Love And Hope And Sex And Dreams

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Actually, no, this post isn’t about love and sex. But it is about hopes and dreams.

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Rolling Stones fans will recognize the title of this post as a line from the band’s song Shattered.

The band is enjoying a resurgence of popularity as it closes out its tour celebrating their 50th year of existence.

That any band can make it that long is truly amazing. That Keith Richards is able to function as a semi-coherent human being is truly amazing.

The history of the band is well known to music fans, but how the group got started was not clear. Until now.

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Some 50 years ago, Mick Jagger walked into a bank in England (I think they’re called Building Societies, but what do I know), looking to open an account.

A bank teller asked Jagger what his dreams and goals were.

He told her (allegedly), “I’m going to be the biggest rock star and sex symbol in the music world!” I say “allegedly” because no one really understands what Mick is saying when he talks, but this is the commonly agreed upon version of the story.

The bank decided to fund Jagger’s dreams, helped him finance the purchase of new instruments and amps, introduced him to Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, found the band some gigs to play at in their hometown of Manchester, England, and even provided managerial advice and guidance in those early days.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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The anecdote above is utter and total fiction, of course.

No bank funded Jagger’s equipment purchases.

No bank introduced Jagger to Wyman and Watts.

No bank got them gigs anywhere, let alone Manchester, which isn’t even their hometown.

And, most importantly, no bank helped the Rolling Stones achieve their hopes and dreams.

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I made up this story to underscore a Twitter conversation that happened the other day. I came across the following tweet from @jrwlay:

Why don’t retail banking people ever ask their customers what they dream of?

My response:

If a bank branch person asked me what my dreams are, I’d tell them to go to hell. Politely, of course.

@aplusfcu responded that:

We don’t think we’ve had that response online, but we’ve had people say no thanks when asked @ events.

@julieferg’s take on this was:

If employees build rapport, have passion, and care – members share.

And in response to a @stessacohen question if the teller window was an appropriate place to ask the question, @julieferg replied:

Yes, tellers know the members better than anyone.

@Clagett admonished me:

Don’t hung up on the word “dream”. Try goals. Needs. Objectives. Long term or short term.

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A great conversation. My take on the matter:

Hopes and dreams are way too personal a topic for discussion. With the exception of a qualified financial advisor, no one in a bank is even remotely in a position to ask me about my hopes and dreams  — or even goals and objectives, long or short term. I don’t think it’s just me that finds it an inappropriate question. Brass Media published research on Gen Yers. When asked what they needed most from banks, they said things “the ability to talk to a person if I need help” and “I need bankers that are patient and can help answer my questions.” The did NOT say “someone to talk to about my hopes and dreams.”

Tellers are the last people I’d tell my hopes and dreams to. And I don’t mean any insult by that. I go into the local branch more than you’d expect, usually to deposit/cash checks. There’s a teller in the branch who lives in town and has a kid the same age as one of my kids. So my wife knows her (I know nobody), and she knows who I am. I always go to her window. There was one time, back in October 2009, when there was somebody in the branch at the same time as me, and I let him go in front of me, so I could wait until this particular woman’s window was free. She’s a very nice lady, and I’m sure that if I swiped my Stop N Shop card and four random numbers in the card reader, she’d still cash the check. But: 1) There’s no way in hell she knows me better than anyone else at the bank; 2) She is in no way qualified to talk with me about my financial goals; and 3) A check cashing/depositing transaction is the absolute wrong time to ask me (or anybody else) about my financial goals.

Banks aren’t in the dreams business. If you must know — my “dreams” aren’t about money. So how is a question about my hopes and dreams from my bank relevant to what it does? Oh, you don’t mean dreams, you mean financial dreams or financial goals. I (and many others) still don’t think that’s the business the bank is in. According to research conducted by Aite Group earlier this year, just 13% of U.S. consumers want their primary financial institution to help them manage their finances. That’s right, just 13%.  So where do banks get off thinking they should be asking customers about their hopes and dreams?

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Bottom line: You have got a helluva lot of work to do before you’ve earned the right to ask a customer (or member) what their hopes or dreams, or even goals or objectives, are.

And you better damn know what to do with the information if you get it.

A few years ago, I was doing a web site review for a large bank, and noticed that after registering for online access, the site asked customers about their short-term (12-18 month) product needs. I thought this was pretty cool, and in a conversation with the SVP of the online channel group, asked what they did with the information.

Silence on the other end.

“‘I’m not sure,” she said. “Let me ask my team, and I’ll get back you.”

She called back a while later. “I don’t want this in your write-up, but — believe it or not — we don’t do anything with the information, because no one on the management team (of the online channel group) knew we were even capturing the information.”

To their defense, the team was relatively new, having replaced a prior online channel management team. But it just goes to show that the information was not only not being used, but that the collection of the information wasn’t even well documented.

Alright, enough of this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter about shmata, shmata, shmata. 

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