The Banking Experience

As a solicitors firm heavily committed to providing legal aid services, we need an accessible bank which offers a wide range of banking related services at the lowest possible cost.

Like any business, we also need to earn as much interest as possible on all balances and to pay as little as possible for money we borrow.

Having balanced convenience with cost, the rest is largely down to the efficiency of the bank selected and the ability of the account manager to assist in special and ad hoc requests.

Today, more processing is handled by lower grade staff for the bank to economise. In my view, this tends to result in more errors and delays, particularly when dealing with anything non-routine. However obliging the account manager, the bank's daily service is only as good as its 'back-office' staff.

From the bank's point of view, a flow of management information from their client helps enormously. I have found that the account manager is very willing to support the firm's aims and objectives provided he sees both the business plan and its results.

The main area for concern is in the cost of banking services. Banks tend to charge not only for each transaction processed but also separately for a wide range of necessary options such as special clearances, telegraphic transfer or direct debit. On top of this, they have scale charges for overdraft facilities.

In recent months, many of the high street clearing banks have actually been

rationalising and reorganising their processing and service facilities.

This should be reflected in lower costs to the banks but I have not seen any reflection of this in their charges.

One area useful to bank users is the facility to have transactions checked by a third-party consultancy. Bank statements can be run through a computer system and the bank's processing charges verified.

We are in the process of doing this and even if it uncovers no challenges to the costs at least we shall know charges are accurate.

One last area of concern is the apparent reluctance to publish or notify in advance bank rate rises for certain processing. This is a major irritant, particularly in the case of non-contentious work where certain costs are reclaimed from the client and the work is done before the firm is notified of the rise.

All that is needed is an advance letter advising a price change. Surely easy enough for a large organisation?