It was a sign of the times. A regional commercial manager of one of our leading banks said he wanted to come and talk to me as a local MP in his area. I agreed to see him yesterday.
He brought along a colleague with some Nulab type job title. They asked me what issues there were locally for their bank.
I said I thought the biggest banking opportunity I knew about for them in Wokingham was the Town Centre redevelopment. The Council is meant to be close to choosing a lead developer to breathe some life into a much needed redevelopment of part of the shopping centre. What was their approach to commercial property lending? Had they been in touch with the short list rivals to see if they could agree something in principle? Did they have money to lend?
I repeat this here to be fair to their rivals as well as them, if there is any interest and competition left in our banking market. May the best offer to win the business, if the developer needs some borrowings. The redevelopment includes public sector land and permits as well as private sector land.
They seemed surprised by this response and then confessed they knew nothing about it. Not many marks then for understanding how banking could be involved in our local community. It might also make some money for the bank.
They repeated their question. What could the bank do better to help the community? I said, lend money to good projects and sound companies. We were missing each other in the dark fog of Nulab speak from their side.
I then ventured that they could also improve customer service substantially as most banks in the UK can. They could make intelligent use of the data they hold on all their customers to tailor the loans or savings plans better to the financial needs of each customer. I pushed furtehr and suggested they need to be more engaged, instead of handling so much from remote regional centres or on automated systems that drive people mad. They agreed there was room for improvement but did not come over with a plausible plan of how things would be better in the future.
They then said they wanted to talk about the good works they do in the local community. I said that was good of them, but the most improtant work they could do was to be an active and successful bank to us. I reported small businesses who feel they do not get the service or the access to the loans they need. They reported that some small companies are now being broken by losing suits at tribunals for unfair dismissals. Apparently some of the fines and charges imposed are sufficient to bankrupt a small business, leading to the loss of the rest of the jobs as well.
There is a lot to do to sort out this mess. Too many people in senior roles are tallking old speak, Nulab political correctness. We need a newer speech, based on practical solutions to the large number of business and personal finance problems that have built up thanks to the mess the government has created with its over regulation and boom bust approach to economic managament. Does anyone out there in the government and big corporate world speak commonsense any more?