Wednesday 6 February 2008

A bunch of total bankers

Bankers are traditionally mocked for being risk averse; the sort of chaps who will cheerfully agree to lend you an umbrella, but expect you to pay an exorbitant hourly rent for the privilege, and to hand it back the minute it actually starts to rain.

As many customers of Egg discovered at the weekend, bankers are also liable to issue press releases announcing that they are withdrawing your credit card because of your poor risk profile; when in fact you have consistently paid your balance in full each month.

When I was an impoverished student, and later in my first badly-paid job, banks were falling over themselves to issue me with new credit cards. Which was handy, because I relied on the next one to make the minimum monthly payments on the ones I’d already got. Whenever I accidentally exceeded my credit limit by a few pounds, I’d get a letter explaining that they were increasing it.

Since I’ve been mortgage-free homeowner who never borrows on credit cards, quite the opposite applies. I’m always getting letters threatening to reduce my credit limit or cancel my cards because I don’t use them enough. On the very rare occasions that I apply for a new card, I am invariably turned down.

One well-known American bank used to send me a monthly invitation to apply, and eventually made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: a card which would not only enhance my prestige, making me at long last an irresistible babe magnet, but also give me a handy amount of money back on each purchase. It was the height of fashion: all my colleagues had one.

So I applied and was duly rejected. I was irritated enough to write to them, pointing out that they’d already issued the self-same card to a load of people whose salaries I set and who were definitely less well-off than I was. They sent a stiff reply emphasising that I still failed to meet their demanding criteria, which at least provided some much-needed hilarity around the office.

Bankers risk averse? No, just guilty of greed, poor judgement and lousy public relations. But surely the sub-prime mortgage debacle, credit crunch, burgeoning bad debts and Northern Rock crisis can’t all be explained as simply as that?

Keith Hann is a PR consultant who prefers cheques and cash.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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