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"He who knows his WHY in life can live through any HOW" - Victor Frankl

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Comparative Shopping for Humans

standard - d.3 – a minimal requirement that defines quality, quantity, level, or grade

During a typical NYC commute home, I stopped at a Broadway & Fulton St. bank for a simple transaction. The objective: obtain a Signature guarantee on a letter addressed to Putnam Investments (portfolio management company), from a financial institution of which I hold an account. The investment banker who made everything complicated: “Nicole.”

I entered the bright premises and note the twelve, uniformed, non-teller associates point and click on screens and hold conversations. There were so many staff members available I didn’t know whom to approach-nervous to insult someone’s rank or title for my free request.

Finally, one Banker offered assistance, and I asked for the signature guarantee. As I waited, he spoke softly to a female banker who glanced in my direction with a blank look on her face. I managed to eavesdrop an “uh...okay” before “Nicole” moved in my direction. She motioned for me to follow her to consultation seating. I handed Nicole my letter and accompanying documentation, and she reviewed them. She then asked me how she could help me.

Her question started the agitation. I repeated the service I needed, and Nicole verified my account information in the system. After she saw I wasn’t lying, she said “Great, let me ask you something, do you bank or invest with any another financial institution?” At this point, agitation gave way to aggravation. Not only was she holding a document in her hand that clearly answered her question, what did it have to do with my reason for being there?

For some reason, I humored Nicole. I told her yes on both accounts. Apparently, this was her cue to ask more detailed questions: the institutions name, types of accounts, savings amounts, and whether I considered this bank, as an alternative portfolio management option. I told her I hadn't previously thought about switching (trying to remain sweet and civil). And so Nicole made her pitch, which to my dissatisfaction, consisted of two sole points: a declaration of corporate backing, and exponential branch locations. So here I am, twenty minutes in; no signature guarantee, and a completely ignored interjection that I had no intention of leaving Putnam.

Although annoyed, I told myself it couldn’t hurt to let her finish. I was totally wrong! Why, because Nicole called Investment Banking Manager “Jim" up to the stand to testify. This perhaps could have been a smart idea, if Jim had provided reasoning that differed from Nicole’s. Not only was this not the case, Jim manages to say, “I’ve heard of Putnam, they’re a good company. I personally don’t work with them, but they are a good company. But if you are ever interested in leaving...” and finished using the same two, uninspiring points.

When God finally ended this test of patience, I thanked Jim for his time, and watched he and Nicole leave; she with my documents in hand. Nicole returned in about forty-five seconds, to tell me that she couldn't provide the stamp because I signed the letter without a bank witness-go figure!

Maybe the signature rule isn't a bad one. Perhaps, it only sounds stupid when you listen to financial advice that says, come over and let us manage your life-savings because we have a good name and lots of locations. So what if we don't give you tangible evidence that proves we are looking out for your best interest, or equipping you with the information necessary to make a valid decision.

Standard audience as a reminder, never let unqualitative reasoning from brand institutions influence your financial decisions. Conduct your own research, ask tough questions, and shop comparatively!

From the hand of…


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