Why the bank teller bothers you (and me)

These days, I like where I am at in my career. I feel like the work that I do matters and that I am actually producing something . It hasn’t always been that way.  In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I cultivated the skill of locating and securing the worst possible jobs in the financial services industry. 

The worst job that I ever had was as a bank broker. I don’t even remember what my title was and perhaps  I stayed long enough to get business cards or maybe not. I stayed long enough to realize that sitting next to a bank vault in a high crime area was not the best thing for my future. 

I won’t name the bank, at least, for now. However, for a cool $1500 per month, I got to harass unsuspecting checking account holders in an attempt to market annuities and mutual funds with upfront loads (commissions) of five percent. I only stayed with this job for three months, which included a three day luxury training excursion to balmy Pittsburgh in the middle of Winter. 

In any event, there are three words that I heard at this bank that still make me cringe to this day: “Capturing Lobby Traffic”. Or maybe it was a combination of the words and the person who said them to me. Yeah, now he definitely makes me cringe.

Capturing lobby traffic consists of stalking any poor soul that happens to come in that day to deposit their monthly four dollar savings. I was encouraged to approach each and every person that came in, give them a firm handshake, and ask for a moment of their time.  I never did that because I wouldn’t want anyone bothering me like that. 

There was also another time when we were to host a breakfast for branch clients. Why would anyone want to come to the bank for breakfast? Believe me, though, that if you took a bagel off that tray, you were going to pay handsomely with a sales pitch on how the bank could solve each and every one of your financial needs, real or imagined.

The thing that I learned about banks is that everyone has quotas. There was a bank in the news recently that caught a lot of heat for aggressive and fraudulent sales practices, and I’m not the least bit surprised. Im actually more surprised that every bank hasn’t been charged with the same.  People are motivated by incentives.

If you walk into a bank branch, everyone there knows it. That feeling of all eyes on you is real.  If you make an appointment for a service issue or to renew a Certificate of Deposit, be sure that there is someone waiting in the wings with a sales pitch and a firm handshake. Regardless of banking rules and regulations, these “affiliates” or “partners” know exactly ” whatcha got”.

At this particular bank, they had a points system for the tellers and other members of the bank branch to reach. I forget exactly how it worked, but these people were given points for each introduction, referral and scheduled appointment for the “Investment Guy”. I remember though that three points was for what one manager explained to me as “cheeks in the chair”. (Sit down appointments). Classy, ay?

I can tell you that most bank tellers don’t make a lot of money and almost all that I met hate the cross selling part of their job. It’s exactly that though, a part of their job. More importantly, it’s a part of their compensation. It may even be a condition of employment that they make a certain number of referrals to other departments of the bank. The pressure on these people is intense and that’s probably why the turnover is so high. They have their manager breathing down their neck, micromanaging them, and that manager has some regional good for nothing bothering them and all the way up the organization it goes. The branches have quotas on how many new checking accounts they open and, once they get comfortable with that goal, it turns into how many “new households” did you bring in this month??? Then, how many “new households” did you sell a credit card to??? 

I sat in a bank branch a few months ago for help with a wire. The woman that helped me asked me ” Since we have your business account, how can we EARN your personal business”? I hate that phrase “Earn your business”. Car salespeople use it all the time. I guess this woman didn’t realize that I had overheard her on conference with her manager getting reamed  out about not making enough referrals and that she needed to focus on “high impact activities”. Boy, I hate corporate lingo!