I bank with Lloyds. I opened the account in my early teens and have held it ever since. Over the years I have got used to regular "courtesy calls" from their staff inviting me to go into my branch for an "account review". Initially I treated these as something pretty serious, a summons from the bank manger if you like. But I soon realised they were simply an opportunity for the staff to sell me a financial product like insurance or loans that I felt I didn't need and, in time, I politely declined the invitations.
Yesterday I reported how Lloyds Banking Group was fined £28 million by the regulator for the way it incentivised branch staff to sell exactly these products - without regard for the customer's requirements. A former staff member told me how he knew he could persuade almost anyone to take a product they didn't need in order to meet his sales targets. I've no idea if the "courtesy calls" I took would have led to a hard sell but it's possible.
Also, yesterday, I reported how insiders at the bank - both current and recent staff - thought Lloyds had made some changes to the incentive schemes but that the culture had not changed. The risk was, they said, that the behaviour could be continuing.
And indeed it might be. Only this evening I got a polite call from Lloyds. The helpful lady from a call centre in Glasgow asked whether I would go into my branch for a "protection review" to discuss whether I needed critical illness cover or mortgage life insurance. These are products I don't need and don't want. The call followed exactly the pattern of those I had received so many times. Except this time I remarked how astonished I was to be hearing from them so soon after a record fine from the regulator.
This evening Lloyds emphasised again that it acted immediately when concerns were raised by the regulator and that all bonuses to staff, like those at the call centre, are now based solely on customer feedback. But, as a customer, I'm finding it difficult to tell the difference.