Banks Need To Get Their Priorities Straight!

I’m going to try to keep this article short and sweet, but it needs to be said that banks need to get their priorities straight. Especially when it comes to the branches and what we’re all supposed to be doing there.

Retail Bank Branches Need To Get Their Priorities Straight
[Photo courtesy of stuart miles of]
And the problems here that I am talking about are not the fault of the branches at all, or any customer-facing employees. They are the fault of all the district managers, regional presidents, and corporate executives who are so divorced from reality that I can’t believe they haven’t been committed to a mental institution yet.

This goes back into an article where I really dived into the subject about a year ago, which you can read here. In this article, I’m going to talk about how those at the top are ruining the customer experience and the employee experience by shifting around priorities.

But First, A Story

I bet you’re all expecting a dramatic, rage-inducing story like the one I published last August, which you can read here. No, thankfully, the only consequence of these minor exchange with my branch manager was to get me thinking. About a topic I’ve been thinking about–and talking about–for some time.

I had to do a research request for a customer. The system to do so in complicated and not at all user-friendly, but I know what I’m doing and I get it done. However, the reference number disappears forever once you submit rather than generating the reference number upon submission (because that would make too much sense). My customer asks me for this reference number in case he needs to call in to ask for an update. The only way to do this is to call up my bank’s Research Department to get the information.

Now, I don’t mind (though am surprised) when I learn that the one person in the department in charge of retrieving information about the research requests is in a meeting. They will email me the information and I will call the customer later with it. No problem. It’s the next part that baffles me, despite not even being the focus of the story.

Despite having the date of submission, amount being researched, transaction posting date, customer account number, and research type code ready to go, the woman says she can’t generate any information about the research request without the reference number. I need to provide the reference number to get the reference number.

This is not something I stole from a Dilbert comic. This was my Thursday morning.

"This was literally going to be the Sunday strip!" [Photo courtesy of and Scott Adams]
“This was literally going to be the Sunday strip!” [Photo courtesy of and Scott Adams]
The only suggestion that I am given is to re-enter the research request.

Okay, fine.

Now, the thing is suddenly giving me trouble and it takes me about five minutes to do the request over. I’m trying to hammer it out real quick before another wave of customers comes in. I had a number of people in a row with maintenance requests that took up a large portion of my time, and I had to set aside my other work to take care of them. Remember, the bank is a retail environment, and my downtime is often measured in seconds.

But then–and this is the relevant part of the story–my boss comes over and asks why I’m not lobby greeting. There’s no customers in the bank, and someone needs to be LOBBY GREETING. There’s no bigger priority than a-LOBBY a-GREETIN’.

I explain to him that I will be there in a moment and that I am just finishing up a research request for a customer that needed to be redone. I’m instead told that it will have to wait if I can’t finish it within the next minute because someone needs to be out on the floor.

Banks Need To Get Their Priorities Straight
Which is why I’m going to drink until I’m passed out on the floor. [Photo courtesy of]

The Problem

To all the decision-makers at all the banks out there, if you can’t tell what the problem in this story is, you deserve to be fired!!!!

You see, it’s not my manager who instituted Lobby Leadership. Nor is it his boss. No, this goes all the way up to Corporate. They are the ones who’ve determined that Lobby Leadership is the highest priority out there.

And it’s not just my current bank that does this crap. Every bank that I’ve worked for, banked with, or walked into at some point or another has this stupid fetish for having a person standing in the lobby greeting each customer. I’ve no idea where they all got it from, but they are obsessed with using the customers’ names, inviting them back to the branch, and putting on this whole show instead of actually servicing the customer.

This customer that I was doing the research request for? He had a check that was somehow negotiated twice. He needs that money back in his account in order to pay for necessary business expenses. I have another customer whose check to pay her condo’s HOA fee was claimed to have not been received from the condominium association despite it having been cashed from her account. She had to write them out a duplicate check, and she needs the first check to either be credited to her account or applied to her next month’s payment so that she’ll have enough for her daily living expenses. Another customer is in the middle of a loan modification, converting a portion of her HELOC to a fixed rate HELoan.

These are things that I need to be able to follow up on. I need to keep my customers informed of the progress, or I need to press the various back office departments handling things to keep on the requests in a timely manner, or I need to submit further information to them so that the request can be fulfilled. What am I supposed to tell my customer when she doesn’t hear back in regards to her claim regarding her HOA check for two weeks and I have no status updates for her? “Sorry, I was standing in the lobby greeting people like a high school dropout at Walmart.”

Even on the retail side of things, what am I supposed to do when we only have two representatives on the platform and a long line of people waiting? I’m needed to help take care of the customers, and to help ease the work burden on my coworkers.

How does me standing in the lobby greeting people provide better service to the customers or help them with their financial needs? How does it enhance the customer experience rather than completely destroy it?

That was a rhetorical question, by the way. If you are a decision-maker at a bank and you tried to formulate an answer to that question, you shouldn’t be in the role you’re in.

Trust me, bank executives, I know what I’m talking about. Because unlike you guys, I actually work in a bank.

In the end, banks need to get their priorities straight. Spend your time fixing ridiculous procedures and broken systems (like the research request system I have to use) and let us bankers do our jobs. Stop micromanaging our every word. Stop putting the feel-good illusion of service ahead of taking care of customers’ financial needs and following up on promises made to them. This isn’t that hard.

Of course, I know that none of my advice would ever be heeded by the banks even if all their top executives read this article. These decision-makers all resemble the Pointy-Haired Boss from Dilbert, and that will never be a compliment. To minimize the amount of my life spent with their mismanaged priorities, I’ve been keeping my expenses low and investing my money into income assets in order to build my passive income, retire early, and become financially free. Whether you work in a bank or anywhere else, I suggest you do the same.

That is, unless you like having delusional executives micromanage your every move and constantly pit you in fights with unreasonable customers.

Readers–What do YOU think!? Is it time for the banks to shift their priorities towards actions that are less feel-good and more practical in order to better service the customer? Or are banks right to prioritize what they believe to be a powerful tool to enhance the customer experience? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: That final link leads to Ally Invest. It’s an affiliate link. Clicking on it and opening an account will earn me a commission at no cost to you. If you’re looking to escape these micromanaging bosses and you also want to support Angry Retail Banker (so that I can also escape these micromanaging bosses), that is a great way to help us both out.


  1. Loa says

    Delusional micromanaging executives are the unfortunate norm. The superficial ploy to appear friendly is vacuous and transparent to clients. Frontline employees have no autonomy due to disciplinary action from “bank leadership” if you dare deviate from script. The disconnect with trivial components banking leadership executives prioritize vs what clients want, result in client and employee marginalization . Thank you.

    • ARB says


      I think most of these rules come from execs who are desperate to justify their bloated salaries. Other rules come from brainwashed executives. The lobby leadership is one such example. With the way that it was worshipped in a sales summit last summer that I had to go to and with the way my district manager describes a video he saw on delivering good customer service via lobby leadership that he says gave him goosebumps, it’s like my bank’s higher-ups have started a religion around me standing out there scratching my a**.

      And yes, I’m sometimes stuck standing helplessly next to a long line of customers waiting for service, all staring at me and waiting for me to actually do something to help them. Honestly, for us it’s an awful experience. You know you’re walking into the lion’s den. And not everyone can masterfully turn the customers’ anger around and create an “experience”; most of us or normal people with average social skills and standing in front of that line is like doing public speaking in front of a particularly unfriendly audience.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  2. Elizabeth says

    From a customer perspective, I’d like to add that encountering and being forced to fake-ly interact with lobby greeters is awkward at best and generally annoying. Thanks so much for welcoming me and offering to help (but not actually helping) while ushering me the 6 feet from the front door to the teller line…now am I supposed to chit chat with you while I wait, or should we both just stand here with fake smiles plastered across our faces gazing in different directions? *cue me pulling my cell phone out like I”m doing something.*

    • ARB says


      But how would you know that you need to go to the teller for a teller transaction? 😉

      My district manager wants us to make small talk with every single customer on the line no matter what, and to turn as many of those “shooting the breeze” conversations into banking/sales conversations as we can. Suddenly, living off welfare and food stamps doesn’t sound so bad.

      I’ve gotten feedback from a lot of people in regards to this matter (both on my blog, with people I know, and with my bank’s customers). I am still yet to hear anyone say that they enjoy having the lobby staff run over and greet them, direct them where to go, make their day “brighter”, and all that. Banking is an errand and most people just want to be in and out. The fact of the matter is that the customers don’t know the employees and the employees don’t know the customers. They aren’t friends, aren’t looking to be friends, and don’t want to sit around and get to know each other. Everyone has places to be or paychecks to be earned and that’s it.

      Thanks for your comment!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  3. says

    Ah yes, I remember my banks’ priorities when I worked there, it wasn’t lobby greeting for me, it was making cold calls. And silly me, I thought the idea of cold calls was to generate business for the bank. But it actually was not. I found this out because I never had time to make my cold calls because I was busy helping and selling to customers in my office; thus my manager told me to lock my office door and take no appointments or walk ins, so I could set some time aside for cold calls. So that time came, customers came in, willing and wanting to do business with me and my bank, and I had to turn them away to make cold calls.

    • ARB says

      My bank had a big emphasis on that for awhile. Developed this entire software system to track cold calls and went out of their way to sell us on the idea (some of the top bankers were actually excited about the idea, which leads me to wonder if my bank is actually some sort of front for an alien invasion in which they all impersonate humans and then take us over from within). And as the branch’s cold calling champion (I was put in charge of the program because, as the licensed banker, I was supposed to be the Sales Leader), my manager wanted me to take a day and just call down the HELOC list in order to get people in to apply. Even as customers were coming in to open accounts.

      Thankfully, my bank seems to have moved on to the next shiny toy. We are focusing on credit cards right now.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

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