Friday, March 23, 2007

None Of Their Business

Usually, this blog has quite a bit of admiration for the institution that is the Royal Bank of Scotland. Although I'm not a customer of theirs, through their sponsorships, expanding branch network, free cash machines and mobile banking, they play a role in the community which suggests to me that despite now being the 5th biggest bank in the world, they haven't forgotten the essential values which have helped make the company what it is today.

Today, though, I'm going to give them a well-deserved slap. This follows the news that some jumped-up 'executive', doubtless puffed up with his own sense of self-importance and desire to please those above him, has issued a tablet of stone memo 'reminding' staff that they could face disciplinary action if they do not get their monthly salaries paid into a Royal Bank account.

Now, I don't have too much of a problem with the idea that staff should show some commitment to the organisation they work for. Nor do I have any difficulty with the idea that if you want to benefit from some of the perks of working for a bank, like getting a cheaper mortgage, you need to toe the line and use their products. However, where I draw the line is when it is made compulsory to order purely personal affairs, which do not impede your ability to do your job, in such a way as to please the whims of management.

Despite being the most dynamic part of the Scottish economy, the financial services sector can still be a hotbed of reaction and old-fashioned attitudes. I still remember with bemusement the attitude held by local management at one employer where those working 8-4 were regarded as hard workers; 9-5ers were solid and dependable; while 10-6ers like me were idle, scrimshank malingerers. Flexitime, yes, but only if you use it to suit conventions. From another employer, I can remember horror stories from the past of staff being summonsed to get a dressing down from their line manager, simply because they hadn't paid their bank credit card bills in time.

Luckilly, data protection law and more enlightened employment practices mean that for the most part, these intrusive, paternalistic and ultimately self-defeating attitides have died out. Increasingly, as lifestyles change, there is a realisation that the only way to attract and retain the best staff is to be flexible in the benefits you provide as an employer, and to drop any intrusive aspirations of having social control over your staff outside of the working environment.

Quite frankly, this 'executive' has crossed a line and deserves to be dumped on from a great height for turning this into a mini-PR disaster for the bank. Ulitimately, where RBS employees choose to place their business is none of the RBS Management Team's damn business. On this occasion, the affected staff should tell the bank exactly where they can swipe their Cashline cards.


Mr Eugenides said...

I remember a couple of years back talking to what they refer to as a "customer services adviser" at my branch of RBS in Glasgow. He didn't say that they had to have accounts with RBS, but he did mention that if they exceeded their agreed overdraft limit, even for a day at the end of the month, they would get an informal talking-to (in addition to the £35 charge, I hope). Twice, and they'd get a formal written warning.

He didn't say what happened if you kept doing it.

Richard Thomson said...

There was never any pressure to take out a Lloyds TSB account when I worked at Scottish Widows, but I did give in eventually so I could get my base rate mortgage (there's nothing much I miss about the work, but I do miss that. And the pension).

I did keep an old Bank of Scotland account running in parallel until I left, though, so that if circumstances became less benign, I would have a good credit history with an outfit which had no say over my future prospects. Not that I'm paranoid or anything, but...