The View From Here – Voracious greed is never compatible with the idea of trust

Tom Henihan
Trust is a word on which the concept of public banking was established or at least it is a word on which the concept of banking was sold to the public.

The word trust in associationwith banking suggested that the customer could rely on the institution to behave honourably and treat the customers’ financial interests as a priority.

The imposing facades of bank buildings in earlier days were also a means of asserting that the bank was an enduring fixture of the community and as rooted in society as municipal buildings and churches.

There was always some suspicion that the claim of trust was itself a facade and that banks were mercenary entities but back then, that was more a conspiracy theory rather than an acknowledged fact.

We know now, especially since 2008, that banks cannot be trusted. Regardless of how small or large the proposition, the bank will benefit disproportionately on every transaction.

Banks have evolved into institutions with enormous power and unlimited reach, holding sway over the circumstances of just about everybody.

Having insidiously worked their way into most aspects of peoples’ lives, banks have abandoned any semblance of social responsibility.

This is illustrated in recent revelations of three TD Bank employees who say they are under enormous pressure to manipulate and mislead customers into signing up for products and services those customers don’t need.

The three employees admit that selling has always been a part of the job but the relentless push to meet impossible quarterly targets has become extremely stressful, especially when they are pressured into using unethical means to fulfill those targets.

One of the employees told CBC’s Go Public, “When I come into work, I have to put my ethics aside and not do what’s right for the customer.”

Getting customers to activate overdraft protection without informing them of the charges is just one tactic the tellers say they are pressured to use to reach their sales target.

Another scheme is “upselling,” a practice of persuading the customer to purchase unnecessary upgrades and additional features to their accounts.

As a teller faces the possibility of losing his or her job if they don’t meet their goals, the same employee said that the “customers are prey. I will do anything I can to make my goal.”

This process is apparently so regimented and entrenched that tellers who fail to reach these ill-intentioned and unrealistic objectives are designated underperformers and are placed on a “Performance Improvement Plan”.

If being demeaned and subjected to a performance drill does not get the teller up to speed, that employee is told that is grounds for having their employment terminated.

TD has refuted the claims of the three employees, insisting that it uses best practices regarding the interests of their customers.

Over the past five years, TD Bank’s profits have increased steadily from $6.5 billion in 2012 to $8.9 billion in 2016.

It is apparent that putting the customers’ interests first has worked extremely well for the bank, and obviously customers don’t need to question the veracity of a bank teller’s charming smile that says, “Trust me.”

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