Friday, 5 February 2010
I should have realised banking was doomed when I last visited my branch to 'see the manager'. These days of course the manager is far too exalted a personage to deal with financial minnows like me, so it was one of his small standing army of branch middle management who saw me. She was a buxom youngish lady with a rather common accent who addressed me throughout as 'Nigel' (at least it wasn't 'Nige'). She had nothing to tell me and nothing to offer that wasn't going to cost money - but what struck me, as I gazed around to keep my mind occupied during our interview, was how little my bank now resembled a bank. It could have been anything at all really - a slightly upmarket Job Centre, some kind of waiting room, a discreet pox doctor's - impossible to tell. Not only have banks dropped the word 'bank' from their names, they no longer offer any visible evidence of what they do, preferring expanses of carpet, strangely shaped receptionist's desks and pale wood cubicles to the familiar rows of tellers behind glass, doing bank stuff. That's why I like the sound of this development - back to proper banking - and hope that Metro Bank gets its licence. My own proposal (which most definitely won't get a licence) is to take it further with a chain of Retro Banks, run on similar principles, styled with restrained grandeur and gravitas, where the manager wears morning dress with wing collar (think Captain Mainwaring in his work clothes) and the staff well cut lounge suits (the gents) and elegant black dresses with white blouses (the ladies), and there are tellers galore. And they will all address all customers by surname and honorific.