A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Santander wants to know all about your money habits

Knowing you, knowing me, the bank that likes to know!
Those lending money for mortgages have a right to know whether the borrower is an upstanding person. They also have a right to enquire about ability to repay, such as finding out about salary and regular household outgoings such as utilities and household expenses. That is justifiable and represents good business practice and sound lending. But should a lender feel it is right to enquire about discretionary spending? About whether the odd treat is spent on a child or a special dinner for a spouse or lover?

Santander, the Spanish bank with Spanish practices, considers it right and proper now to delve more deeply into a person's spending habits. The bank says this is to prevent reckless borrowing and improper lending. I somehow think not. It has more of a whiff of the nosey parker about it. They now have a liking for trawling through current accounts to see what has been spent each month. "Look, he's opened an account at the gym. Easyjet? Looks like another holiday. Oh, and he's bought some new shoes...." Good gossip for the bank staff, but quite a sinister thing if done as a kind of tally for brownie points or the lack of them.

The apparent tightening up is supposed to be so that the banks, not just Santander, can say they are acting responsibly. But this is taking it a stage further from responsibility. It's defining customers as less than honest and in need of monitoring. Could it come to the stage when banks require permission to be given for a purchase? "Oh, it's a fantastic deal, better than anywhere else, but I can't say yes until I've spoken to the bank". The price we have to pay?

Perhaps if the banks are getting inquisitive perhaps bank shareholders could get a bit nosey too. How about asking where those expense accounts go each month. Which restaurants do the directors frequent? Was it good for the company or just them? Lloyds Banking Group is quite keen to pay out bonuses even to those who have failed to give shareholders a bonus. Now that sort of behaviour needs a thorough poking through I would have thought.

The Coalition was all about transparency when it got into the corridors of power. Coming up to two years of their rule and I can't see things getting much clearer. In fact it's getting a lot murkier. The latest is a woman waltzing off with millions whilst her company is being probed for fraud and the jobless she was so enamoured with are still jobless.

So, if Santander wants to know the ins and outs of their customers' wotsits how about us knowing the ins and outs of their goings on. After all, what's sauce for the goose is definitely sauce for the Spanish gander.

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