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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Under Review

I have mentioned more than once, here in my blog, that I spent a number of years working in the banking industry. I worked as a teller, and trained several people on the job. I also worked in teller support areas, and at one time was a proof operator, a job which I really hated. I also worked in telephone customer service, and spent several years as a trainer in that department. If you have worked in the trenches in banking, you know what it is like to be one of the ninety-nine percent. Like many large companies, banks tend to pay the lion's share of salaries to the guys at the top of the corporation.

Earlier in my banking career, this didn't bother me all that much. I was young and earning well, and the banking economy was really going strong. I was getting good benefits and good raises, and enjoying my youth and health and loving life.  The CEO of our banking corporation was doing well enough financially that he had once been kidnapped and held for ransom. Because of this, he had plainclothes security with him a lot of the time, especially when he traveled. When he came to Denver and brought his wife with him, an employee who had been a teller and was now in an internal investigation position was assigned to spend the day with her. Since she had a concealed weapons permit, her duty for the day was to make sure that Mrs. CEO enjoyed her day in Denver in safety.

My former co-worker, Tina, told me about the day she spent with the lady in question. She met her as she deplaned, dressed to the nines, including a full-length mink coat. Tina loved this first impression, incidentally. She suggested taking the lady to the Cherry Creek area to shop. This area is full of shops that cater to well-to-do shoppers. Although she already had a mink, Mrs. CEO wanted to go shopping for more furs. As luck would have it, there was an anti-fur protest outside the store that particular afternoon. Tina told me that a protester approached Mrs. CEO and asked her, "Lady, do you know how many animals had to die to make that coat?" Without batting an eyelash, Mrs. CEO replied (slightly edited for language), "Yes, I do. Do you know how many men I had to have sex with to get it?" End of conversation.

Years later, when I was a trainer, we had gone through several mergers and several changes in CEO/COO positions. I saw all sorts of people come and go, and saw all sorts of people in charge at the local and company-wide levels. One notable speaker, who was right up there in the Colorado leadership, had an unfortunate moment at a major company meeting. He apologized for the expected keynote speaker not being able to attend the meeting because he was "sick with a bad case of ammonia." Hm. I've had some bad bouts with pneumonia, but never ammonia. Perhaps his maid had a chemical spill? Oh, well.

The CEO/COO during my last years at the bank was based in Ohio. He made frequent trips throughout the various states in which we were located, speaking at large meetings and visiting various departments, even visiting some of my classes while I was training. He was famous for telling us that the most frequently ordered office supplies were aspirin and scissors. He'd say things like, "Who the hell is using all of this aspirin? And how many pairs of scissors do we need?" He also told us in these meetings that we didn't need to order so many pens; we could just steal them from other businesses that we frequented. No, I am not exaggerating. He was very big on keeping expenses down because we just couldn't afford to spend so much money.

I firmly believe that one of the ways that banks save on expenses is making it difficult for employees to get pay increases. The last few years I was a trainer, we were held to increasingly difficult standards in our annual performance reviews. An example of impossible standards is that part of our performance was based on the trainees' service quality scores after they were no longer in our classes. In other words, if they scored badly on a random call monitoring session, it lowered our score and our raise and annual bonus. It became difficult-to-impossible to get a combined annual salary increase and bonus of just a few hundred dollars. 

A manager (who had been through many of my training classes) and friend told me about being upset over getting a warning during a managers' meeting regarding team attrition (loss of staff members). I can understand that it isn't cost-effective for a company to pay for an employee to be trained and then have them leave the company shortly thereafter. So it makes sense for them to want managers to be careful to hire people who will stay around for a while. But she only lost one staff member from her team during the time period in question. He was one of my favorite former trainees. And he didn't quit his job. He died of liver cancer that spread through his entire body, including his bones and brain. Yes, my friend had a beloved team member die, and was punished for the decrease in her staff!

Incidentally, at about the time that my friend got called on the carpet for a staff member dying and making her team too small, I had an annual salary increase and bonus combined of about three hundred dollars. A few weeks later, Trent and I were visiting at my sister's house when my brother-in-law asked if I had read the newspaper article about the CEO/COO in the newspaper. After all of the throttling of raises and spending throughout the organization, we learned the results of our hard work, sacrifices, and impossible standards. The newspaper reported that the leader of our company had been given an annual raise of one million dollars, along with a bonus of two and a half million dollars. I recall making a remark to the effect that it was no wonder if our backs were aching; the big boss was riding on them all the way to the big payoff. 

So when I hear about banking fees upsetting people, I understand and fully agree. But most of the employees you might encounter are struggling just like you. They are the bank's ninety-nine percent.

Author's notes: 

- CEO/COO are Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

- The opinions regarding fur and animal cruelty expressed by Mrs. CEO are not necessarily those of Ravings of a Lunatic's Management.