Benelux Business BUSINESS COLUMN | BUSINESS PROFILES | BUSINESS CALENDAR
Screw the staff, screw the customer TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS
Do you still write cheques? In Norway they went out years ago, but in Malta, where I live, they are still oiling the wheels of the thriving economy here, and no doubt the thriving black economy too. As a freelancer, I get paid for my services in Malta by cheque and that means having to go to a bricks-and-mortar bank branch to cash them. This has led to experiences which I never thought I would relive, reminiscent of France in the 1980s when the banks were still nationalised and staff treated customers with all the arrogant disdain that French waiters, and civil servants, can muster so impressively. I’m not in the habit of knocking particular companies in this column but this month I have HSBC in my sights. HSBC, along with Bank of Valletta, is one of the two major retail banks in Malta. After queuing in an HSBC branch for more than an hour recently, I asked to speak to the manager. I counted 18 people waiting behind me, many of them el60 | Issue 54 | June 2018
derly ladies wilting with fatigue. When the assistant manager turned up after another ten minutes, we gave her a piece of our collective mind. Several elderly rebels said that the situation had been getting progressively worse in recent years and that an hour’s wait to speak to a cashier was quite typical nowadays. I registered a formal complaint and left my contact details with the rather uninterested manager but heard nothing. My letter to The Times of Malta also went unacknowledged by HSBC. Customer care is obviously not part of the bank’s concerns in this part of the world.
into the ‘screw the staff and customer’ category. Last year, HSBC made 17.2 billion euros before tax, presumably not enough to justify employing a few more cashiers here. There are rumours that the bank is going to pull out of Malta. Unfortunately, I doubt that the decision-makers are considering this out of shame.
Then I met a woman who had worked for HSBC for twenty years and left after not being able to take any more stress induced by understaffing. Her bitterness rather corroborated my own experiences. I am a believer in stakeholder capitalism. I don’t like companies which pay their top executives millions and the people who do the spadework peanuts. My experience of HSBC is that it falls directly
Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: email@example.com.