#CAB ‘…a cunning plan?!’ Curious thing Banks..!

From No More Excuses

Well there’s a funny thing..

What struck me recently was something ‘..Out Of The Blue’, not the well known revue my late Mother starred in, but an idea from the very bastion of impartial advice the whole of the UK respects without question.  No, not Which? the other lot… ‘Our’ Citizens Advice Bureau.

And I say ‘Our’ with a fond affection to all those who give their time effort and in many cases, their own money to offer what is the first line of help and defence against anything and everything rogue this country has to offer. The guys on the front line really don’t know what each day will bring, it literally could be anything.

But getting good advice is one thing. You need impartiality to hopefully help people back from despair, or at least to provide stability via their own commitment and pointing in the right direction.

So when they, raise the subject of  banks – a subject very dear to my heart – I tend to read it with the devout intensity of a preying mantis. This though came as a little bit of a surprise, and not just to me!

Just in passing…

One thing all of us have in common – in this battleground of the impoverished – is that we want the banks at last to begin to recognise the importance of providing the most basic of bank accounts. No need to rant on this, save of mentioning again that the trials now in progress by the Bank of Ireland, introducing three new accounts could prove a boon to many, solely for the reason that it extends access to thousands across the UK hitherto removed from day to day banking.

In it’s own right, I find it rather ironic that the very home of what was the National Savings on the High Street, the Post Office, could see an upswing in volume traffic – amongst other things – somewhat of a return to the day of saving stamps and the ‘PO’ account of childhood memories. For latter-day devotees not so ancient,  harken back to the Girobank. Sold off to the Alliance & Leicester now part of Santander.

Then of course there are the ambitions of the Credit Unions to bring the ethos of regular saving with, if needed, small personal loans to members. Micro loans – if you wish – something which could end the monopoly of the ever increasing plague of Pay-Day loans and their infuriating interest rates (which should be made illegal by bringing back Usury), also at one stage rumoured to utilise the Post Office network.

Sad, so very sad, that so many were closed across the UK.

A Rather Consuming Interest..

However, more pertinent  to good advice is not to send people off to a particular bank or institution for one/a particular product. All I/we can do is illustrate the merits of each, more guidance than advice as no recompense is sought or gained. What can’t be done is to advise banks on what each particular type of account should carry as part of its individual  ‘…charm’.

So for many reasons I chuckled when I read a blog/missive from the desk of the CAB. For there are very sound reasons why this wouldn’t pass muster, well at least in my book. In that I chuckled really isn’t true, it was more of a grimace with a curled lip.

Reminded though I was about the miscreant failings of banks in recent years neatly linked to the up and coming changes across the industry, I’m still not convinced that this light-bulb moment, hasn’t been devoured by the institutions before. In fact it has.

Why therefore do we have all these so called products available in the retail areas of each branch/online/call centres. The introduction of packaged accounts bristling with so-called goodies is the very meat of today’s banking, simply because it produces a better return to banks concerned.

Remember when you went – cap in hand – pleading for a loan to buy the car/or whatever, our/your friendly bank manager sat there drooling all over your file weighing up the pro’s and con’s of those awful purchases ‘you’ made last year. Are you a safe risk…? Well wasn’t that the information now so wanting to be packaged up and sold?!

Ok, upgrade a few years to today’s high-tech evils, the real question is do we really want these minutiae of details to be flogged off to the highest bidder?? Bluntly, NO!

I’ll tender the fact that as consumers we’ve all been blustered and blundered into purchases by virtue of this very ploy. From the humble tea-bag upwards.

Now…let the banks use the information – our information- for a profit! Good grief, give me a penny for every time someone has tried to get information out of them when needed? And forgive my cynicism when there’s a remote chance that this ‘moot’ has already been trialled.

One step too far…

Primarily, how can/could one bank operate a comparison site when others didn’t and by the same token, would it want another bank to even think about hitting on what they would perceive as ‘their’ territory.

Within that concept, do you apply the idea to all accounts, or just to fee-based accounts. (Think latter).

Then again there are already existing comparison sites for all manner of ‘STUFF‘ and all bend over backwards to prove their impartiality. (Don’t forget, they get their ‘finders fee’ too).

Banks per se are individual beasts, if you were. They only like selling their products to their customers. Stamp it with their logo and it becomes ‘..the brand’ maximising what’s left of their loyalty base. An advertising and marketing nightmare in itself.

Then of course, having said that…how could any one bank be that impartial?! […product wise of course!] In that this could  predominately link itself to the energy part of the Utilities market raises more than an eyebrow of discontent.

This list however  suggests our daily usage from phone to television, travel to energy could be covered even by the setting up of separate ‘saving accounts’ to amass the benefits. Get the best deals and bag the savings. Great, but all your accounts become one for purposes of consolidation when your loan, mortgage, overdraft become due and outstanding. Awkward.

If for some reason the minefield of the Data Protection Act doesn’t preclude this chummy inter-alien sharing pound-fest to take place, don’t ring me. It thus becomes a product, another product for a select and very few punters only. Can we just get the basics sorted first.

Ah! But….

On the other side of the coin, it does seem very reasonable for the CAB to proffer this. It is after all only a suggestion. But I haven’t come to ‘…bury Caesar’ far from it.

Take this message/update from the same good offices, 10th May 2013, it bears good news with a cautioned approach. Something  which at last gives some hope to answering the call for a basic bank account revival. But it still hasn’t silenced the detractors of this world. It does however illustrate just how hard it has been for all campaigners in this effort. From what was a brick wall basically built of continual refusals, some light is now shining.

All this as the banks, their cohorts, legions, their beloved association the BBA have fought and tooth and nail to resist this. To big to fail but of course we are to shoulder the blame.

So a ‘Hat-Tip’ is in order. The CAB should be braided into a seasonal and daily accolade of unlimited praise. Therefore, can we take the lapse into product development as a figurative doodle over a cup of strong tea, it confuses the picture – a bit.

Before you go…

Having mentioned energy, albeit fleetingly, could anyone who has encountered difficulties with the energy plan Heatwise and getting the meter removed, like to contact me. You’re likely to be in the Midlands in a relatively new…new build property. Most probably you’re finding that the summer bills are staggering, as well as the estimates.

There is a strong possibility of returning/getting a standard/Economy7 meter installed. Please contact me via Twitter in the first instance by following. Sadly there aren’t/can’t be, any template letter solutions in this instance. But in short, yes, it can be done. However, there are no guarantees as everyone is different as you’ll appreciate.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

From No More Excuses

Back to Basics…

If you haven’t heard, the Banking part of the Post Office is to offer three new bank accounts. What is important is that one will be a free basic account with a Debit Card & accessible online.

All three will now undergo a trial period before a nationwide launch.

Why is this so important… (you mean you haven’t read previous posts??) It’s YOUR MONEY!!

And it ends years of diminishing access to vast numbers of people who have and do rely upon what really is a basic right. 

Still existing are the horror stories of various banks restricting access to cash to only ‘their’ ATM’s after years of loyalty, and with branches closing nationwide, it impugns the integrity of honest people.  

Moreover, there are hundreds of thousands of people nay millions, who have had the aggravation of being denied a simple banking account.     

But quite simply (and you can thank the intransigence of successive Governments – over decades – combined with a malicious campaign by the ‘banks’ to deter and mislead ‘you’ otherwise) forthcoming changes to the banking sector – which they have brought upon themselves and the tax payer’s purse – means this move by the Bank of Ireland should be the first of many. 

But don’t hold your breath.

Having a ‘free’ basic bank account is not the ‘B’ all and end all of banking. It is though the first step on the ladder of understanding and using money for the majority of us.

The older amongst us may remember saving stamps and a Post Office Account. Pay money in and the book was sent away for an update. Positively prehistoric compared with today.

Even getting your first ‘proper’ bank account was an ordeal. 

But banking then was a different beast. There was one unbreakable tenent then, one of trust. My word is my bond.

However, financial scandals, take-overs, Government impositions and sell off’s, swingeing rulings and charges, branch closures, PPI, fraud, EU legislation, […do I need to continue!] have taken their toll. How anyone can have loyalty to one bank in particular completely stuns me.

You wonder why we would even want one.

But, it is a lifeline, your only option other than a ‘jam jar’ under the bed. And however much you want to argue against them (basic accounts that is) just to live these days, you are going to need one.

So with relish this move by BoI is welcomed purely that it means greater access for thousands who need this kind of facility. Whether or not as an individual ‘product’ it stands up to others on the marketplace, is another matter.

The move though is proof positive there is competition out there and that as this is the case, recognition that banks must finally put their house in order. 

Note this though, the campaign to have basic bank accounts as an option is not just for one bank to take up. Every financial institution wanting to call themselves a bank should have this availability to customers. For as it was once, it will and must return.

And for the still doubting Thomas… ‘….take a rain cheque’ [just couldn’t resist it]