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Sales tactics make bank advice a ‘numbers game’


It was with great disappointment – but little surprise – I read of the experiences of former bank staff following the Which? Banking Commission in last week’s Money Marketing (Bank accounts, March 18).

I worked at Barclays for 17 years, mostly as a corporate relationship manager. In my time, I witnessed the steady erosion of the manager’s ability to do anything remotely useful to assist clients, through the removal of lending discretions from those who genuinely knew clients’ business and their replacement by faceless credit teams, more often than not with little clue as to the more complex lending and security arrangements needed. I was asked, “What is a debenture?” on numerous occasions. Of course, the manager had to take ownership of the decisions he/she had not actually made and convey them to the client.

The manager became little more than a postboy and the whole focus of the role changed to one of selling the bank’s products – irrespective of suitability – through a series of targeted campaigns. The targets set bore no relevance to the individual manager’s portfolio make-up, it was simply a numbers game. The final straw for me was the team manager making it very clear during one campaign that PPI was “not optional” and that any loans sold without it would not count towards our target. The poor client was effectively put over a barrel if they wanted the loan. I left soon afterwards, at a cost of around £30,000 in lost share options, as I could no longer operate in such an environment. I have never regretted the decision. As an IFA, I still deal with many individuals I met in my banking career and the horror stories continue to this day.

What saddens me most is the way the banks continue to deny this relentless micromanagement sales culture exists. This defies all credibility and if current staff members were not made so frightened by their (sales) managers, they would confirm the culture is very much alive and kicking.

Of course, it is the consumer that loses out, leading to misplaced regulation focusing, not on the major perpetrators of misselling in all its guises – that is, the banks – but on IFAs, the majority of which need genuine ongoing relationships with their clients in order to survive. It is high time the FSA stopped paying lip service to regulating such questionable sales tactics. This is not rocket science but does require the FSA shows real leadership. Maybe we will see this in the future but I am not holding my breath.

HBFS Financial Services


Jason Witcombe:  Evolve Financial Planning

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