Friday, 29 June 2012

In Defence of Nat West

Someone who worked with me during the 2010 General Election said I have the tolerance of an angry scorpion being poked with a sharp stick. I am therefore surprised to find myself sympathetic towards my bank, Nat West.

First of all, the usual caveats. The IT fiasco is a shambles which has caused inconvenience to millions, and probably real distress to tens of thousands of people who struggle to make ends meet. Fifteen / twenty years ago I would have fallen into this category myself, so I understand and sympathise. But having said that, it's worth remembering that no-one at NatWest / RBS wanted this to happen either. It has greatly damaged the brand at a time banks and bankers have never been held in lower esteem. The IT crisis and ensuing bad publicity has knocked tens of millions off the banks share price and done untold long term damage to its reputation.

What has made me really sympathetic and unusually forgiving; however, are two words we too seldom hear in modern Britain. Those words are RESPONSIBLE and SORRY.

In an age where everyone from incompetent government ministers to CEOs of global businesses; from shop managers to errant local government officers twist and squirm to find weasel words to explain away their incompetence, I take my hat off to NatWest / RBS who have refused to follow this route.

Visit the website and the first page is a genuine apology for the fiasco, where they not only say sorry but accept responsibility for the errors, and set out in detail how they are addressing the issues and compensating their customers who are adversely affected.

Visit a branch and every sales and marketing poster has been replaced with large black posters headed "WE ARE SORRY" carrying the same message of contrition and offer of help.

Nowhere have I seen the usual words we find in such circumstances. There has been no "we regret any inconvenience this has caused" nor any of the other 'forms of words' and 'non apologies' which are now trotted out to glibly cover error and failure.

Steve and I have also been affected by this problem. Several thousands of pounds "vanished" from our balance, and cheques deposited a week ago have not been credited to our account. The two Customer Service Assistants I have dealt with (at West Malling and Bromley) were both polite, professional, knowledgeable, helpful and calm. Considering how much abuse and aggression they must have dealt with, they were both a credit to their employers.
In life, as in business, mistakes and errors of judgement occur and these often cause hurt and anger to others. I have made plenty of errors of my own over the years. Learning from ones mistakes and ensuring they are not repeated is important, but how one deals with the consequences of those mistakes is a true test. For me, Nat West could not have handled the issue any better. For this reason alone, they have secured my continued loyalty.

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