And Banks Wonder Why People Distrust Them

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If it wasn’t for the sheer magnitude of the idiocy associated with what happens behind the scenes at most major banks one would just laugh. However, one can’t help but look at just the latest story to grace the headlines referencing Bank Of America™ and its now uncovered “oopsy” accounting and wonder should you laugh or be scared.

Suddenly it’s been revealed that all the “extra” money they had to bolster their balance sheets which allowed them to offer dividends, buy backs, et al actually wasn’t there. So much so that the Federal Reserve (supposedly the overseers that are responsible that such things don’t/can’t happen) has now rescinded the “all clear go ahead and pay out” to “Holy crap what?”

It would seem the earlier mandated stress tests were just a little too stressful for the accounting team, and it appears they “mistakenly” said they had X in reserves when in reality they had Y.(aka squat!) Which in turn now means there’s no Y to cover paying out Z. I guess many are now scratching their collective tinted shades thinking, “No Y? Why?!”

Maybe they can blame the accounting error on a glitch in their old Microsoft XP™ software. (Look for this to be used as “the weather” is used as a pre-made excuse elsewhere.) Because we all know after all: it can’t be their fault. They’re a bank for heaven’s sake, and we all know banks are: accounting experts, bastions of integrity, and have the needs of widows and orphans welfare first and foremost over monetary concerns. Right?

However, that’s a sample of the big issues, let’s go onto the smaller ones. Ones you and I have had first hand dealings with. (I have stories from personal experience that leave a room a gasp in disbelief, but that’s for another column) These issues are both systemic and institutionally practiced group think of accepted bad behavior with no comprehension of just how stupid the group think within the hallowed vaults can be. There are too many to list so here’s one that if it wasn’t so obviously idiotic and insightful, it could be laughable.

Just yesterday I went to my local branch of one of the large big bank (no I’m not naming names because it basically applies to all of them so take your pick) where I get a roll of quarters to keep in my car for parking meters, vacuums, and such. What I’ve noticed of late is I’ve been getting Canadian quarters mixed in. Not many but 1 a roll or so.

I brought this up to the teller as he gave me my newest roll and I asked: “I have about four of five from previous rolls. Can you exchange them for me?” His response? “Ohhhh, yeahhhh, ummmmm, we can’t take those. That’s foreign currency. Ahhhmmmm, sorry about that. Matter of fact as soon as we get them in here we just send them back out.”

I was stunned! I replied, “Yeah, no kidding – I’m proof positive of that, so now what do I do, try to spend them?” The response again was right in line with what one would expect. A shrug of the shoulders followed with, “I guess you could do that.”

When I replied, “Well how can I make sure from here on out I’m not the recipient of this fine albeit useless coinage in the United States vending system?” His response was again near useless. “Well, I can open the roll and we can check them before you leave.”

Sure like we all have time for that, me, and the line of 10 people behind me waiting for this one teller. Of course I said, “I’ll take my chances thanks.” Then went about my day.

Now it wasn’t this tellers fault. After all he looked like he was just out of school and this was probably his first job. However, the answers and the responses are not ones that are made up on the fly.

You’ll know if you listen carefully (and I do) when people are reciting inner office dictum’s or answering policy procedures per instructed by department managers, HR, executive boards, all the way up and down the corporate food chain. Problem is this food chain has less in common with substance and more with empty calories. All stuff that looks good, sounds good, but supplies no lasting customer satisfaction or benefit.

It amazes me now to think back when I used to have feelings of incompetence when I couldn’t balance my checkbook. When in reality, I was unknowingly preparing myself for a career in banking. For it looks like balancing the books at a bank: isn’t a requisite. After all, it’s not like it’s their money in the bank, it’s ours.


© 2014 Mark St.Cyr