I live in a Sussex town called Steyning, mid way between Worthing and Brighton. We had all the usual bank suspects until recently when my bank, the Halifax, closed its branch here last month leaving their coalition colleague Lloyds across the road.
In between a raft of banks we have a vibrant High Street full of more than the average share of shops that are clearly vying for the female purse. Multiple fashion shops, beauty salons, lingerie, hair, children’s clothing, jewellery shops are dotted among the likes of local butchers, bakers and rural candlestick makers. And whilst this isn’t a scientific calculation I’d lay money on the fact that there seem to be more small businesses in Steyning owned or run by women than men. So they will probably have more than one bank account like me – for personal and/or business in addition to influencing where any children open savings accounts of course.
The point is that Steyning is a place where women (including Mums with children at our biggest business, Steyning Grammar School) undoubtedly represent the lionshare of High Street shoppers; by and large we’re independent souls, relatively wealthy and choosing to stay in Steyning and support the local economy which should be encouraged.
We should therefore figure large when it comes to marketing financial services to women but I’m not convinced we are being looked after as well as we could be in this instance.
When my bank the Halifax wrote a round-robin letter to me in December to say they were closing my Halifax branch of 20+ years, they didn’t see this from my point of view. I expected some sort of reciprocal arrangement with Lloyds across the road, at least to pay in cheques which my parents often send me at birthdays and to pay for things I organise for them. A perfectly reasonable assumption and what I would have arranged if I had been in charge .
But I was wrong. I can’t pay in a cheque across the road but I can use my expensive time to be interviewed by the Lloyds Bank manager to open a new account with them. I was surprised to find this sibling rivalry when
1 I didn’t want to move banking brands and
2 This doesn’t make things easy for Halifax customers in Steyning.
And if I want to pay in a cheque now, which is what I went to do remember, I can do this via the Post Office. Excellent. But this will add a 4 day handling period to their normal clearing period, I need a specially designed paying in book (why?), it will take 28 days to send these to me (what??) AND they need my address (I’m speechless…) after I have banked with them for so long.
On reflection, if I have to set up a new bank account with all the time and inconvenience involved (for me) I don’t feel inclined to stay with a banking group that hasn’t troubled to think through its financial service levels for me. They should have agreed a more customer friendly handover service plan I’d say.
Now, where should I move my account to? Then my husband’s and my son’s before he heads off to University. And if my Mum moves her bank account from Halifax, and her savings account too, to one that’s in Steyning that’d be easier for me and should complete the suite of bank accounts I can influence in my private life. And then there’s the Club of course.
That’s the point of being seen as a female friendly business of course. Women are more demanding, we have this shopping influence (think Mary Portas) and, despite our understandable reluctance to move banks because of the hassle barriers, there are times like this when we will take our considerable business elsewhere to make a female point.
Were it not for the hassle factor of course. This is why the banks often get away with similar service level faux pas. Perhaps they do see things from a female point of view.