Who’d have guessed this? Lloyds has been fined £28m, for encouraging staff to sell policies to people who neither needed nor wanted them. Those who sold the most won cases of champagne, and those that didn’t could have their salary halved.
This proves that the banks take regulations seriously, as they’re adamant that members of staff who don’t break the regulations will be dealt with severely, and only those who break them all day long will be given any rewards.
This illustrates one of the many changes in the 50 years since the Great Train Robbery, as now Ronnie Biggs would make more money and satisfy his urge to rob much more, if he got a job WITH the bank.
One member of Lloyds staff was so terrified at not reaching his quota, that he sold a policy to his own wife. It’s just as well they’ve been caught or he’d start on his kids next, saying: “You don’t want an ice cream like your stupid friends. Instead I’ve sold you a Lloyds Super Value Triple Interest Bonanza scheme. You might cry now, but you’ll thank me for it in 10 years when it’s worth sod all.”
They must have been desperate to sell these packages, pleading with the elderly that: “You’ve got to put your savings into a Lloyds Advanced Finance Protection Account dear, otherwise with interest rates the way they are, you’ll have to sell your grandchildren to an Albanian child trafficking gang and that could be quite nasty. Don’t worry about the form, I’ll fill in the details.”
This wasn’t the result of a few maverick uber-salesmen. It was the bank’s policy to create a culture of sell sell sell with no excuses for failure. They were probably sent on motivational courses, with a team leader explaining: “If a customer is hesitant about whether to sign, give them a nudge, by dragging them into a basement and getting a colleague to make a film as you stand by him with a sword, preaching there’s no place on Earth for those who don’t believe in the almighty Lloyds Bonus 5-Year Investment Fiscal Funtime Account. That should close the deal.”
One policy they were offering was a “critical illness” insurance, one of these schemes they sell by looking earnest and saying: “We all hope it doesn’t happen, but if, God forbid, you DO get pecked to death by a pterodactyl, normal policies won’t cover you and then your loved ones will face a life of destitution and heroin abuse, so it’s worth it for peace of mind and it works out at only £8 a minute’.
Once you’ve accepted the rules of this game – that all that matters is selling another policy – there are no moral barriers. If you got up at a team talk and announced you’d sold a policy to someone with Alzheimer’s, then went back the next day and sold them another one as they’d forgotten they’d bought one already, there’d be high fives and your name would be written on a “dude of the day” board. But a Lloyds spokesman said: “The group recognises its oversights during the period in question and apologises.” Oversight? How could mis-selling billions of pounds worth of twaddle be an oversight?
Does it need to be on a “to-do” list, that goes: “Clear boot of car – water plant – don’t bark at thousands of staff that they’re pathetic maggots if they don’t sell lorry loads of scuzzy investment plans – buy Sugar Puffs”.
Those train robbers must wish they’d thought of that. “Your honour, we recognise that taking up our positions by the railway line, assaulting the crew, running off with sacks of cash and planning to spend it on a life of debauchery was an oversight. Only we’ve been very busy lately, so it slipped our mind, but we do apologise.”
Where you have to give the banks credit, is this took place after the crash, after they’d been told they really should try harder next time to not bring down the world economy. It was after the £80bn bailout, after the world gasped: “How did we let it happen”, and they’ve carried on exactly the same.
But who can blame them? Unlike the crash in the 1930s, no new regulations followed to stop them behaving like this. The banks could be caught squirting uranium into the eyes of kittens, it could turn out that the deaf signer on the podium in Soweto is a chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland who’s been awarded a bonus of £40m, and that the England cricket team was injected with ketamine by the board of Northern Rock. And they’d apologise for the oversight and the Government would announce an enquiry to report in the year 5000.
And this is the business method we’re informed is essential to make anything work properly. So now it must apply to everything else as well. The Royal Mail, for example, was too sluggish without private investment and initiative, so hopefully that will now be free to go the same way. You’ll pop into the Post Office for a stamp and be told: “You know it really would be sensible to post a parcel as well. I’d suggest you should send one to Brazil, and to be really secure, fill it up with rubble first. There we are, that will be £700.”
Because they only need three like that a day to win a weekend break in Dorset.