BANK-TECH OR FUNTECH MUSINGS

As I arrived at the bank, it was almost bursting at its seams through the doors, with customers. There were business people, various levels of office management people, people from partnership companies and sole proprietorships, the elderly uncles and aunties, housewives (many who tagged their young children along and students. This list of people is not exhaustive. It was sort of claustrophobic.

There were two wait-for-your-turn line-up systems. One was: you lined up in a line of people at each teller counter. Here, you had to gauge which was the faster moving line and queue up there. I have had experiences where this was not always the right choice as one or more people in front of me would strike up “friendly chats” with the teller that would take like(huh?! How did this word sneak in this sentence) forever.

The other system was having to line up in a single line. Once you reached the front of the line, you go to whichever teller in the row of tellers that was available, to have your transaction attended to.

The endless line. How long more? The Rio Times

So, once you scrambled to fill up the necessary forms and looked for what seemed like the fastest moving, line; go for it. I thought I nailed it by grabbing the necessary forms needed, rushed to the shortest queue and start filling up the forms while waiting to get to the teller. It was quite the task – holding the form in one hand in the air and the pen in the other, filling in that form or forms. They were definitely “works of art” instantly being created, each one uniquely differently from the other; as the writing would get into shapes of pictures. I rarely ever could managed to write on the printed lines. Not to mention that I could barely make out my handwriting even on a good day.

All this were common scenes back then, in the old days of 2010 and before; before internet banking, more commonly known as online bank; became the “in thing”.

Internet or online banking – 24 x 7, anywhere, in your pocket or bag (on your smartphone). How cool is that?

Most of the common banking transactions went “online” some years back. Think of it – no more having to go through traffic jams, parking, waiting in long lines as we used to do before internet banking. What more can we ask for? We should be happy, right? What else did internet banking take away? The biggest loss was that people would no longer be interacting in person with other people. People would only be interacting with their computers.

There were still some transactions that had to be done over the counter, which would require us to be at the banks, physically. Then, came the Covid-19 pandemic which saw a total disruption of performing physical transactions at the banks. After some months, the banks put in place some standard operating procedures to allow for physical transactions to recommence.

In April 2022, the pandemic became the endemic which allowed for procedures to go back to as per pre-Covid-19 pandemic days. One would think that was the case. Well, not so for some banks.

The one in particular that I bank with, has a procedure that we must make an online appointment, that one cannot just walk-in or show up unannounced, to perform transactions. Registering online for an appointment, means answering a litany of questions.

But get this: This may have been good during the pandemic period. Now, that the pandemic is over, why continue with this procedure? Upon checking with the bank; some of their officers stated that it was necessary to pre-register for an appointment for customers to perform transactions at the bank in person. The bank’s intention is to eliminate long waiting queues.

I thought that this appointment registration system was an absolute inconvenience and put customers at a security risk in letting people know when they were going to be at the bank and for what purpose.

I was punctual for my first online registered appointment. I was asked to fill up all the necessary forms, take a number and wait. Yes, WAIT. There were one or two other customers in front of me. No other people. The bank has 7 counters with about 30 staff present.

On my second visit, I was made to wait, even though I was half hour early. I had to wait nearly half an hour though the bank had only 1 customer ahead of me and none after me. The bank had its counters fully staffed. What crowds? If I brought this matter up to the bank staff, they would have said this is proof that the online registration for appointment was working.

Can you imagine the rest of the staff, stationed at their work stations and pretending to look busy? What morale would these employees have when they sit at their workstations each day, with rarely any work to do? This would be ideal for the very few who are aimless or clueless in life.

But for the majority of these employees, especially for those who were used to serving a high customer patronage, daily, before the Covid-19 pandemic; it would be tough for them to keep their spirits up. They would still have to stick to their jobs. They need their income to meet their financial commitments. I am sure they would like to see the crowds of customers back in the bank.

As for the customers, many of whom have built a wonderful relationship with the bank staff; they most probably would like to visit the banks once in a while to strike up chats with the staff (real people) instead of dealing with computers and websites and having to confirm and reconfirm that they are not robots.

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