Going bonkers with banking
I was in Grade Six when I opened my first savings account. Every Monday, I would set aside a few pesos from my weekly baon and come recess time, I would walk the two blocks to the bank that was "subok na matibay, subok na matatag" to entrust my money to a very pretty and smiling teller seated behind a marble-finished counter.
The banks of my childhood were institutions that commanded one's awe and respect. One never doubted their stability. It was unthinkable to imagine bankers as anything but paragons of virtue whose main job was to safeguard your money. Banks then had a human face and a warm body that represented it, not sterile machines.
If you wanted to transact business, you talked to a banker in person, not to a recorded voice. If you wanted to visit a bank, you dress up, comb your hair and go downtown. If you wanted your passbook updated, you hand it over to the teller you do not go online and talk to your computer.
Not anymore today.
I do miss the security and comfort that one used to feel inside a bank. It's not just because the marble tiles are gone, or the fact that bankers today look like they are kids fresh out of school rather than like your school teacher or principal.
It has more to do with the fact that today, banks are really just instruments of convenience.
The major changes in the banking industry probably best illustrate the landmarks of our journey towards the new civilization.
Big is better. Our preoccupation with size is best illustrated in the way banks swallow up each other in an effort to prove who is better. Mergers, acquisitions, expansion are the order of the day. In life, having the bigger car or the biggest television set translate into being a better person in the eyes of most.
Loyalty and relationships are fleeting. Having a bank account today does not anymore translate into a "relationship," it only means that you are a statistic in their computer files. A "relationship" is something reserved for those with gazillions of money. Loyalty? You may have an account with one bank, but it does not mean you transact with them all the time. With an ATM card, you can go to any bank within their network.
Consumerism is the trend. Today, there is a product for everything and everyone. If you can be categorized into a group, be assured that someone will think of a product that you will need. Banks today churn out all sorts of products and services tailored specifically for your needs. Some banks even allow you to "shop" for appliances, even win trips abroad while banking with them.
People will buy convenience at any cost. If there is anything that banks are really good at today, it is in the area of giving people convenience. You want to save trips to pay your utilities, income tax, insurance premiums? Go to a bank. You can even buy phone cards for your pre-paid cellphone through your account.
Technology helps, but it can also mess up your life. Banking is probably the best example of how technology works. The power of technology really cuts across all barriers of time and space. You can deposit money in Manila today and someone in Zamboanga can access that money within seconds. On the other hand, an ATM machine can credit your account with a withdrawal transaction that did not get consummated. And you bet, it will take days before someone will be able to unravel the mess. What about the many times that your bank was off-line when you needed to money most?
Cash is king, whoever has the gold rules. Ever been in a situation when you queued up for hours towards a bank teller only to notice someone wearing 10-carat diamonds idly sipping coffee inside the manager's office while two bank employees serve her needs?
Nothing is foolproof, human ingenuity will break even the most advanced security measures. Banks have invested heavily on all sorts of gadgets and devices to protect themselves. But even the most advanced technology will not eliminate fraud, robbery, or the power of human ingenuity.
Some things in life are constant, they will not change. Sooner or later, you will need a bank. This is as certain as death and taxes. Whatever you do, wherever you are, you will not be able to escape the temptation or the necessity of having to deal with banks.