50 Shades of Banking

I wrote about Irrational Loyalty in banking before but a conversation at Money2020 in Vegas last week prompted me to revisit it, this time with the thesis that we as consumers have abnormally high pain thresholds when it comes to what we expect of banking as a service and its technology as the manifestation of it. While I’m the first to glare, point and shake a bank, on this topic it’s not them, it’s us.

“If my bank completely pissed me off I’d leave!” a friend proclaimed and it made me wonder what does that “completely” mean to each of us. With the rise of the 50 Shades phenomenon in popular culture, we all know there have to be agreed limits even in a borderline abusive relationship, what are ours when it comes to being flogged by our bank?

Shall we agree that money and data being safe is a hard limit? I think we should, or we’d be left with no core services we need out of banking.

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Outside of that – would we leave if we were unable to open a new account for days? What if the interest rates were clearly lower than the market? What if the mortgages became suddenly perceivably higher? Are these then soft limits, do we negotiate with ourselves whether the pain is bearable as compared to the perceived hustle of changing banks and end up staying?

When else do we entertain it? Do we even think about leaving when we are left on hold for hours? When we need to enter our password for the 20th time and half our day was spent trying to log in to make a transfer online only to find no evident way to do it and no evidence of what it costs to do so?

Do we ever wonder why when you call a telecom company there’s a “press 4 if you are thinking of leaving us” but when you call a bank there’s never that option?

Do we flirt with the idea of leaving every time we catch a glimpse of a challenger bank flaunting features we’ve never seen in our bank or are they so far removed from our day-to-day digital banking experience we mentally categorise them as SciFi?

If our bank’s mobile app is just another icon on a busy smart phone’s home screen why is it we patiently allow it to load in twice as long and crush twice as much as every other app we use? What makes us accept we have to have ridiculous work-arounds for the most basic of actions – spouses setting up direct debits, friends using PayPal to repay us, ATM withdrawals only to load them back in the needed current account and our dead aunt’s maiden name tattooed on our wrist?

Maybe it’s time we take some responsibility as consumers and admit that we’re enabling banks to mistreat us with no limits in place. Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves when enough is really enough and why is it that we’d allow this much abuse in poor service and subpar technology, we sure don’t enjoy it. Let’s make it an early new year’s eve resolution that as of now we’ll go to our bank with a mental list of what our limits are and be prepared to break up if they don’t respect them.

They may learn to love us more that way.

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