Category Archives: Banks

Bankers XI vs. Footballers XI

Oh, the mercurial captain. He’s been a difficult one to pin down this season. This guy was unbelievable for three or four years. His performance had been breaking records left, right and centre. So he moved on to a bigger institution where he could really play in the big leagues. Maybe even Europe.

Obviously his salary had to take a massive hike – he’s a star in his field, and that means he needs to receive a star’s pay. So he’s offered a weekly salary of thousands and thousands, and waits for his new employers to pay the massive release fee in his contract to the old employers.

But in his new digs, in this season, he just hasn’t performed. Nothing’s going to plan and his new owners are struggling. The problem really is that no-one has yet conclusively preoven that paying these massive wages to people truly improves a team’s performance. Worse, talk of his talent is almost entirely anecdotal – what statistics there are aren’t conclusive because the game he plays is too complex to be easily represented in numbers. There will be no Moneyball revolution here for some time.

Obviously, he clearly a very talented man. But talented enough to single-handedly turn around a struggling institution? it seems not. But there are other factor’s the media will blame, long before they suggest that buying in top talent is a poor solution to institutional problems. “He doesn’t get on with his managerial staff,” they say. Or, “He’s working with an unfamiliar system.”. Perhaps they’ll blame it on “problems with European competition” or something similar. Either way, there’s no fixing this system.

His opposing captain is in a different situation. He’s been struggling for 4 or 5 years now, and he’s looking to move on. His salary is massive, inflated during that period in 06/07 when he was the best in the world. And when he moves he’ll expect another huge pay hike.

Why? Because he’s still a star. His poor performance isn’t his fault. The people around him don’t know how to use him properly, and whoever he ends up working for will believe that he’s the right man for their system. They’ll hope that by taking him on, even on unfathomable wages, he’ll be able to slot right in and improve their chances over the next couple of years.

Plus, maybe he’ll bring people in with him – young hopefuls might join the team hoping for a chance to work with the old hero. More talent can only be a good thing, right?

Meanwhile, the people at the bottom – the loyal football fans, the banking customers – are getting a raw deal they face ticket price hikes, a squeeze on incomes, a ruined economy. These problems are the same problem – the unrelenting focus on paying over the odds for “top talent” and the bloated avarice of both football and banking has ruined them. Things have to change, and the only way to do so is to look at the root causes – unregulated, unmonitored capitalist greed.


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Filed under Banks, Politics, Sport

Call out for consumer stories

Hello, friendly people! I am planning a small series of blog posts exploring how certain bad corporate practices can become endemic within a given industry. To help me out, I might need some help from the hive mind.

If you experienced poor service in any of the following areas, then please let me know via email, it would be a great help to marshalling some ideas together. Let me know as well if you’re happy to me to follow up with more questions (also via email). I won’t be releasing any personal information on the posts themselves.

The areas I’ll be talking about:

  • Misselling of financial products by banks (although please only send stories for stuff other than PPI)
  • Rising costs of insurance under ‘automatic renewal’
  • Complaints resolution from telecommunications companies

Any stories, no matter how trivial or dull, detailed or short, shall leave me very grateful. You can email meat timballantine [at] googlemail [dot] com with CONSUMER in the subject line.

Cheers in advance, all you lovely, lovely people.


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Filed under Banks, Economy, Personal

Open Letter to Barclay’s

Hi Barclay’s,

I know this is going to sound petty. I know that you’ve probably had tons of letters about the LIBOR scandal, and your PR team are trying to find a way to minimise the damage from that little snafu. And if I’m honest, I know this is petty too. I know there’s all the problems with the rape culture in Western society. I know there are people homeless because banks like yourselves collateralised debt to obscure how risky your investments really were. And yes, I am aware that Zach from One Direction has quit Twitter and there are now hundreds of young teenagers weeping softly into their pillow just like I did when PJ and Duncan left Byker Grove.

But this issue has been sticking in my craw for too many years to remain silent. No longer will I allow this to silently continue without opposition: Why are you incentivising people to unnecessarily use up paper? Why, when the rest of the world is try to reduce their environmental footprint, are you encouraging people to waste resources?

Let me make my complaint clear. Actually, let me compare you with a competitor. I bank with the Cooperative. When I happen to pass through Narnia, where my nearest branch is located, I can withdraw money from a Coop cash machine.

Would I like an advice slip with my cash? “We take environment seriously” says the machine, “are you sure you need a receipt?” If I were to select yes (I never do), I’m confident the machine might get a bit annoyed at me. “Really?” I expect it to ask, “You had a receipt yesterday. Do you really want to have a hand in destroying the world?”

No, ATM, I’m sorry, I don’t, but I need to know my balance. “Well excuuuuse me,” replies the ATM, rolling its eyes, “I guess you were too stupid to see the ‘Check Balance’ button when you withdrew your cash. Maybe, once you know how much money you have, you’d like to murder a badger. Or cause an oil spill by encouraging poor safety regulation. YOU BASTARD! THE DEATH OF THE ENVIRONMENT IS ON YOUR HEAD! Have you seen the competitive interest rates on a Coop Savings Account?”

The point is that the Coop really want you to use their online banking system. And really don’t want you to waste paper.  As you may be able to guess, anonymous Barclay’s employee, I’m about to launch a comparison bomb at you.

Yesterday, like a selection of previous days in the last four years, I withdrew cash from a Barclay’s ATM (sorry, Hole in the Wall™). I would have used a Coop, but this was London so I was about 10 miles away from the nearest branch. I withdrew the big-spending £20 I needed without issue, but before I could receive my money I was asked the following question:

“Would you like an advice slip? Check the reverse to see if you’ve won a pair of Premier League tickets!”

I get it. You sponsored a bunch of overpaid borderline psychopaths to run around doing not very much at all. Presumably the execs missed the obvious irony in that gesture as they took their 7-figure bonuses. And now you have more Premier League tickets than you know what to do with. Bravo for giving them away.

But surely there must be a way to do that without getting football fans to use up otherwise unnecessary receipt paper. I know there are only so many executive days out you guys can take off before the economy gets ignored so hard it actually starts to improve, but why not do an independent goal of the month competition online, with real prizes like match of the day used to?

Hell, why not donate them to the hard working volunteers who try desperately hard to keep our kids playing sport instead of playing truant? Or throw them off of a balcony over Oxford Street and enjoy the spectacle of the proletariat duking it out over yourhand outs. Maybe that one’s more up your street.

But please. Please, please, please stop wasting paper like you don’t give a fuck. And while you’re at it, if you wouldn’t mind not fucking the public for the financial gain of just a few, even just for a month or two, I think we’d all appreciate it.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Ballantine

PS. I think there’s a joke about a Coop ATM and a Barclay’s ATM (sorry, Hole in the Wall™) walking down the street. Maybe the Barclay’s ATM (excuse me, Hole in the Wall™) litters and then the Coop ATM goes mental and murders the Barclay’s ATM (ugh, did it again, should be Hole in the Wall™) with a rusty switchblade.

I don’t know, maybe you guys can be funnier with it than me. After all it was your ex-CEO who said that the banks should stop apologising for the crisis after conspicuously never apologising in the first place; presumably you guys already understand humour.

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Filed under Banks, Environmentalism, Ethics, Letter