Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bank Stories Introduction

My first grown up job was working at a bank. Like many young people, I worked in fast food and then retail before landing my first “real” job at the age of nineteen. Looking back on the twenty years that I worked at the bank, I am amazed how much the job has taught me. Besides gaining valuable skill sets, I learned about human nature and life.

As a bank employee, I saw the same people day in and day out. I got to know their habits, their eccentricities, and their fears. I knew where they worked, how much they made, and their account balances. I realized that my relationship with these people went far beyond the usual customer-service employee relationship. It was a relationship that had to be built on trust. Here they were laying their whole monetary life in front of me. It made them feel vulnerable. They didn’t have to say anything, it was all here in black and white and I could read it and interpret it all for myself. It’s amazing the kind of insight and understanding of a person’s life, habits and even their nature by looking at their relationship with money. This relationship based on money is a very intimate one.

Seeing the same folks every week, long-term relationships began to form. I heard about their children, their grandchildren, their bosses, and their spouses. I became a sounding board for their grievances or someone willing to listen to their stories. I sometimes felt like a therapist or a trusted confidant. Some of them became good friends.

Sometimes I represented the evil bank that wouldn’t give them their money, or charged outrageous fees, or lost their deposit, or denied them their loan. Intimidation, threats, anger, tantrums, anguish, insults, crying, and begging were part of the job.

My extended community of customers included senior citizens, veterans, blue collar, white collar, entrepreneurs, young adults, families, singles, divorced, old world, crazies, eccentrics, people with beginning stages of Alzheimer, stroke, heart attacks, dementia, those being taken advantage of and those taking advantage. Over the years there were loans, mortgages, deaths, garnishments, IRA’s, Christmas accounts, college funds, marriages, trusts, funeral accounts, divorces, and gift accounts. I was there to help them through every stage of life as well as the financial transactions that came to represent those stages.

The women I worked with over the years were another new learning experience. When you work with eight women in a fairly confined space you can either come together or fall apart. Throughout the years, there were many that came and went but there was always the core group of four. I’ve worked with some incredible women of all ages, creeds, and race. I learned so much about women. What I liked and what I hated about them. What camaraderie was about. Listening to their stories gave me insight to life's lessons and what it meant to be a woman.

Then there were the managers and assistant managers. Basically good men in every stage of life, from young bucks, career builders, womanizers, slobs, tyrants, in mid life crisis, lazy, industrious, leaders, hard working, sweet, funny, and always, always hungry.

I started out as a teller at the drive-thru. I worked a desk job as a financial representative. I became an assistant manager and then a manager. The bank taught me many things about running a branch and about dealing with people. As a financial institution there were so many regulations and regulatory agencies to appease that the list would be as long as your arm. You soon became an encyclopedia of procedure.

Then there are the scams, the frauds, the forgers, the embezzlers, the check kiters, the counterfeiters, the quick-change artists, the impersonators, the thieves and the robbers. You needed to be vigilante in protecting customers and the bank. More lessons learned about human behavior and its relationship with money.

Thus, yet another section called “Bank Stories” and will be added to my blog.

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