Anatomy of a banking decision

fat-cat-businessmanThe weekly management meeting of the Bilbao Bandits Bank (UK) was about to begin. Sir Cholmondeley Hetherington-Smythe brushed cigar ash off his waistcoat, and stared disapprovingly at the closed door.

As if operated by the force of his will, the door opened violently and Tony Accrington rushed in, looking breathless and agitated.

“I’m sorry I’m late, Sir Cholmondeley, ” he panted, “I’ve just heard some terrible news!”

“Good Heavens, calm down, man,” said the knight. “Sit down and tell us what it is.”

Tony took his place at the table, and hurriedly arranged the papers in front of him. He did not do it with much care; he wanted to pass on, without delay, what he had learned.

“There’s a new fraud that could cost our customers thousands.”

“That’s serious. How much will it cost the bank?”

“Well, nothing at first, but we may have to reimburse them.”

“I doubt it,” said Sir Cholmondeley, “We try not to make a habit of that sort of thing. How does this fraud work?”

“The crook convinces the customer that they’re talking to the bank then…”

“Oh, that one. Don’t worry. We won’t have to pay out.”

Tony’s jaw dropped. “You knew about it? How long have you known?”

stressed-businessman

“None of your business. Anyway, that’s why I’m sure that it won’t cost us anything.”

“But, Sir Cholmondeley, they won’t know how to protect themselves if we don’t warn them.”

The corpulent pillar of society sighed, and waved a dismissive hand.  “Haven’t these people heard of Google?”

“They won’t know what to search for if they haven’t heard about the fraud! Why would they be looking?”

Sir Cholmondeley was finding it increasingly difficult to hide his irritation. He leant back in his chair and chomped on his cigar for a moment, screwing in his monocle more securely. He leant forward again and almost shouted at his over-excited employee. “Get a grip, man. It’s no concern of ours. If they are stupid enough to allow themselves to be defrauded, it’s their look out. Caveat emptor. Reductio ad absurdum, and so on ”

“But they pay us to look after their money!”

“Accrington! If you expect to progress within this organisation, you will have to mend your thinking.”

Tony looked around the table at each manager in turn, searching for an ally. He found none. Even Cyril Blenkinsop, who had always taken a kindly interest in Tony’s career, now gazed at him dispassionately, ignoring the pleading in his eyes. Tony was not going to be put off. He could smell danger. “If we know about an immediate risk to our customers funds, and don’t warn them. We could be held liable.”

Sir Cholmondeley laughed. “By whom?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Who is going to hold us liable?”

“A court. Customers might sue.”

“And how are they going to do that?”

“Well, instruct a solicitor. Sue for negligence.”

Sir Cholmondeley shook his head. “Accrington. Such a course would cost a great deal of money, especially if we delay matters as much as we can, and, of course, we will.”

“Some of them might want to pay anyway. They might think that it would be worth it.”

Now Sir Cholmondeley could see that he had won the argument. A look of smug satisfaction spread across his face. “Young man, you’re not thinking straight. This fraud ends with them losing every penny that they have. How are they going to pay a lawyer?

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