The Bank: a Matter of Life and Debt BBC2 - TV review: All credit to NatWest's staff but this PR exercise won't wash

It's seven years on from the financial crisis and the public are still angry

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The Independent Culture

The public-image rehabilitation of bankers began in earnest last night, with The Bank: a Matter of Life and Debt, BBC2's new three-part documentary about a cuddly and entirely blameless NatWest branch in Huddersfield.

It's seven years on from the financial crisis and the public are still angry. Particularly with NatWest, apparently, since it's part of the taxpayer-funded Royal Bank of Scotland group. A man called Alan came in to rant and rave about a cheque that didn't clear in time for him to spend £3,000 on some eBay rugby memorabilia (they did him a favour, really).

More sanguine was Chris, who had racked up £12,000 of debt by putting family holidays on his credit card and now wanted to audition mortgage adviser Gary for his business. "We had to reconnect… and I bought into him," said Chris afterwards, displaying a disconcerting fluency in marketing-speak, "The product is good but I think it's important that I buy into him." These days, the customer is always right – and boy don't they know it.

It might be temporarily satisfying, but getting stroppy with high-street cashiers is not going to right the wrongs of the banking crisis, is it? Clearly branch manager Claire was no Wolf of Wall Street. She earns "just a bit above £20,000" and runs her morning staff meetings like a toddler and baby group, cooing encouragement for every correct answer.

Still, NatWest's attempt to portray itself as financial advisers, motivated only by their customers' best interests, didn't wash either. It's comforting to know that staff are now incentivised by customer service targets instead of of PPI sales, but they were still next to useless when it came to assisting cash-strapped customers.

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