While Lady Grantham personified the work-free existence of the aristocracy, the staff of the Wall Street investment bank have been chained to their desks over weekend. According to a leaked email circulating in America, staff are required to be out of the office by 21:00pm on a Friday and not allowed back in until 09:00am on a Sunday. This is designed to discourage all-night working sessions, which put the health of its workers at risk. Maybe this is the first indication of a seed of change in an industry that has never really existed in the real world, which will not only lead to it treating its people better, but also its customers. Many sectors have had these moments, mine included. There is no doubt that traditionally, with the possible exception of used car dealers, journalists and maybe politicians, plumbers have had arguably the worse professional reputation of any occupation in the country. This is why I have for many years been striving to break the mould, and I am determined to be as vocal about that as I can because people need to know that the industry has good, as well as poor examples, and who’s who. Speaking from experience I believe that the banking industry has the same opportunity as I had 40 years ago. They are at a crossroads and the banks that choose to look after customers above themselves will be in a prime position to capture the moral high ground and with it a greater share of the business. It makes perfect sense, and there’s no difference between banking and plumbing. Plumbers, like bankers, could argue that if everyone continued to act like a bunch of cowboys they would all survive, due to their being no alternative. But as soon as one breaks rank and leads a cavalry charge of customer service, the game’s up. The bank that clocks this simple point and starts working for its customers, and I mean actually doing it, not just saying it on TV, will be the winner. And for the record this ‘working for customers’ means an end to paying themselves 20 times what everyone else thinks is a good wage. What they do just isn’t that clever, and any argument that says they’re paid on results, just proves how badly they are currently fleecing their customers. If there’s millions of quid in commissions available, and the banks are also posting hundreds of millions in profits – the fees are too high. Charge reasonable money, be transparent and give a good service. That’s all that’s needed for a real game changer to emerge. So when the bankers are enjoying their weekends, maybe they?ll return recharged with common sense to start to set the industry on a new path.
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