Friday, 29 June 2012

Bankers. Are They Just Rhyming Slang?

Bankers, solicitors, MPs and doctors always used to be the pillars of society. If you needed someone to countersign a document one of those four profession was considered to be a copper-bottomed guarantee.
Now even doctors stand alone...and even their pillars are swaying slightly in the wind of public opinion.

Solicitors (Lawyers in the States) now advertise on TV their services to get you compensation damages for just about anything , from a lost limb, through to whiplash and in one case I know of where a client broke her finger nails when she tripped on a pavement...and she'd only just spent £20 to have them painted! COMPENSAYSHUN! It's an industry and based on ambulance chasing...and if there's no ambulance they'll come to your house through your TV, or a mass campaign phone call, or even text. As a result of unprovable whiplash claims motor insurance costs have leaped over the past 2 to 3 years so we all suffer. Soliciting in the UK used to mean touting for dubious business on street corners and offering "services" to all and sundry. It's beginning to mean exactly that again. Prostituting a profession.

MPs....The word "expenses" will forever be linked to MPs whether they "want to draw a line under it" as Anthony Blair used to try to say (what a coincidental shame all his records were shredded just before he was going to be asked for them). Much od the expenses claimed would have been considered fraudulent normally, but for some reason things went no further and only a token number were prosecuted. Then there's the MP who allegedly asked his wife to take his speeding fine points by saying she was driving.and then left her to set up home with his mistress. Then there's "cash for honours" where wealthy people could ALLEGEDLY make a donation to the ruling political party and in return they would receive a knighthood, or a peerage, or in one case be allowed to put cigarette advertising on racing cars, something banned in all other sports.

So, Bankers. Walking through London's Bank area the building are Greek and Roman in style with massive columns, great big doors with flunies leading into cathedrals where money can be worshipped. The whole thing was a facade to give the impression of respectability, stability, security and upper class control. It worked too, except that was all it was, was a facade. The marble cladding and stone fronting hid the cheapest brick possible. More recently as banks tried to be more user-friendly, they took away the bullet-proof windows and replaced them with desks in the suburbs, though mostly they've gone back to the windows. Either way customers are made to queue to take out or deposit money in Disney Land-like snaking lines. It's almost as though it's a privilege for us to give them our hard-earned cash!
Looking at the London Canary Wharf skyline it's totally dominated by skyscraper glass and steel buildings that tower over every other edifice. Presumably this is so they can look down on us poor minnows who actually pay for it all. What do we get in return:-
- Cost-cutting at the bottom end with jobs being outsourced to India where salaries are a fraction of those in the UK. The result is job losses over here.
- PPI misselling, where banks and other institutions leant money and included PPI insurance to cover against the loss of a job, income, sickness or death. The trouble was in most cases it didn't actually cover much at all and in some cases the client didn't even know they had it. One indicator is that on a normal insurance transaction the profit margin is in the mid 20% range, whereas PPI margins were in the high 80% bracket. Alarm bells? It'll take the banks years to repay the premiums and add a proportion of interest, meanwhile they'll keep the profits they'd made by investing that money.
- Bonuses. A word that used to be honourable and was a reward for outstanding service. To the man in the street the word is now linked irrevocably to banks and to ridiculous rewards for highly dubious activities. The size of some bank bonuses is mind-boggling, especially in the more murky internal aspects of banking and at the top end management. Multi-million pound bonuses just for doing the job are common-place and in many cases at the top were signed off by remuneration committees made up of their peers from other financial instutions. "You vote me my bonus and I'll vote for yours". Nice.
- The latest banking misdeed / fraud relates to internal gambling on loan rates and looks like costing most UK and overseas banks a multi-million pound fortune in fines. Word is that there's another nasty little misdeed just around the corner.
- Apparently banks are allowed to make up to 4 harassing phone calls to people who fall behind payments particularly on credit cards. These are frequently now from India, are harassing, bullying and ask the same "when are you going to pay us" questions. 4 calls each and every day, and we thought PayDay Loan companies were the leg-breakers. It's no wonder some people consider suicide as a way out, and why debt management companies are inundated with business. Your flexible friend now has his own friend who does the leg breaking!
- A silly thing, but walking round the banking areas of London, the banking community all wear smart suits, white shirts, smart coats, well polished shoes...but no ties. It really looks as though they forgot to finish dressing. I can understand not wearing a tie in the office, and putting it on for client meetings, but not wearing one at all and even keeping the top button done up in many cases looks silly as a fashion statement, and slovenly as a work statement. "Look at me. I'm an individual. I'm not wearing a tie!" Sorry, nobody else is , so you're just one of the banking sheep. Baaa..nking!

Do I feel better for that rant? Not really. The MPs are still the same MPs, the solicitors are still telling me I must have had an accident sometime in my life and can collect a fortune and the bankers are still rewarding themselves outrageous salaries and bonuses.
Luckily my doctor is still my doctor!

Blog on, dudes!

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