Panorama ran a 30 minute programme last night on banks
- old-fashioned, high street, retail banks. In true mainstream media style (I'm getting increasingly frustrated with the BBC of late) the focus was on branch banks.
Now, don't get me wrong, branch banks are still a force to be reckoned with. (although for the life of me, I cannot remember the last time I actually entered a branch to do any banking, can you?)
However, Panorama made no mention of Tesco Bank or Virgin Money or any of those so-called non-bank competitors we keep hearing about. As for mobile? I think the BBC once heard that some people in Africa were actually using their phones to bank - but it is,
of course, just a rumour and when they get it confirmed (in 2025) I'm sure they'll run a Panorama special on it.
Anyway, one part of the show intrigued me. The Panorama presenter visited Vernon Hill, founder of
Metro Bank, which plans on launching here in London on July 29th. (the first new British high street bank in 100 years).
While the presenter coo'ed over the red lollipops and dog biscuits ("because you shouldn't have to leave your dog on the street to bank" OK) Hill admitted that Metro will
not necessarily offer the best rates of interest to its customers on current and savings accounts. What?! ... wait a second.
Now, I'm not the world's most sophisticated investor, but when I shop around (on the internet, while my dog chases squirrels in the back garden) for a good place to lay my spare £2.50, I look for a savings account with the
best interest rate. I don't think I would ever, think 'Hmmmmm, ING Direct is offering 3% but Metro has red lollipops and dog biscuits! Metro you've got my business!'
I love a good show as much as the next person. And the recent trend for better customer service, an end to small print and simple transparent charging, al la Metro Bank and banksimple in the US, is definitely a step in the right direction.
But banking customers, who have bailed out these banks with their tax dollars and pounds, deserve more than just removing the bullet-proof glass from the teller stations. They deserve actual banking services - mortgages that are responsible, but not impossible
to take out, small business loans that don't bankrupt a family business and a savings account with a
decent rate of interest.
Until that happens, I'll hold off on sucking anyone's lollipop