A pleasant surprise on a visit to the bank

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A VISIT to the bank can be a daunting prospect, especially for those who were not born in the digital age.

Rows of brightly illuminated machines can bewilder those who don’t visit their bank regularly.

Not-so-nimble fingers sometimes struggle with touch screen technology.

Pin numbers and passwords do not always readily spring to mind.

It all seems so impersonal. Robots rule OK.

And it’s not that easy to telephone your bank directly either.

Very often it means going through a call centre which, judging by the accent of person you speak to, could be on another continent entirely, or perhaps West Yorkshire. Who knows?

I’ve had my salary paid into the same banking firm since I started work 59 years ago.

The branch manager in my home town gave me a loan to build an extension to my first, small, terraced house.

A few years later, at another larger branch, the same man helped me to get a mortgage on a bigger house during the credit squeeze.

I valued being known and the personal touch.

So it was a pleasant surprise on a recent visit to Barclays to be dealt with by bubbly Miranda Swallow.

We’d met before. Her children, Laura and Nicole, went to the same school as my grandson, Mitchell.

We’d talked about cycling. She cycles to work in Fareham from Gosport daily.

It’s a round trip of eight miles. We even share the same make of bike.

She likes running and keeping fit and she’s cheery by nature.

So it was really great to meet a familiar, friendly face.

Miranda has worked for the same firm for 33 years.

She’s not called a cashier, bank clerk or teller anymore.

She’s now a community banker.

Within 10 minutes she had me enrolled in online banking. She’s definitely there to help.

Candace Hathaway the assistant manager at the bank explained the thinking behind the new regime.

She told me that the face-to-face role is to soften the image of the robotic hardware.

Even the machines are called ‘assisted service counters’. There’s always someone on hand to help.

Surprisingly, there is more staff at the Fareham branch than in the old days.

This is by no means an advert for my own bank.

Other banks are following suit and treating their customers like valued human beings.

Their television adverts and literature carry that message loud and clear.

Long may it continue.