Jon and I were talking the other week about certain things that just aren’t the same anymore. Can you remember the last time you went into a travel agent to book a holiday? I genuinely can’t, it is all done online nowadays. Or silly things like I remember my Mum used to take me to Blockbuster at the weekend to rent a film, now it’s easy to rent a movie while sat on the sofa. It’s the same when it comes to banks and your finances- nearly everything can be done online nowadays, from opening a bank account, transferring money and even mortgage applications as well.
While I very much love the fact that so much can be done online nowadays, when it comes to my finances I must admit I do still prefer to speak to someone face to face. There is something a lot more reassuring about speaking to an actual human and having that interaction when it’s about something as important as your money. While I am the first one to enjoy the fact that sometimes the digital world we live in is good, as it cuts out a lot of interaction time, when it comes to money, the option of having someone there I can talk to properly is reassuring.
Recently, NatWest invited me to come and learn more about their Community Bankers and the ways in which they try and go the extra mile for their customers. So, armed with Jon and Wren we headed to meet our local Community Banker Bernadette to find out more about it.
IT’S HARDER TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN, WHEN BRANCHES AREN’T ON THE HIGH STREET ANYMORE
Because of the world we are living in nowadays, where so many of our daily needs can be sorted via our computers, it is unfortunately inevitable that some branches of high street banks would close. At NatWest they are constantly trying to adapt to the changing times by being a proactive, customer centric and future focussed bank. Building a future focussed bank means evolving from traditional to progressive, adapting to the changing needs and behaviours of their customers. This has meant making some difficult decisions about how they best serve their customers, and in December 2017 they made the largest branch closure announcement of all UK banks, with 200 branches closing.
Of course, news like that, causes a bit of a worrying time for customers and there has been feedback that customers are concerned about the impact of branch closures on customer service options. Despite an increase in the use of digital banking and reduced bank branch visits, like I said above, some consumers still crave human advisers for certain banking services, myself included. Customers are understandably concerned that the closure of branches means the abandoning of communities and removal of the “human touch”.
This is where the Community Banker comes in, something which is unique to NatWest, and this is why I found myself in a Costa Coffee one sunny Wednesday morning meeting our local Community Banker, Bernadette.
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY BANKER?
As soon as Bernadette greeted us with a firm handshake and a warm smile, I was really interested to find out more about what a Community Banker actually is. We sat down with a coffee and she explained to us what her job entails. She has worked with NatWest for four years and as a Community Banker for 18 months. Essentially, a Community Banker is all about bringing the bank to the customers. They meet customers where it is most convenient to them- whether that’s libraries, places of work, community clubs, leisure centres or even customers’ homes. Community Bankers are based in specific regional areas and help customers access and learn about their finances in a variety of different ways. They also help to deliver important local education and awareness events on fraud, scams and online security to help people keep their money safe.
The first thing that Bernadette said was that she loves her job and you could really tell, she was so passionate and animated when talking about it. She said no two days are the same. One day a week she might be based in the local library or town hall, running a drop-in clinic where people can arrange to come and meet her to discuss their banking needs, or as the name suggests just drop in. On others, she might be meeting someone at their home, one huge convenience of the Community Bankers is that they meet wherever you would like, meaning that it is especially useful for elderly customers who might have trouble getting to a branch or drop-in clinic, or those who are housebound. Then, she might head to someone’s work place to meet them in their lunch hour and talk to them about all sorts of different subjects relating to their finances. They might want to be referred for a free financial health check, or to learn about online banking (she has an iPad with her, so she can teach people how to access their online banking and how to use the NatWest app etc).
WHAT ELSE DO COMMUNITY BANKERS DO?
But that is actually just a small part of their job, Community Bankers do a lot more. As the name suggests they get fully involved in the community, helping people learn how to look after their finances. For example Bernadette was working late the day we met with her as she was off to speak to a local gardening club about how they can prevent fraud and look after their money. The day before she had been at a talk at another local club on the same topic. Local groups and organisations can get in touch with NatWest and request for a local Community Banker to come and chat to them too.
This part of their role really interested me, I like to think that Jon and I are pretty savvy when it comes to all things online, but a couple of years ago we were victims of a highly complex online bank scam- regular readers or followers of mine on social media might remember. We eventually got the money back just before Christmas, but it was touch and go and we were one of the first people in the UK to get our money back. These elaborate scams and offences just get more and more sophisticated each day and so I really loved hearing about how NatWest spends a lot of time in the community teaching people about how they can do their best to prevent fraud and scams. If fraud of this sort can target me and Jon then I can’t even begin to imagine what they might be able to do to more vulnerable people in society- so it is great that NatWest and their Community Bankers are out there helping educate their customers.
Aside from fraud prevention, Community Bankers are out there in the community offering help. Bernadette was saying she goes into schools and colleges, to Fresher’s Fair etc, helping young children and young adults learn about how to budget and take care of their money.
HOW ELSE ARE NATWEST HELPING THEIR CUSTOMERS?
Aside from Community Bankers, NatWest are also committed to helping their customers access their money or help with their money when they need it. Aside from the obvious telephone banking and online banking, they have partnered up with the Post Office, where you can do all the usual banking transactions such as paying cheques in, taking money out etc as well. They also have TechXperts, which are as the name suggests, technology experts based in all their branches. They are there to help customers get set up, to use and understand both online and mobile banking. Don’t know how to turn on fingerprint login? Not sure how to make a payment? They’re the people to show you how. They’ll keep you up to date with any new features as well as how to use the basics – meaning you’ll be able to bank on the go with ease, putting you in full control of your finances whenever and wherever you are.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF SEEKING OUT YOUR OWN COMMUNITY BANKER
It was great meeting Bernadette and learning how NatWest are committed to going the extra mile for their customers. We had a really lovely morning with her and she was so great with Wren as well, she really put you at ease and I can see why she is such an asset to the local community. It was fascinating learning about how varied her job is and exactly what her job as a Community Banker entails. She also gave us some really great tips on saving money and that was really useful, because we’ve been meaning to set up savings for the kids for years.
Community Bankers operate in selected areas and you can find whether they cover your area by looking at the list on the NatWest website. What I also really like is that it feels very personal, each Community Banker has their mobile number on the website so you can get straight through to them directly, and in Bernadette’s case she had a twitter and LinkedIn account too (not sure whether this is something they all have though). I like that personal touch, it just shows that they really are trying to be easily available for their customers.
I definitely wouldn’t feel nervous or unsure about getting advice from your Community Banker. If you don’t feel comfortable in arranging a meeting, you can find out from them about where their drop-in clinics are, so you can pop along and either get some specific advice or get referred for a free financial health check. From our experience Bernadette was great and really gave us lots of insightful advice on our finances. Having had a chat with her, it is definitely a service that I would use again in the future.
NB Thanks so much to NatWest for working with us on this campaign. All words and opinions are entirely my own.Regarding NatWest’s services, here’s a few things to be aware of: App eligibility criteria applies, Fingerprint login available on selected devices, Online Banking eligibility criteria applies.4