If A Giant Retailer Ran The Banks...

By Ed Tasca



Despite the current economic downturn, banks, it appears, are flush with profits, even Mexican banks. Largely, this has been accomplished in several ways, efficiency of operation, creating new markets and sucking in surprised passersby with the fastest-opening automatic doors.

The problem with bank efficiency is that the efficiency is almost always applied to the bank’s advantage, not the customer’s.  But what if banks followed the utopian mission of efficiency aimed at a better customer experience, in the fashion of the customer-friendly retail model? Especially during the holiday season.

First, instead of the formidable mazy gauntlet one runs to get to the teller, there would be a name-and-photo-tagged greeter at the door. Sven, for example. Sven would introduce himself with a glad-to-be-of-service smile and usher you up to a teller through the twists and turns of cordon, so you don’t get lost and have to crawl under it, where you could bang your head into a steel pylon.

Second, you won’t see one hopelessly overworked teller and the string of “Next Window” signs at empty wickets that point you to another “Next Window” sign and then to another, until you are outside at the wicket of Sol’s Pawn Shop (where you actually have a better chance of getting Christmas funding, to say nothing of the cheap gift guitars for mom and dad).

Third, there’d be an aisle for “Returns.” If you find after a month that your mortgage doesn’t “fit,” you may return it for one of the following (all of which have the same monetary value): $100 in penny stocks, $200 in penny stocks, $300 in penny stocks.

Fourth, in the Christmas spirit and given the current tough economic times, there would also be an aisle featuring flirty young women dressed in skimpy, questionable Santa outfits handing out emergency loans of $25 from the bank’s unclaimed assets accounts. You would qualify on nothing more than your pledge: “I’ll pay it back. Cross my heart and hope to die.” However, the loans would come with a guarantee from the bank that your elderly mother won’t be going home but will be treated humanely until the loan is repaid.

Fifth, there would be bright, hand-written posters indicating the day’s “Specials”: Line of Credit - 1.25% lower interest. Today Only. Aisle 2.” Or, “Interest Madness On all Savings all week long. Aisle 4.” There might even be an “Express Lane for deposits of $100,000 or more. No waiting.” (Nobody likes standing in a queue for twenty minutes hugging a satchel loaded with $100,000, especially if it’s a bank executive with his Christmas bonus.)

Sixth, Sven (Remember him? He’s the amicable fellow who met you at the door. Well he’s back and eager to give his job meaning and substance. He would be able to hail the manager at the first sign that you might be experiencing teller complications. This availability would replace the current system of the manager claiming “my door is always open,” but only to readily demonstrate that he isn’t in. The manager would be at your side in a gush, while Sven is off greeting another customer.

Seventh, you’ll find a centrally located TV program demonstrating bank products and services:

*How to use traveler’s checks for pirate ransom.

*What to do when stopped by a third world traffic cop and you don’t have the right change.

*How to get 0% car loans if you agree to chauffer bank executives.

*Financial plans that cover a full lifetime of financial needs from your student loans to preparing your bankruptcy declaration.

*How to write a will that reduces estate taxes and the risk of grandpa being pistol whipped by an aggrieved cousin.

*How to use the bank’s Personal Budgeting Service for three months and get a comprehensive list of local foreclosures.

Finally, for retired people, there would be guaranteed reverse mortgages: You sign over your home to the bank and the bank provides you with a tax-free income for life, based on your choice of the returns on Southeast Asian pork belly futures, or the rise in the interest rate of indexed Bermudian callable bonds, or, if you don’t understand what that all means, on whatever the bank thinks would be enough for you to live comfortably in canned tuna and tortillas.

And there would be plenty of parking.

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