paid more quickly.
Gosh – aren’t they clever these top banking chaps? Technology that they’ve been benefiting from for almost 30 years – instant payments – is now being extended to customers. Well, nearly; they aren’t going to let us have all of our payments instantly. Some things will still take days – even though share trading and inter-bank payments are measured in fractions of seconds.
Even so, the Internet is responsible for these welcome changes to banking. The fact that Internet banking users were able to click to make a payment, but then had to wait days for it to appear on their statements led to several reports and investigations which eventually embarrassed the banking industry into action.
But the tardiness of the banks is probably because they are still stuck in their world which they think, like the football clubs, is our world. It isn’t. The banks have not realised that with almost all payments these days being digital, that actually the need for a bank in the relatively near future is pretty slim. As online payment systems become increasingly popular there will be no need for salaries to be paid into banks, they’ll be able to be paid directly to you and “associated” with your online IDs.
By treating their customers so badly with only half-heartedly introducing “faster” payments, they are effectively saying they don’t care about us. And what do customers do when they feel unloved? They vote with their feet.
At a time when the economy could be going south, the banks appear to be doing just the right thing to make us even more likely to put all our cash under the mattress. Internet technology of the future means the need for an institution that “looks after” our money will rapidly disappear. As businesses, those big banks need to look after us more than ever. And what are they doing? Treating us like something they trod on as they swigged their way into their Porsche dealers.