Next Memory

Just People

by Norman Worwood


I always used to say that if you did not like people, then you were in the wrong job, and there was enormous satisfaction to be obtained from being of service. One of the Bank's widespread functions was to open individual accounts to receive savings in bulk from large companies, such monies being deducted from their thousands of employees' weekly wages and sent usually monthly to their accounts. Bank staff were divided over the wisdom of offering this service, because it was often the case that the 'saver' was not a real saver at all. Within hours of the Bank's receipt of the funds, queues would build up, invariably at lunch time, in order to withdraw what the Bank had held for a matter of hours, but which the depositor had sacrificed over a period of a month. Managers such as Jock Hastie were adamantly opposed to the schemes. I was in support, on the grounds that it brought the depositors into the branch, where they could be offered other benefits.

When a manager myself, I endeavoured to put this view into practice and I learned from one customer that his constant difficulty in paying his domestic accounts, for which purpose he had money deducted from his wages, was due to his propensity for withdrawing it from his account and going immediately to the nearby bookmaker, where he just as speedily lost it. I persuaded him to let me prevent him from having his cash until he first produced, for instance, a gas 'bill' and settled it at the branch, whereafter he could withdraw whatever remained. Gratifyingly, he soon learned that this primitive form of budgeting actually worked.

Another such customer, who was not tempted immediately to withdraw his works-savings, nevertheless asked to withdraw most of his accrued savings in the form of a large cheque in favour of the Inland Revenue. When I casually asked him what trouble he was in, he said that he had been 'copped' (a good Birmingham expression) for not declaring a part-time Saturday business selling bananas from a hawker's barrow and they had assessed his profits and taxed him accordingly. When I asked him whether he had replied with a schedule of his costs of hiring the barrow; his paper bags; and other expenses, such as price tickets, etc., he was surprised to discover that he could legitimately do so and when he brought them along, we put together a late appeal, succeeding in reducing the tax demand considerably. We were a Savings Bank, of course, so could not charge for the service, but I must confess to receiving two or three of his best bananas each week by way of thanks until I eventually left the branch.