Monday’s news that Barclays Bank chief executive, Mr Bob Diamond has had his bonus of at least £6.5m which rises to twice that with other perks, should surprise no one. Despite all the talk of restraint, bankers like everyone else, are programmed to get what they can as fast as they can. No amount of money is ever enough, and these boys and girls need to earn as much as possible. Don’t blame the people, blame the system. Actually scrub that, the people make the system, so blame them.
When most of us are gearing our spending downwards and cutting back, for some out there, this is just not a feature of their daily lives. We can get angry, indeed I am surprised that we are not angrier, but we could also use our teeny weeny amount of individual power and band together to make a difference.
For most of us the choice of bank for most of us is a question which few of us really think about. Indeed we rarely change banks, unlike our insurance company, mobile phone supplier, supermarket, energy supplier and pub, most of us perceive very little between the banks. I read Mervyn King, the Governor of the bank of England, has made comments that call into question the real value banks put on their customers. He is right. When was the last time you ever got anything positive from your bank? If they ever send you a letter it normally tells you of a change in terms and conditions. If you have the mind of a lawyer you may actually be able to spot the difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’, good luck with that little puzzle. Most times letters from banks cost you money!
But we do have a choice. All banks rely on the capital deposited by customers being lent out to other customers, with a margin difference in interest rates representing their profits. If they can’t get access to the money from savers, it can be tricky for banks.
Therefore, if you are a customer of a bank, look carefully at what they do for you. Are their charges competitive? Do they value you as a customer, do they have any ethics, do they pay their staff excessive bonuses? We all have a choice. We can work collectively to force change. Don’t think for a moment that any bank will make life easy for you, they won’t. Our account number is not portable, unlike our mobile phone number. You have to set up all direct debits and standing orders, and that is hassle. Making informed choices about which bank is the right one is not exactly easy. Banks spend millions of Pounds, Dollars and Euros building their brands to make them look attractive. Lewis Hamilton, The Premier League and the Six Nations may earn a few quid extra, but don’t be fooled. Look at the ethical behaviour and track record of these institutions. Most of them have a shocking record, Barclays are as good or bad as the rest. Maybe consider an organisation like the Co-Operative Bank who don’t seem to believe that their senior staff are ‘Masters of the Universe’, and appear to be a little more normal, if that is possible of course.
So there is one way that those of us who are Barclays customers can make a difference. We can simply close our accounts and take our business elsewhere. Yes there maybe some work to do along the way, but how can true progress be made without effort?
Maybe then Mr Diamond will wake up and smell his coffee, he may even jump on one of his lovely bikes and cycle off into the evening mist. Or maybe that will be idealistic wishful thinking, let’s see if we can make a difference. Spread the word. Change? We Can.