Introducing Mike

You may remember John. The friendly bank manager. Well today I want to introduce Mike. There were 2 Mikes in the office. One became one of my closest pals for many years. The other didn’t. This is about the one who didn’t.

Mike R. was a decent man but the problem was the role he had – Administration Manager. This was the lowest graded managerial position in the bank. Mike was no spring chicken but he was probably younger than I am today. He may have had another job left in him, maybe not. So for the foreseeable future Mike ran the ship.

Why was the admin man so important? Well, in the 1970s banking and personal privacy were very different. As employees we were treated like small children. For a start it was forbidden to have a bank account at any bank other than the one that employed us. If a male employee wanted to get married under the age of 25 he needed permission. Need a mortgage? Well the bank decided whether the house you wanted to buy was ‘suitable’. You were not allowed to be ‘over-housed’ at the bank’s expense. Co-habit with a partner? No mortgage allowed. Mike was part of the approval chain for any applications.

Need a cheque book? Ask Mike. Under 18? Mike would consider whether you were mature enough to have one. One young lady, whose name was Christine, joined us at the age of about 16. She was a beautiful young woman and, dare I say, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She was a cashier and therefore an ambassador for the bank. In the full glare of public scrutiny. She was a good cashier and the customers loved her. As did most of the men in the branch. She could not however manage her money and she occasionally did the unthinkable. She overdrew her account. This was strictly forbidden for staff and a disciplinary offence. So Mike had to sort the problem out. In the end he took her cheque book away. I am not sure whose heart was the heavier. After that if Christine wanted to issue a cheque  she would go to Mike, he would consider whether the purpose was appropriate, whether she could afford it and then and only then if all tests were passed would he give her a cheque.

Each month we were paid on the 18th and we would receive a bank statement. Well that is not quite true. Mike would receive our statements. He would go through them and examine our in-goings and out-goings. All credits to your account should have been approved. The bank wanted to know where the money came from. He would make sure there were no missing cheques in the run. If there were then you would have to account for them and produce the cancelled or torn up items.

He also dished out the pay slips. My first annual salary was £4069 or £339.08 per month. I don’t recall a bonus.

Mike also kept all the personnel files so woe betide you if you transgressed. He and I had a healthy respect for one another. He was smart enough to know that I was a “special animal”, a graduate trainee and it was his job to make sure I did well in my basic training. I knew he would have a say in when I escaped the treadmill to go and do a real job. I am not sure who breathed the deeper sigh of relief when I was moved after barely 12 months, on to the Chief Manager’s Office in the big city of Portsmouth.

I am sure Mike is long since retired. I hope he is enjoying it. He must be in his 70s now. It was a different era. He was ideal for the times but it does feel strange that people tolerated the prevailing level of intrusion  into their personal life. I did consider asking Mrs. Ha for veto rights on her cheque issuance but as she uses plastic I don’t think it would help. Ah yes….. credit cards were also a no-no for younger staff in the 70s. I do believe I had one but of one thing you can be sure, Christine did not. Mike would have seen to that.


19 thoughts on “Introducing Mike

  1. Sounds horrific. Not that I would have had any problems as I don’t ever recall going overdrawn in my life. But still, the principle is bizarre.

    I used to like going to the bank with my dad. (National Provincial) I would ring the bell for Mr Statements and Enquiries and we would happily chat to him until it was our turn at the cashier.

    Banks were never full, no huge queues. Everyone stood at the back, knew when it was their turn and respectfully kept out of the way so they didn’t hear anyone else’s financial business.

    And no plastic screens!

    Nice starting salary. Mine was about the same – ten years later.

  2. Incredible that this is “only” around 35 years ago 🙂 And today people worry about their data in social networks – and in that case, they publish the information themselves!

    So was this regular behaviour in every bank to have someone looking into your private life so closely during this era?

      • Gerd was saying it was similar in Germany when he worked for Dredner Bank in the 70ies. Not so extreme (like permission for a marriage) but also checking cheques and account balances etc.

  3. It’s quite toe-curling reading about Mike’s power. I have a horrible feeling that I’d not have lasted 5 minutes there. Poor Christine, I do feel for her. I wonder how long she stayed and put up with it?
    Andrew, what’s happened to your LIKE button? I’m missing it. I feel I’m not doing my job properly if I haven’t ‘Liked’ your posts. They are always very likeable you know 😉

  4. Big brother is here to help you…
    I was amazed at your grand salary in the 70’s, when I left England in 1967. with price and wage controls, I was earning the princely sum of £12 per week – and 1/3 of that went on commuting. I moved to tiny Winnipeg and immediately earned three times that amount. I credit the Crazy Harold (Wilson) for my ‘leaving of Liverpool’ my port of departure.
    Great story Andrew. Change is inevitable, some better than other.

    • Do you remember the “bank manager in your cupboard” ads, Rod? I think it was Barclays. I never did understand why my parents would think this would be a good thing. I think if I could have tripled my salary I would have gone to Winnipeg too. Is it too late?

    • Thanks Angelina. It does seem strange today but it was 35 years ago. Times change. I always disliked it but it went with the turf. Happily no more!

  5. When I was at school they promoted the idea of ‘working in a bank’ as the best possible job we could aim for. There were endless visits from some financial institution or other, telling us the glories that we could expect if selected. Cheap mortgages is the only one that I can remember. I was never convinced then and reading this I’m proved right now.
    A lot of companies were like this in the 70s though I think. I can remember being asked really personal questions at interviews, things that you wouldn’t tolerate now.

    • Spot on. It is amazing what you can’t ask at interviews nowadays and perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way. I promise you it got better after 20 years!

  6. Those were the days – whether you loved or loathed the people you worked with – they were allowed to have personalities! Now, with all these on-line tests and phone interviews before even a sight of a real person at an interview stage with ‘HR,’ it seems like we are employing robots, not people. Not so much fun any more.

    • It seems that way but the personalities remain. It’s better to allow them to flourish but people tend to self censor these days. Part if not all of the coaching I do is about peeling back the censorship and letting self awareness out. People work best at things they enjoy in a way they enjoy. They just aren’t sure they are allowed to be authentic any more.

  7. Interesting read, I worked in the head office of a building society before moving to Poland to teach. We also had the rule that your main current account should be with the building society as well as disciplinary action if we went overdrawn. Somethings seem not to change.

    • Certainly my last employer allowed other bank accounts but your salary had to be paid into one of ‘ours’. After that it was up to you. I maintained accounts with 3 different banks because each was good at things that the other 2 were not. Free market and all that. I think o/ds were allowed only by arrangement and with prior approval.

      • Our planned overdraft was with allowed as long as it was well maintained. Unplanned were a no no, I did have a second account at another bank but that was where my student account was with all the trappings a student can get.

  8. A very enjoyable read. That job was filled with constraints.Never heard of anything comparable to the bank’s rules. You must have worked mighty hard to get out of there in only one year. 🙂

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