Banking – and the future

The banks seem to be copping it at the Royal Commission, and there have certainly been some fascinating revelations.   I wonder where this is going to lead in terms of recommendations?

The Royal Commission forms an interesting backdrop to the magazine that fell out of the Australian newspaper a few days ago.  It was supposedly all about “The Future of Banking”.  The articles were all to the effect that the banking scene will inevitably “change” over the next few years.

Admittedly, my interest in the banking system these days is in relation to making payments (not so much borrowing).    Perhaps it is on the lending side of their business that banks are most likely to have to change.  Hopefully, this will enable their staff to go to being bankers (who assess risks) instead of “product salesmen” (and “dumbed-down” at that), as it is said they have become.

And, yes, maybe things on the payments side will be delivered differently:  the advent of “paywave” seems to have been popular.   But is cash really going to disappear?   While the local coffee shop has a surcharge of nearly 2% for any electronic payment, and I was quoted a surcharge of 1.5% if I chose to use a credit card for a recent transaction, it seems to me that we have some way to go before we reach a cashless society.  Perhaps the “New Payments Platform” will reduce these types of costs?

But to get to the point:   the articles in the magazine contained a lot of statements along the lines of the need for financial institutions to be “responsive” to the needs of customers.   But, hey, let’s not get carried away here.   For the vast majority of us, it’s not rocket science.   Our basic everyday need is to have somewhere to keep our money and the ability to make payments with a minimum of fuss without (at least in my case) incurring a transaction cost.   And, yes, “Paywave” is the sort of thing that appeals to me – except when there’s a surcharge involved.   But I get irritated when I have to monitor my “everyday” account to make sure that there are adequate funds in it, because the account in which I keep my modest surplus funds (to obtain a token rate of interest) isn’t the one from which payments are made.

For a short time, I had an account with U-Bank, which offered a sweep facility between the transaction account and the interest-bearing account, but after working out what was going on (maybe I’m just slow?) there were still “strings” attached:   the interest bearing account only paid interest if a minimum monthly amount was paid into it, which of course called for anther layer of complexity to set up arrangements to ensure that this happened (and then to monitor them).

I could go on, but let’s leave it at this:   financial institutions (and perhaps the commentariat?) need to distinguish between technological change and “mindset” change.  Just because their customers appear to be using the shiny new things provided to them, such as “Smart ATMs” or apps on their phones or whatever, doesn’t mean that the institutions are meeting the “needs” of those customers.


DVD Player

The DVD player was playing up.    It wouldn’t play the last part of some movies.     The older the movie, the more likely it was that the issue would arise.    I googled for a solution, but in vain, apart from vague suggestions to get a DVD lens-cleaner disk (I have no idea how that might have worked).    Meanwhile, it had become very frustrating not to see the endings of random movies.

I then took a different approach to my googling;  how much would a new DVD player cost?  Would you believe, you can get them for about $25!     Well, what did it matter for $25?   If it didn’t work, maybe we could keep it as a spare.

So I duly made the investment.  S had misgivings as to whether such a cheap machine, and from Big W at that (and much smaller than the old one) would work, but first reports are that it does everything required of it.  The old one has been put aside to await the next hard waste/electronics collection.

Storing Bread

My mother always used to keep the bread in a bread crock. Seems she knew what she was doing,  The latest issue of Choice magazine considers whether bread keeps better in the refrigerator,.   It seems that it doesn’t:   apparently bread goes stale  as the starch re-forms into crystals, which happens faster in cold temperatures.   So bread is best kept at room temperature, unless it’s frozen.

Freezing it is fine, because this slows the process.

The challenge of change

I admit that I sometimes go to Chadstone, mainly for a catch-up coffee with R.    One or two of my friends say that haven’t been there for years (and in a way I can relate to that).   And, yes, things are always changing at Chadstone.    But the current changes are occurring in the “old” food court area.

Now, that’s a challenge:  this is a part of the place that I’m familiar with!     There are hoardings erected, encroaching on the familiar layout.   How dare they muck around with it!

Ah well, first world problem (another one) I suppose.

Carpark discrimination

Perhaps you missed the article in last week’s Weekend Australian?   It may be behind a paywall, but in short, the writer apparently often uses the valet parking service at Westfield Sydney, but usually for very up-market vehicles.    But his off-sider had occasion to take a Ford BA ute there.   She was told “we don’t usually valet park trade vehicles”!

They relented, seemingly after the off-sider invoked the motoring writer’s name, but somewhat reluctantly.    The article commented, “this great country of ours has come to a pretty sorry state when shopping centres will only park cars they think fit the profile of up-market guests”.     He mused that maybe the non-discrimination laws need to be extended!

Ah, the problems that come when we live in a “first world” country!

A new credit card?

A letter with a new credit card arrived from the bank.   I wasn’t expecting this, so I looked at it a bit more closely.  No, the existing card still had over 2 years before reaching its expiry date.  The new card was to be an “upgrade” to a different “level”, and would replace the existing card.   Supposedly it would provide slightly “enhanced” rewards (although on closer inspection, these were at best marginal).  And I guess, for the “status-conscious”, it looked better.

The “downside” was that there would be a new card number and PIN, and although the blurb stated that the annual fee would remain unchanged, I wondered how long that might last.  The “nil” fee on my existing card has been in place for some years, and the “fine print” with the new card (in VERY fine print and hard to find) stated that there might be fees and charges on some of the award “Privileges” on the new card.

Call me suspicious if you will, but it sounded to me that the the end result of the “upgrade” might well be that somewhere along the line, sooner or later, there’d be an increase in some way of the fees or charges.   Hence, I haven’t “activated” the new card.