Do we really trust the banks to manage our money?

Banks push online options to your local branches

Let me preface my remarks by saying I’ve been involved in the I.T. industry for over 40 years and have seen a lot, particularly banking systems.  In the United States I watched mainframe based systems evolve into today’s version where people access their accounts through smart phones and move money around accordingly.  These systems are still based on legacy systems which are less than impressive if you study them.  Legend has it they are all based on the same program source code from the 1960’s which was modified and patched together to suit local needs.  I have found banking overseas has been more stable, innovative, and forward thinking, particularly in Europe and Asia.  In fact, the Japanese used our “PRIDE” methodologies to design their latest generation of banking systems which are considered state of the art and ahead of their American counterparts.

With this said, I recently went to my bank to make a deposit.  I know most of the tellers there and enjoy a good relationship with them.  However, on this occasion there was a new teller who dutifully processed my deposit and upon looking at my account said, “Mr. Bryce I see you are not taking advantage of all of our on-line banking services.  Do you want a pin number or a debit card?  How about direct deposit and on-line payment of bills?”

I politely declined the offer and said, “No, that won’t be necessary.”

A 4

She kept pressing the issue and said, “Don’t you want to know what your up-to-the-minute balance is?”  I told her I shouldn’t have a bank account if I didn’t know what was in it.  The reality is, I simply do not trust American banking systems based on what I have witnessed over the years.

This got me thinking about today’s on-line banking systems and how people interact with them.  I’ve been writing checks and balancing a check book manually for over 40 years.  I don’t find it complicated and actually enjoy balancing my check book; it’s good mental gymnastics for me.  I particularly like it when I find a bank error.  My children though are different and make active use of on-line banking systems.  They can’t be bothered with balancing a bank account, they like direct deposit and auto-bill payments, and often use their debit cards.  I guess to each their own.

Somehow I’ve always had a problem with allowing others to electronically tap into my bank account and have resisted it for years.  I know they have some good security measures over transactions, but I still have an uneasy feeling about allowing others to directly tap into my account.  Call me old fashioned.

A 5

Another problem is communicating with your financial institution.  Recently, my mother had a question about her back account.  To solve the problem, she tried calling the local branch office where she was met with voice mail.  After saying she spoke English and entering her bank code, she was presented with many options, none of which involved speaking to a human being.  This was very frustrating and she had to visit the branch office to solve a simple problem.  In other words, she discovered she could no longer speak to a human being on the telephone regarding her finances.  Under this scenario, you get the uneasy feeling there is just one person running the whole bank, and probably located in Piscataway, New Jersey.  This is very disturbing as we want to trust the people who handle our finances, not a machine.

Actually, I don’t find banking to be very complicated.  I probably write 10-15 checks a month and make a couple of deposits.  To me, writing a check and updating my register doesn’t require a rocket scientist.  True, I have to apply postage to pay my bills by mail, but I see this as a very nominal charge.  I also have to visit my bank to make a deposit, but I find this to be a pleasant distraction from work.

I’m sure these on-line banking systems provide some handy services, but I don’t believe in change simply for the sake of change.  If this is how I like to operate, what’s wrong with that?

I remember years ago when my grandfather passed away in Buffalo, New York, we went up to help my grandmother tidy up his affairs.  My father was rooting around in the basement and found a small box containing quite a sum of money.  My Dad confronted his mother with it and said, “Mom, why are you keeping such a large wad of cash laying around?”

A 6

“Well Sonny,” she explained, “Don’t forget the banks failed one time (a reference to the Great Depression), and they can fail again.”

I guess I feel somewhat the same way and basically don’t trust on-line banking systems.  Even though I’ve been intimate with banking systems for a long time, I’ll probably be the last person to make use of them.

Yea, I know what you’re saying, “This guy is out of step with the times.”

Maybe, but I also know what’s in my bank account and know how to pay my bills on time.  Like I said, call me “old fashioned.”

Keep the Faith!