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Banks; The short road from revered to reviled

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It was compulsory for all children enrolling at my school in the 1950's to open a savings account with the State Savings Bank of Victoria.
Five shillings opening deposit, and one shilling a month provided me with a savings ethic, and the exciting prospect of getting some extra pennies paid as interest at the end of the year.

We grew to trust the institution as much as the people in my small town respected the manager, a long time resident who was active in community affairs.

Just before I got my first job at age 19, my dad took me to his bank, where, over a friendly chat with the manager in his office, a new cheque account was opened for me.  They made me feel like I was part of something special.  
A partner whom I could trust for a sound financial future.

So what the hell has happened in the last 40 years?

Banking in Australia today, from a small customers point of view is a disgrace.
There are only 4 major players, and who knows what incestuous commercial relationships occur between them to further reduce competitiveness.

Big banks are no longer friendly places for small depositors.
Each month, mine pays me 1 cent interest, then steals $5 from me in "charges" because I had the temerity to entrust my hard earned money to them for safekeeping, and generously giving them the right to use my money temporarily for their own profit making purposes.

And make profit they certainly do.  Billions every year.
And what do I get?  
12 cents!

There is, however, a little ray of sunshine for whom I will happily provide an advertisement.

The Bendigo Bank.
From its origins in small town Victoria it is spreading across the nation.  With active community support they are re-introducing banking services to the little towns which the greedy Big4 abandoned years ago for reasons of unprofitability.

The "old bank" in my town has a staff of surly middle aged women   who look down their long noses, with a glint of fiscal superiority in their eyes, at this minor contributor and complain about the coin I bring in, or the folds I have in the plastic bank notes.
They take great delight in telling me that only after accumulating $10,000 should I ever expect their woeful 1 cent/month to be increased to a significantly higher level.
Across the road at the Bendigo Bank, even though I only visit once every couple of months, the smiling staff, (including nice middle aged women  …. there,…that should effectively disarm anyone who was going to shoot me down for being sexist and ageist ), all know my name and chat about life and family whilst processing the transaction. 
They also, courteously, phone me at home whenever a new account, which might be advantageous to me, becomes available.

I know I should completely abandon the old bank, but it would almost seem like dishonoring the memory of my dad.
I, for better or worse, was raised with some principle of loyalty, and I would hope it remains with me.  
The banks seem to have lost theirs somewhere along the way.

The four major banks are an utter disgrace to the memory and principles of their founding fathers.

OK.  I'm all done now.  Purged.   I feel better again.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

6 responses »

  1. I love Bendigo Bank. They are awesome. Another fantastic gem, though not as large, is Newcastle Permanent Building Society. Luckily for me, they were the bank I actually opened my account with when I was seven and in school. I moved locations once and started at a new branch, and then six months later came to the US for a year. When I went back to Australia and walked back into the bank the teller said "Where have you been, Lori!!! We've missed you!!"
    Now that's what I call service. It's not a service I necessarily expect from a bank, but I tell you what, even though I live 10,000+ miles from my nearest branch right now, I can't bring myself to fully close that account.

  2. It is exactly the same here in the UK. The swines take your money and use any excuse to fine you, lend to people with bog all credit rating and no hope of making the repayments then look surprised when it all goes belly up and are unfriendly, unhelpful places. You can no longer phone your branch of my bank, you have to have a telephone passcode and keycode to speak to some call centre in India and so if you have aproblem you can't get it sorted unless you have a memory that enables you to remember a 20 digit passcode. I don't. I don't think we have a Bendigo Bank here or a similar UK instition but as soon as one appears it will have my business, no doubt about it. Banks have become so caught up in the idea of their own importance that they've forgotten it's the customer and their few saved pennies that allow them to play around with massive sums. It's about time they remembered because people the world over are sick to death of their arrogance.

  3. I want to go back to your first sentence …When I was in elementary school, we took 25 cents per week to school and the teacher placed them in these little coin holders that had been provided by a local "Savings and Loan" association. When approximately $6.25 had been collected, we were to take that little booklet full of coins to the "bank" and we were given a $10.00 Savings Bond that matured somewhere along the time we were to graduate from high school. The idea was to teach us to save money and to keep accumulating it until we went to college. This was a good program. This was a good idea. A life-long friend and classmate collected her bonds and was patted on the back and congratulated for learning the lesson.Me? Well … unfortunately there was a candy store on the way to school, and 25 cents bought a lot of candy in those days. My mother was shocked that NO quarters had been collected in my little booklet by the end of school! My rear-end was shocked to find that maybe saving the money would have been better than the short-term pleasure of the candy.My friend learned that there were rewards for saving money. I learned there were catastrophic results for not saving money. In a way, we both learned the same lesson … but I'm sure she enjoyed hers more.Maybe – just maybe – the world wouldn't be in the mess it is now if schools had continued these types of programs.

  4. Thank you for your story LOM. I have yet to hear any bad stories about Bendigo Bank. A little town not far from me decided they wanted a branch established. They raised $600,000 from within the community as collateral and initial deposits…now they have their own bank.In my own town Bendigo Bank moved into the building previously occupied by one of the Big4…..poetic justice.

  5. Thanks for your UK experience Vicola. It seems even if you have more competition than our 4 banks, it makes no difference to the service you receive.I have never tried to telephone my bank, but I suspect we might also end up in India.The first time I was appalled by bank fees was when they first introduced fees for dishonoured cheques. Not mine, but if you deposited someone elses cheque which bounced, it cost ME $20. I am happy I am not alone in my dislike of banks.

  6. Thanks for your story and experience of rear-end pain. ;-)I particularly like the idea of being presented with the savings bond. Wonder why schools discontinued these programs? Perhaps it is politically incorrect.It seems through our past communications about financial issues, that we both did learn some good lessons and put them into practice for the rest of our lives.


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