Sunday, April 15

An Other Way


A weekend ramble from the Editor's keyboard.


Large companies like large ocean going tankers can only react slowly. Often the crew of a huge vessel can spot difficulties and dangers ahead but by virtue of the laws of physics changing direction is a slow an deliberate process.

Large companies and in particular 'high street' banks suffer from lack of flexibility due to their huge corporate size. The lack of flexibility often peculates down (or is it up) the corporate ladder often resulting in small but important local reactions becoming impossible or at best too slow.

For many years I have written and spoken about the diametrical difficulties of the relationship between bank managers and small business owners. The former is a corporate animal with institutional considerations and pressures, the latter needs a sharp sense of opportunism and a love of risk taking and adventure in order to survive let alone succeeded. Naturally the twain would not meet but both very much need each other to be successful particularly in the fast moving ever changing modern business world.

Each party (I was going to type side but why be belligerent) ventures 'blue sky thinking' style techniques to 'build bridges' - where to I have never understood but no matter. Most ideas are little more than rehashed ideas from ten years previously re-dressed in the latest fashionable management speak.

Expensive brand awareness TV advertising may have positive effects on the personal customer but in the business world most of the 60 second productions are a standard joke in the fine bars and restaurants that once were banking halls of distinction.

Frequently I have commented to the Federation of Small Businesses that their accepting of corporate bribes from banks dressed up as sponsorship deals is neither a long term solution, nor a short term desirable option, to the banking gulf between entrepreneurs and bankers. The answer is actually, I feel, quite simple, it lies in the banks providing a first class banking services, devoid of gimmicks, which is suitable to the modern world of business and very much in keeping with the needs of Britain's expanding army of small businesses..

In modern Britain Banks and Bankers must be absolutely flexible to satisfy the needs over three million demanding business people. Additionally businesses, particularly small ones need to understand how banks operate and the corporate pressures that international economics places upon the banking world. However, the need for a fresh approach from high street banks in keeping with the US banking model is needed now more than ever, but that is an issue for an other day. Which rest assured this blog will return to next month.

Anyway last Friday , a sunny warm evening, I visited (or to be accurate tried to visit) a branch of the NatWest. As I wrote in somewhat focused mood later that evening in an email to a senior Manager:

'' I am only a middle aged person on crunches trying to pay money into an account but I do think that closing your Branch three/four minutes early and experiencing from your staff what my late headmaster often called dumb insolence is clearly finding a very effective way to lose and not gain future business. The lack of flexibility was just what Nat West do not need to demonstrate.''

For good measure I sent the bank an invoice for £35 pounds due as a result of '' unauthorised closing of the branch''.

As I hobbled back to the car park with a paying in book now very firmly grasped in my hand I had at least the satisfaction of knowing what my gripe would be in my next 'irregular' column in The Journal.

NatWest's reaction to my complaint was by any standards impressive and to be perfectly honest it pleasantly surprised me. A telephone call the following morning from a charming yet authoritive female corporate manager accepting they had got it badly wrong stunned me to temporary silence (that has happened once before but it took an anaesthetic to do the job). Well NatWest's security cameras could only but confirm events. The credit of £35 pounds on the account as I had requested was given without argument also a delivery to my home of two bottles of a fine white wine with a compliments slip signed by the early closing branch manager inscribed:

'Please accept my sincere apologies for your inconvenience. Kind Regards.''

Well done NatWest that was a very effective way of showing that huge corporate banks have feelings, a conscience and are staffed by humans not robotic clones and above all can spot hazards (including complaining middle aged bank watching bloggers on crutches) and react with haste accordingly.

My only problem now is what am I going to moan about in my next column in The Journal ? No doubt something to do with not taking care of communications will inspire my currently dormant creative skills.


For now, cheers to NatWest.
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1 comment:

Sarah Hopperty said...

Gosh Peter the wine must have been excellent. A good word for a bank, the last time I read a piece from you about Banks you were rightly complaing about the time it still takes to clear cheques !