I READ the Zimbabwe Independent of May 2 with great interest, thanks. Your Editor’s Memo on banks appears to have hit a sore spot with many. I am afraid that this change in attitude towards customers is not confined to Zimbabwe but part o
f a global trend in the banking sector. A similar change has taken place here in Australia.
Most small country towns here have lost, or will shortly lose, all banking facilities and fewer branches are left open in the cities. In Sydney whole commercial districts are without any local branches.
The banks seem to be in lockstep, so the closing of one institution’s branch does not lead to another entering to take its place in the market. Rather, the reverse appears to be the case where as soon as one bank closes a branch in an area/town, “competitors” promptly follow suit.
There was a very strong mutual society and credit union movement in Australia. This has been largely destroyed through recent legislative changes and their subsequent absorption by the banks.
Once the alternative had been cleared from the market, banks began their programme of branch closures. I understand that Australia’s banks are among the most profitable in the world, an attribute they share with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
We have identical problems with cheque clearances. Five working days for clearance is the norm. Of course in this day of computerised banking most transactions are close to instantaneous. This allows the banks to play the money market for five free days using your money and other interesting creative accounting ventures.
Instead of transferring money between accounts, I now physically withdraw it in cash from one and then deposit it in cash in another. The banks have recently introduced higher fees for over the counter transactions to force customers to use their internet banking services which are, I’m afraid, very insecure.
The next step will be that banks will begin asking poorer people to close their accounts with them as they are not profitable customers. It will then be likely that they will work the same way as the insurance industry does by refusing to take your business if another in the sector has refused it, or charge you even higher fees to cover their “risk”.
You should be pleased to see that the Zimbabwe banking sector is adopting the world’s “best” practices in customer service to ensure that Zimbabwean customers receive the same level of service as those elsewhere!