My banking career began with saving money initially in a little red metal book that had tight, interlocking teeth that were only supposed to be opened by someone at the Post Office who had the key. I used a knife. Those pennies dropped full of promise onto my lap and were secreted away for ‘spending’ on one of the rare occasions we went to town. I also owned a Barnardoes box that I liked a whole lot more than my metal money box. There was something ‘foreign’ about that stiff grey material that made up the box and such was the guilt factor aligned to stealing from the poor, I have never yet met anyone who opened one. We were also encouraged to save our pennies at school through the school banking service which gave us a bank book with a squirrel on the front. I mean ask yourself. A squirrel? In New Zealand? Banking day at school was only successful if you stood in the queue with your shilling. There was no pleasure in being poor or forgetful. Even then there were rules.
I grew into cheque books and begged for mortgages in the 70’s and 80’s that hit the 20% mark. In our entire lives we only had one mortgage where the rate was 0.5% and that was just days before The Bank of Scotland died. I’d not thought about the changes to the banks themselves until I found myself on the phone this week checking to see if, having completed the paperwork, I would need an appointment to withdraw my Kiwi Saver. It suddenly brought into focus the fact that all any bank ever wants now, is my money. They certainly don’t want me. To get inside you wait to be buzzed in. I did this yesterday and immediately noticed the teller stations had been reduced by 50%. I had been informed by my “telephone banker” that all I had to do was drop off the forms and show my ID. When I repeated this information, the teller didn’t even wait for me to finish before he threw up his hands in fear and scurried off to find someone – anyone, to help him sort this shit out!! He could’ve done with some time at my (now defunct) local branch where the tellers all knew the value of listening and could usually deal with your query without deserting their post. The boy sent me to sit in the centre of the bank where I was surrepticiously checked out and discarded by the women in the surrounding desks who either chatted amongst themselves or stared at computer screens pretending to work. Roy saved me. Roy who appeared to be single-handedly operating the buzzer for the door and dealing with people who dared to walk in without an appointment. I suspect he was also in charge of the women but they were a tough crowd, probably because they knew their time was limited and they were going to wring it out as long as possible. Thankfully, Roy had a brain and was a fast worker. He will never be replaced by a machine. Roy actually knelt down at the coffee table that has never seen coffee in it’s life, to check the paperwork and remark how exciting it was to see a passport that had actual stamps in it. But Roy will be replaced by a machine. Nothing is more sure. Just as the ‘bank’ itself will become a bakery and money will disappear to be replaced by random numbers on a screen. There will be no more bank heists and ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ will hold no relevance to anyone born this century. Intimidating interiors and scowling bank managers are already out the door along with every one of the helpful, chatty tellers that worked in suburban branches close to where their kids went to school. There are no longer slips to fill in with pens chained to the desks. Banking as we knew it, is gone and my future will be sitting in front of a screen riffling through my old-fashioned notebook, looking for my right password so I can pay the plumber.