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Banking is not about relationships. It’s about secrets

Britain’s Got Talent is running right now in the UK and I really enjoyed this comedic sketch by Baptist Minister Allan Finnegan.

You may not be able to watch it in your country, so here’s the script:

I’ve been married for thirty years, which means my love life is a bit like my bank card …

… contactless!

There are other similarities.

The fact that I don’t have to press any buttons, transactions are quicker than they used to be, and I’m constantly getting declined.

It wasn’t that way in the beginning. It was all welcome gifts, high interest and instant access. Now it’s flat rates, no interest and I need three to five days to get clearance.

It struck me, as I laughed at his lines, that this is the heart of what banking is meant to be about: relationships.

I’ve heard all my life about relationship management and the idea that, at the heart of banking, it’s all about relationships.


Relationships are like marriages. They’re tough. You have to work hard at them. It cannot be one-sided. It has to be equal and equitable.

Then, I think about the relationship I have with my banks. It’s not equal or equitable. It’s basically they keep quiet as long as I have funding, and then give me a beating the minute I need funding. It’s that old way of thinking: a bank is a company that gives you an umbrella on a sunny day and takes it back when it rains.

Now, this is inflammatory and anti-bank, and I don’t even necessarily agree with this sentiment, but it does seem appropriate at the point we are at today. Many banks are not offering umbrellas right now.


Maybe when we open a bank account, we should have a ceremony like the ceremonies people celebrate in church.

I, Christopher Skinner, take you, ABC Bank, for my lawful financial partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

Yep. Relationships.

It does amaze me that, even today, we stay with our bank longer than our partner. Our relationship with our bank is more long-lasting than our relationship with our closest human.

We stay with our bank for 17 years, but only stay married for 11, which is why we may resist seven-day switching

Is that because we love our bank more than our partner?

Not really.

As I’ve blogged before, it’s more to do with money being more secret than sex. Due to that secrecy, we don’t like to move our money around between partners too much. We might be happy to move our heart around, but our money? Nah.

So yes, relationship management may be important but keeping our secret store of value is more about being safe and secure. It’s not about a relationship at all. There isn’t one. It’s about being trusted not to lose my secret.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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