Mr Whitworth, the bank manager? He was . . . withdrawn

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The Independent Online
TODAY I am proud to bring you an interview with one of the most endangered of all species: the local bank manager.

To begin with, your name is Walter Whitworth . . ?

No.

The name on your door says Walter Whitworth.

Yes, it does. No, my name is actually Jeffrey Farnworth.

Why have you got someone else's name on your door?

It is my predecessor's name.

Why have you got your predecessor's name on your door? Do you prefer it to your own name?

No.

Then why not get it changed?

I would rather not talk about that.

Very well. Now, you are a bank manager . . .

Not really.

Then what are you?

My official title is Regional Financial Sales Director.

What does that mean?

It means that I am a bank manager.

Then why not call yourself a bank manager?

I do. But not here. Only where head office cannot hear me.

So it is your head office who calls you Regional Financial Sales Director?

Yes. Of course, they also call me Mr Farnworth.

Of course.

And also, occasionally, Mr Whitworth.

But that is not your name.

No. But they sometimes think it is. Even head office makes a mistake sometimes.

Do they really?

No, Never. That was just a joke. Please forget I said that. Please]

Do you ever point out to them that they have made a mistake?

No.

Even when they get your name wrong?

No.

Why not?

It is not always wise to contradict or correct head office.

Why not?

I think perhaps you should ask Mr Whitworth that.

Did he contradict head office?

I cannot say. It was before my time.

And where is he now?

I do not know. I thought you were going to ask me about banking today, not about Mr Whitworth . . .

Yes I am. Now, you know that some people say these days that the traditional bank manager has gone. That he has been replaced by someone who does not look after customers and accounts in the same personal and caring way.

I have heard it said, yes.

And would prefer to sell services and insurance and things . . .

Ah] Are you interested in insurance or a mortgage? I have a very attractive range of policies on offer . . .

No. I just want you to tell us how you see your function as a new-style bank manager.

As a Regional Financial Sales Director.

Yes.

It is our job to find out what the customer needs and then to tailor our services to him . . . are quite you sure you don't want a mortgage?

No, thanks. But what happens if you discover that what the customer wants is good old-fashioned service efficiently carried out?

Oh, I don't think we would discover that at all. That would be impossible. No, I don't think head office would stand for that. Mr Whitworth tried that, and look where it got him.

Where did it get him?

I don't know. Nobody knows. There was a rumour . . .

Yes?

Nothing. I didn't listen to the rumour. Let's just say he was persona non grata.

In that case, why is his name still on the door?

To save money.

I'm sorry?

The bank is ceaselessly looking for new ways to save money. That is, to make money. One of the ways they make money is not to change name plates when someone moves. It costs money to keep changing names on doors. That's why . . .

Yes?

I was going to say, that's why head office tried to get me to change my name to Whitworth by deed poll, to save changing the name on the door, but I have decided not to say it after all.

(Coming soon: we talk to the young man in the queue in front of you who has a large blue bag full of pounds 500 worth of 5p coins which he is about to cash in while engaging the cashier in inane conversation, and ask the question: has the good old-

fashioned traditional bank customer disappeared? And if not, why not?)

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