April 30, 2018

With the Independent Commission on UK Banking recently issuing its long awaited report on the state of our current banking landscape, the opportunities contained within it to improve retail banking customer service have been seemingly ‘lost in the noise’ – with our government apparently wanting to deflect attention by kicking it into the long grass.

But there is no escaping headline issues that emerged from the final report of Sir John Vickers and colleagues, namely how do we cope with banks that are too big to fail and how do we stop the risk of speculative investment banking toxifying retail accounts?

Retail UK banking, in contrast to investment banking, should be a simple business in which the bank takes our savings, marks them up and lends them to others, or vice versa. But this simple process has become an unwieldy beast with almost everyone you talk to having a retail bank atrocity story.

A recently conducted study of 1,000 nationally representative retail bank customers, with almost 70% believing that banks don’t care very much about what the public think of them, over 75% rating the public image and reputation of the banks’ retail operations as mediocre to dreadful, and an eye-watering 86% thinking that the image and reputation of the banks will not improve or will actually decline over the next six months.

Two influences, linked but not identical, seem to be at work. The first factor is the momentum towards online banking and the spotlight that puts on the slow and ponderous ‘old way’ of doing things. Ask yourself which is preferable – accessing a bank account from the train, your own home or an office, or trudging round to the bank in the rain and joining a queue? Older customers feel less habituated to the online world but the young customers ‘voting with their feet’ adds considerable impetus to this inevitable online momentum.

Thirty years ago a very senior UK bank official remarked in an unguarded moment that High Street banking was hopelessly and irredeemably uneconomic – and nothing that’s happened in the intervening years has made that judgment less telling.

The cost of maintaining a local branch network has become a dead weight hung from the necks of banks. If bearing this burden produced contented customers there might be something to be said for it, but it simply fails to do so. Branch managers have largely been deprived of the power to make decisions on loans, thereby further reducing the reasons to bother visiting the branch. When did you last do so? First Direct has responded to this economic reality with the intelligent stratagem of not having any branches. Yet how have other banks responded?

The second factor is the way retail bank brands are built, maintained and developed. Various studies show that marketing slogans, for example, have very low recognition amongst the public and the only one that had any genuine customer awareness was HSBC’s ‘the World’s Local Bank.’ This slogan was launched in March 2002, …

If you are thinking of redesigning your interiors and make room for some new furniture, it could be time to reconsider your options for bedroom furniture as well. However, it depends on your personal setting and what make you feel comfortable in your sleeping space. Deciding what you should sleep on is not a mechanical decision but should be guided by carefully planned factors. This decides how much your relaxation level is supposed to be which depends on your sleeping hours.

A deep and sound sleep is invaluable in reinforcing good health and vigour in a person. You need to keep your eyes open while making choices for your bedroom which can make a difference in your relaxation experience. It is important that you choose a solid and sturdy bed frame which provides proper support to your back but it is also vital to consider the design aspects of your bed which should complement the health side and should be aesthetically pleasing to help create a harmonious atmosphere conducive for relaxation.

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The size of your bed frame also matters which should be based on the size of bedroom and whether a single person or a couple is going to use the sleeping unit. One can choose King size bed frames, queen size bed frames and other types based on individual needs but their advantages and disadvantages must be considered to make …

I have a confession to make. There was a time when I did not give much thought to disability insurance.

As though it was yesterday, I can recall an insurance agent approaching me. She wanted to discuss a plan that would allow me to continue to support myself and my family should I become disabled due to an accident or an injury. At the time I thought, I'm young, I've never been hospitalized, (other than for childbirth). I've not suffered any serious injury or so much as a lengthy illness. There's a time to make a decision about this later.

I never discussed this with my husband. I planned to think seriously about the subject when it was time. Like, when I was older or when my health started to fail. Beside, I figured, if I was faced with an accident or injury my husband would care for me and my needs.

That's the way it was supposedly to work.

I had no idea that an ice covered expressway with fresh snow would play a huge part in testing my plan, (or lack thereof). On our way home from a friend's party one evening the car in the next lane hit a patch of ice and lost control of his car. When our car finally came to a stop we had been hit twice and I could still hear the cars behind us slamming into each other. As far as I know, there were 19 cars and one fatality involved in that accident. Some said we were fortunate that my husband only lost sight in one of his eyes.

For me, one challenge was learning to juggle the task of recovering from a closed head injury while caring for a baby who was only months old. Another challenge was unfortunately trying to stay upbeat for my family in the wake of our financial situation.

My husband and I had never discussed how we would keep our household running if he was unable to work due to illness or injury. We literally watched our financial security fade. We were faced with losing our home and cars. Our savings quickly dwindled down to nothing. There was no money for utilities, monthly expenses, routine financial liabilities and additional expenses. We had to borrow money from family to stay afloat. This was painful for my husband since he was the primary breadwinner.

Due to the added stress we were experiencing, it was difficult for either one of us to concentrate on getting well. Endless doctors' appointments and the mounds of pain medication we had to take intention we could no longer care for our children and had to send them to my Mom out of state.

Although I never thought much about disability insurance before, that experience was a wake-up call for me. We were faced with the realization that we were not too young, too healthy, or too financially secure to protect our most valuable asset: Our ability to earn a living.

According …