Bunhill: Who ever heard of a nice banker?

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The Independent Online
THE GREAT bank manager debate is in full swing, kicked off last weekend by Martin Taylor, the new technocratic whizz- kid boss at Barclays. The iconoclastic Taylor told the BBC that customers were no longer prepared to pay for the traditional bank manager, and that computers did the job better anyway.

By Tuesday Sir Brian Pearse, head of Midland Bank, was defending the species. While agreeing that credit-scoring by computers had a role, 'I entirely disagree that lending can be better done by computer.

'I'm not trying to pick a fight with Barclays,' he fibbed, 'but I do not want a myth to grow that all banks are the same. Customers have a choice, and time will tell who is right.'

On Friday Taylor returned to the fray, arguing that 'the traditional bank manager of myth no longer exists, and actually has not existed for some time'. It was not possible for bank managers to have a personal relationship with every customer.

I must admit to being a bit foggy as to what 'the traditional bank manager of myth' actually is. The idea of a kindly, wise pillar of the community lavishingly dispensing loans and forgiving unauthorised overdrafts seems unbelievable, even in myth.

And the only fictional bank managers I can think of are a pretty rum lot. Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army was a pompous little Hitler.

Shylock is hardly a role model, being too pedantic about the fine print in his loan agreements.

Mr Bulstrode, the banker in Middlemarch, diddled his stepdaughter out of her rightful inheritance.

Melvyn Bragg's bookish fell-walking protagonist Andrew in A Time to Dance is a bit more sympathetic. But after falling for an 18-year-old girl one third his age, he turns out to be less bank manager than bonk manager.

The only likeable fictional bank manager I can think of is the mousy Henry Pulling, the creation of Graham Greene in Travels With My Aunt. After being taken under the wing of his 'aunt' Augusta, Henry mixes with hippies and war criminals, smokes pot, breaks foreign exchange rules and moves to South America. But he only blossoms after retiring from his bank.

There must be a more appealing bank manager somewhere in English literature or film. Suggestions please. A bottle of bubbly for the best.

(Photographs omitted)

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