Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blues Traveling

So in my work for Fiscal United Bank I have recently been shuttled back and forth between other branches, helping out when they have staffing issues (which is apparently more often than Mel Gibson has "telephone conversation recording" issues). There are two branches that I have been volleyballed back and forth between. One of them is about 10 minutes from my home branch, and one of them is about 10 minutes from my home.

This is just a small glimpse of what is wrong with Fiscal United. I get travel expenses when I work at another branch. What they do is reimburse me for mileage traveled to the branch in question. The catch is that they compute the mileage from my home branch.

I work 20 minutes from home, so when I go to the branch that is 10 minutes from my branch, I am actually traveling 30 minutes, and getting reimbursed for 10 worth of that in mileage, not time, or I would have perfected a route which took 10 times that long. Long story short: I work at the far branch, I get roughly $4.50.

Now, when I work at the near branch, I get mileage from my home branch. I get roughly $9 for traveling to this branch, even though it is technically less than half the distance from my house that my home branch is. I could seriously get to the near branch in less time than it would take to listen to the full version of In A Gadda Da Vida (I could probably beat out Metallica's "...And Justice For All" if I make it through the lone traffic light along the way).

POINT: The commute is good on the days I have to work at the near branch.

Now, I believe I have mentioned that Fiscal United has a bizarre incentive system that all of us bankers have to operate by. I recently met with our district manager who mentioned how very important it is to make our incentive points. I have been told that Fiscal United prides itself that we aren't into pushing products, we're all about focusing on the customer's needs, and in the same breath, I'm being told that I need to sell more product. After being told that I need to make my points, by hook or by crook, I'm now being shipped to two branches that make the Grand Canyon look like Grand Central Station. There is NO WAY that I will be able to make my points, because the two branches I have been sent to are slower than my home branch, which is slow.

Now, that's not to say I do nothing all day long. But in Blue Point, I am busy doing things that don't necessarily result in sales: re-pinning debit cards, ordering checks, reconciling check books, etc. These activities strengthen the customer's relationship with me, and therefore the bank, but technically, they do not generate income. According to Fiscal United, I am required to ask the seventy year old man with $100,000 if he wants to open another free checking account. According to Fiscal United, I am supposed to ask the nineteen year old girl going up to college if she needs a mortgage. According to Fiscal United, it's a good idea to ask a person with $300,000 if he wants to have overdraft protection. According to Fiscal United, I am obligated to ask the drunk derelict with thirty five cents in his account if he wants to meet with our financial advisors for a free analysis of his portfolio.

I quote Dennis DeYoung: "I'm not a robot without emotion." Shit, even a robot would know better.

So the near branch is having severe staffing issues. The four people who work on the platform have, within a one month span, all abandoned ship. They all moved on to other banks. Along with a great many OTHER employees in the company (gee, I wonder why). So I am starting to feel like the Titanic cello player playing "Nearer My God To Thee" while eyeing up that deck chair wondering how well it would float. This branch is slow with a capital SLOW. I have had lunch breaks with more human interaction than entire days there (and anyone who knows me knows I HATE talking to people on my break). So it is left to the staff filling in to explain to the client base that everyone they knew and interacted with is gone. So my conversations are trending towards ridiculous sound bytes like this:

"Yes, the Manager, Assistant Manager, the Full-Time Banker and Part-Time Banker all decided that they didn't want to work here anymore, all at roughly the same time. Would you like to put some more of your money in our vault?"

Not exactly, but you get my drift.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like money. And getting incentive payouts would be neat. But I refuse to do anything that's not going to help my clients just to help myself. One of my contemporaries came up with a highly ingenious (and highly immoral) solution to the pressure to reach her incentive goals; she convinced clients who were opening accounts with large deposits to open SEVERAL accounts with smaller deposits. Picture this: you go into a garbage pail store looking to buy a fifty-five gallon garbage can, and the salesman instead tries to convince you that eleven different five gallon buckets are actually the way to go. Yeah, it's down to that now.

Our bosses are constantly screaming for us to open two checking accounts a day. Even if people don't NEED them, we have to try to convince them that they should open them. Because if we don't, there will be trouble. Just shy of dropping bear traps out on the sidewalk and only releasing my prey if they promise to open up a checking account (I also offer antiseptic ointment and a sterile bandage if they pay two bills online), I'm at a loss to explain how we can accomplish this every day.

Even through all of this, I will STILL ASK if they would LIKE to open a checking account, or a savings account, or a debit card, or online bill pay, because shit, you never can tell. And I have convinced clients that were dead set against opening up savings accounts of the benefits of keeping their money with us. But if they say no, then the answer is, to me (and anyone even moderately sane), "no."

Which brings me back to the far branch. The manager there is, for lack of a better (and less indicative of psychosis) word, aggressive. I have, on more than one occasion, returned to my desk in the middle of helping a client who has already expressed vociferously their lack of desire to open a savings account, only to find this manager attempting to badger them into opening a savings account. To the point where the client was ready to walk out. And savings isn't even the product we're being nagged into pushing. She is constantly pressuring. A client came in to ask for a bank check, she had me ask them to open a business checking account, even though they already had an established business account in another bank. The client was perturbed by these efforts. He was not alone. On top of all this, it's so slow at this branch that on days where I was the only account opening entity, I actually earned LESS points than I do on an average day at my home branch.

POINT: I don't like working at the far branch.

There are rumors circling like vultures on a warm savannah updraft about Bankers who are being transferred against their will if their branch is not consistently making their points. My branch is featured in one of those rumors, and me being the junior banker, I'd likely be the one getting the relocationary boot. I've been advised by contemporaries to find a good branch before they transfer me to a bad branch. So it seems that I can do nothing right, because I have failed to reach their arbitrary incentive goal (which, honestly, why call it "incentive" goals when it's more like "forced death march" prevention?) and they're reprimanding me for not selling more product to people who clearly don't need it, yet now I am likely being transferred to another branch where I am that much more certain to never meet the incentive goals?

I'll take "Self Defeating Plans" for $400, Alex.

So I naturally went online to put in a request to post for an open position at the near branch. Except there are no positions listed. It's as if they'd prefer to leave it drifting, a ghost branch, haunting the back roads of the Eastern End of Long Island. Instead, I sent an email to my district manager requesting that, if I was to be transferred, as the rumors suggest, that I be sent to the near branch, as it is a better situation for me. I have yet to hear back, although I was, coincidentally enough, intercepted on the way home from the far branch via text message and ordered to report to the near branch for three days of assistance.

So, if Fiscal United continues on as they have, I will be transferred to another branch, fail to make my incentive goals yet again, and eventually be terminated (occupationally, not literally, I don't think they have that kind of authority... yet). Then they will have to transfer some other poor schmuck to the depths of Hell, and then fire him.

Are they curious, I wonder, why people are leaving in large numbers for other banks?

More importantly, does anyone know "Song d'Automne" arranged for a slightly damp cello?

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