Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 25th 2017 Contents A20 commentary
guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 25, 2017
NO HATS, SUNGLASSES OR COMMON
SENSE IN THE BANKING HALL
Lines at the bank can be like
one of those post-carnival
comedy shows.There's al-
ways a character pulling for a laugh
amid an atmosphere of tension and
"Only two teller on dis big Friday
mornin' and everbordy else walkin'
rong like iz ah muddlin show!"
"I hope allyuh pee before yuh
come here, we have ah next owah in
The only feature of bank service
that infuriates people more than
slow lines is the extortionate fee
structure. People often vent their
disgust with their "former bank" on
Facebook, proudly announcing their
defection to another institution,
probably with similar fees.
The banks have appealed for mu-
tual respect over the emotive issue.
Respect, though, is earned.
Going to the bank is a nuisance. If
it's not the interminable lines then
it's the traffic to and from. It seems
only logical that the more banks do
to shorten lines at their branches,
the better for all parties involved.
The question is why aren't more
people using mobile and online
banking options. Shouldn't there be
far fewer people in the queues doing
transactions that can easily be ac-
commodated from the palms of their
The banks' strategy appears to rely
on punitive teller transaction fees
to cattle-prod customers into using
online banking or fast deposit boxes.
Instead, they should use education
to nudge tech-reluctant clients in
the right direction.
I regularly use online banking.
This week, though, I had to deposit
a cheque and, hoping to avoid the
teller fee, I headed for the deposit
box. Unfortunately, these boxes vary
from one bank to the next. The only
similarity they share is the opacity of
Just above this deposit box there
was a brand new flat screen moni-
tor featuring Trevor Sayers and his
rib-tickling antics. Everyone loves
Trevor Sayers, but a simple instruc-
tional video on how to operate that
stupid deposit box would have been
far more useful.
It's easy to assume online banking
is a tough sell mainly among older
customers who may be uncomforta-
ble with technology. However, most
bank lines seem to be populated with
customers young and old. Many
of them are typically hypnotised
by smart phones in their hands,
whiling away the time with video
content.How brilliant would it be if
these customers could find videos
put out by the banks showing them
how to use online banking services,
deposit boxes and other convenience
features? Too brilliant maybe?
There is an ongoing radio adver-
tisement which at least one bank
seems to think meets this need. It
is done in the quintessential "kyar-
kyar" skit format.
"Aye boy! How long you in dis
line? Like you ain't hear about online
"Nut me nah! I 'fraid dem ting."
"No boy! It rell easy and you doh
have to line up so ah-gain!"
That isn't a transcript of the ad-
vert, but you get the gist. There is
no useful information about what
online banking entails. It simply tells
the listener the service exists and
dutifully follows a style which as-
sumes Trinis are obtuse and unable
to digest anything that isn't dressed
up with folksy banter. The bank
which commissioned the aforemen-
tioned radio spot perhaps didn't
consider that the demographic to
whom the ad speaks, probably com-
prises citizens least likely to bother
with online services.
Our banks could take their cue
from foreign financial institutions
which invest in the education of
their customers. HSBC in the UK
has a video tutorial series designed
to instruct their customers how to
do specific transactions online. The
videos are easy to follow and are
produced using clear themes such as
registration, transactions, moving
money and so on.
The Bank of America website of-
fers similar tutorial videos. You can
learn the step-by-step process of
sending and receiving money using
an email address or a mobile num-
ber. The website is easily navigable
and accessing the information is
intuitive. The availability of these
video tutorials means customers can
adapt more readily to the sweeping
changes technology has brought to
What HSBC, Bank of America and
many other foreign financial insti-
tutions demonstrate is, if technology
is pushing the tide of progress in
the banking sector, it's better their
customers be taught to swim with it
rather than be swept away by it.
While our banks are moving to-
wards embracing technology and
online banking, they aren't doing
enough to their help their customers
adapt. Using punitive fees to force
a culture shift won't win any more
customers to your cause. The in-
vestment in this sort of education
can actually save banks money in the
long run, and lead to a more harmo-
nious relationship between bank and
Studies show that people respond
more favourably to a whip cracked
by a dominatrix than a whip cracked
by a cattle driver. OK don't Google
those studies, you won't find any.
The point is, it seems like common
sense that our banks can achieve a
more desirable result by seducing
their clientele into changed behav-
iours rather than punishing ones
which have been reinforced over
GOVT WALKS THE ECONOMIC TIGHTROPE
The Parliament's highly
dedicated security corps
was on the alert outside
its Waterfront Complex location
Not because of Wednesday's at-
tack on London's Parliament.
The T&T Parliament security
presence inside, roadside, quayside
and otherwise, were on the ready
as usual, but slightly more visible,
monitoring Ramai Trace Hindu
School parents and uniformed pu-
pils, demonstrating loudly for their
school to be completed.
Inside also, Education Minister
Anthony Garcia was at the centre
of a barrage of Opposition queries
on assorted education issues while
his Finance and Security col-
leagues faced similar questioning.
"How will I know what's in
students' minds?" Garcia replied
plaintively when UNC MP Gan-
ga Singh sought assurance that
Chaguanas Primary School's con-
tinuing sewer problems wouldn't
affect exam performance.
Opposition MPs Rudy Indars-
ingh and Ramona Ramdial whose
Couva South and North constitu-
encies had back-to back tragedies
this week, however, wore burdened
The murder of schoolboy Jesse
Beephan (from Indarsingh's con-
stituency) and businesswomen
Sharlene Somai (from Ramdial's)
continue to illustrate the face of
T&T's main problem: violence.
From in and around school, homes
and everywhere between.
How much socio-economic fac-
tors are underpinning the tensions
triggering such events may fill vol-
umes. The economy's story, oth-
ers, as John Public awaits austerity
relief and prays against further job
Under criticism for Govern-
ment's economic management,
Prime Minister Keith Rowley took
to the "ground" at Tuesday's PNM
meeting to assure T&T about the
"Road Ahead" (the meeting's
theme). It was an attempt to con-
nect the dots and explain its han-
dling of issues.
Opposition hammering, how-
ever, continued up to yesterday's
Parliament sitting when UNC MP
Tewarie declared, "Everywhere
you go in T&T there's a sense of
frustration... and it's building in
the business community who are
saying 'I don't know what the so-
and-so this Government is doing!'
Nobody can understand!"
Most recently Government's
been walking the line of "T&T
First," a mandate properly in order
due to the oil price and economic
Finance Minister Colm Imbert
on Thursday signalled he's consid-
ering flexing ministerial muscle to
facilitate Central Bank mandate for
banks to give manufacturers prior-
ity for foreign exchange.
This, in a bid to support local
businesses creating employment
via manufacturing export goods---
all necessary in the circumstances.
The manufacturing sector, second
largest non-energy sub-sector, is
key to economic survival in the
current scenario and diversifica-
Complaint may be inevitable.
But it was the TT
which last week urged a change
from the status quo, noting issues
in many sectors. For management
of the latter money's necessary.
Imbert's announcement though,
returns full circle to concerns
raised by former Central Bank
Governor Jwala Rambaran, in De-
cember 2015---three weeks before
dismissal by Government---when
Rambaran warned of Forex-gob-
One outfit, Rambaran cited as
the second of the top five Forex
users in the retail/distribution
sector was also noted by Imbert on
Thursday. That group lobbied for
Forex "free-up" at the Chamber's
Public Administration Minister
Maxie Cuffie sought to stave off
job losses from Digicel global staff
cuts by lobbying for T&T to be-
come one of Digicel's two Caribbe-
an hubs and for Digicel to keep its
expressed commitments to T&T.
For more immediate income,
Government projections are on the
property tax, after steps begin and
notices start being issued to own-
ers/occupiers within two weeks.
Based on Government's formula
of three per cent of a property's
annual rent, key to the tax will be
rent levels. Tax costs can hardly be
passed on to tenants via rent hike
since---according to the formula---
the higher the rent, the more tax,
owners pay. But it remains to be
seen how the (increasingly) pressed
public will respond.
Property rental value is deter-
mined by Finance's Valuations
Division based on supply/demand,
market rates, location, access,
parking, equipment, age, size,
condition, interest rates, construc-
tion costs etc.
What possibilities for 2018 oil
revenues may arise from from PM's
Houston trip next week---on main-
taining T&T's level of gas con-
sumption for downstream energy
sectors---remains to unfold.
Rowley didn't carry through
on the invitation to Wednesday's
T&T-Saudi Arabia Chamber
launch attended by Saudi billion-
aire Sulyman ALmajed who's seek-
ing real estate investments. Absent
too were the Attorney General,
Foreign Affairs and Trade Minis-
ters (though Local Government
Minister Kazim Hosein attended.)
TSCC head Umar Khan said an
address by the Trade Minister was
presented by Trade's Permanent
Secretary. That address commend-
ed TSCC for opening local offices,
seeking to strengthen TT/Saudi
commercial relationships and en-
couraging locals towards new mar-
kets. How that initiative fares with
public/private sectors amid global
developments including security
issues, lies ahead.
As does, Government's neces-
sary task of refining how it juggles
load-shedding with maintaining
jobs and stability.
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