I have begun work at a bank, and I have received direction to impress customers with great service. I enjoy working at a place where customers are respected and valued and I think it makes sense that we want customers to be happy, have a good experience and come to trust us. I will admit, however, that I have snickered more than once at the idea that customers may view our bank as their friend. It also clashes with my previous experience.

I have banked with two other banks, and while I had my reasons for choosing them, my expectation was that they would competently and efficiently complete transactions. I never looked for or expected advice or a relationship of trust. So when my employer talks about inspiring clients by going beyond their expectations and providing valuable advice, I sometimes have to stifle a giggle. Do customers really want to be friends with their bank? I don’t know the answer, but I think that people should be able to trust their bank if they are looking for that type of relationship.

News about the unethical actions of employees at TD Bank, however, are a stark reminder that employees at banks are hired to sell. Banks in Canada are huge and have little room for growth. They really have only two options to grow: new customers (eg. youth, newcomers to Canada, taking customers from other banks) and new products for existing customers. If you’re already a customer of a bank, that means you’re a target for selling additional products.

I’ve seen this attitude at my workplace. Most people are very respectful of the needs and desires of customers. But some people look at customers only as potential sales. Banks provide very useful products and services. But some employees believe that customers are only well-served when they have ALL the products and services offered by the bank. (I’m not questioning their sincerity.)

We live in a capitalist society, and one of the first rules of capitalism is caveat emptor, or “buyer beware.” So when you go into a bank, or receive advice from a banker, remember that they may have mixed motives. While they probably genuinely want to help you solve your problem, they also want to do it in a way the produces the most revenue possible for the bank. So be sure to ask questions and don’t be afraid to second-guess the advice you receive. It may be helpful to ask a lot of questions or to get a second opinion.

It’s your money, and no one will take as good care of your money as you will.

Your Bank is not Your Friend

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