I started working for NatWest in 1972. At that time we did everything by hand, and my first job was keying-in debit and credit vouchers which had to be processed manually in the branch and would hit the customers’ account after five days. Everything was so much more limiting and slower for customers – even using a cash card, they could only withdraw £10 at a time from the ATM!
Over the years, I did numerous different jobs within the bank before becoming the branch manager in Uckfield in 1998. At that time, the branch was central to everything the bank did. I used to see queues of people standing outside waiting for us to open every morning as we were the only place our customers could get their money. The 24 hour culture was way, way off. Not long before I became Manager, the branch was only open 9am - 3.30pm so we could finish our balancing and paperwork for the following day.
Over the years, all that changed. With the introduction of telephone and online banking, 24 hour banking became more of a possibility. New technology in the branch also brought improvements in the way we served our customers.
But the real change came when we introduced our mobile banking app in 2010. You could see the change almost instantly. Suddenly, our customers could do every day transactions by themselves like paying a bill or transferring money to their friends or family. Of course there were some customers who still liked coming into the branch and to chat to our staff, but customers who only used the branch rarely, we stopped seeing them at all.
Some customers were sceptical at first but when we downloaded the app for them and showed them how it worked, they were amazed!
As I sit back and watch banks develop their technology, it amazes me what they come up with next. If you’d told me in 1972 I’d be able to get into my bank account using just my finger print, as I now can with the recent launch of Touch ID, I’d have said no way. It’s always said that banking is so different these days, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
If you asked me to go and manage a modern branch (which Uckfield will be as it’s being refurbished soon), I’d definitely do it again. I’d tell customers to embrace the new technology we can offer. It’s a sign of the times and you can now do your banking quicker than you ever could.