Banks want to be more personal and social. I want them to be less personal and social. Thank God then for mobile banking apps.
How do you like your bankers?
I like mine really boring and very conservative.
I ask because I've been thinking about bankers a lot lately. Yes, I do probably need to get out more.
But, after a few weeks that have seen the launches of PingIt and many other banking apps, it's hard to avoid the subject.
This week I attended a forum on digital banking. It was occasionally interesting, but I found myself disagreeing with much of what was being suggested - namely that banks need to do three things:
1. Offer a personal service
2. Improve loyalty
3. Embrace social media
1. Personal service.
You might wonder what's wrong with wanting more personal interaction. Every corporation bangs on about the need to treat its customers as individuals. How could anyone could argue with that?
I'm going to.
First off, a clever algorithm is not a personal service. A push notification that uses by first name is not Mr Mainwaring raising his hat to me in the post office. So let's not have any of that nonsense about personal service, please.
And anyway do I want my bank alerting me every five minutes about some new thing it wants to sell me? No. I want my bank to GET OUT OF THE WAY.
Thinking about it, the great thing about mobile and online banking is that stops you having to have a personal interaction with your bank.
In my opinion, no one will ever be actively loyal to a bank. At best they may be 'not unloyal', if you'll forgive my English.
I've been with the same bank for 30 years, and my branch is still 200 miles away in the city where I was a student. I have never visited that branch since the day I opened the account.
Why am I 'loyal' to this bank? Because it hasn't fucked up massively, and because I can't be arsed to look for an alternative. I don't deny that in the online era, it will be easier to switch. I'm just saying that no one will ever love their bank like they love their shoes, so stop pretending and just do a good job.
3. Social media
Oh dear, not for the first time I'm going to sound like a right old c*nt. Please tell me who wants to follow their bank on Twitter or join their Facebook page?
"Hey, friends, check out these photos of my new standing order".
At the digital banking summit we were shown examples of social media projects that encourage people to share their savings goals with other users.
Who does this? There's a tremendous short story by Ray Bradbury about the crowds that gather at road accidents - and (spoiler alert) it ends with the revelation that this ghostly group is always the same wherever the accident. I wonder if the same is true of subscribers to social media gimmicks.
After all this, you're probably thinking I'm a dinosaur. I am, kind of. I wear tweed and listen to Melvyn Bragg on In Our Time.
But I actually love new banking tech (even if I'm worried about security - that's for another column). I love it because of the distance it puts between me and my bank, and the control/access it gives me over my money.
Anything that stops me getting personal and social with my bank is fine by me.
In fact, there's only one occasion in which I actively like using the word Barclays in conversation: when I'm looking for a family-friendly word for 'wank'.