Lloyds’ branch networks are under immense pressure. A combination of complicated systems and products, too few staff, superficial training, inexperience and managers being stretched far too thinly across groups of branches means inevitably that mistakes are going to be made and security put at risk. The state of the network is a perfect storm of the Bank’s own making, yet who bear blame when overburdened staff can’t cope and mistakes ensue? Ordinary staff of course and managers, not the people who created the problem in the first place!
A Lloyds member was accused of allowing a withdrawal when she shouldn’t have done. What her managers and other specialists spotted immediately was a flaw in the Bank’s systems whereby inadequate guidance was provided to the member of staff where there was a recoveries override warning and, with no managers present, she was left to decide what to do. We are not going to explain more about this for obvious security reasons.
It was clear that Lloyds has assumed much more knowledge than many junior staff possess and that, in the absence of managers, it has been expecting (hoping might be a more appropriate word!) that they would know what to do, rather than giving unambiguous, explicit guidance.
This is a failure of management and, applying the thinking Lloyds has applied against staff in disciplinary cases, an FCA Conduct Rule breach because senior managers in Lloyds have failed and continue to fail to act with appropriate ‘skill, care and diligence’ in managing the network. But nothing will be heard of this because the culprits reside in Gresham Street and therefore are above criticism!
In another recent case, a member who transferred to work in a Halifax Branch from Lloyds in 2021, was alleged to have failed to observe the necessary ATM security protocols and was accused of gross misconduct. She was so disgusted with the treatment she received that she resigned from the Bank. Halifax then attempted to stop the disciplinary process (which should never have started in the first place) but the member has insisted on going through with it to make her point and shine a spotlight on the lack of clear guidance and supervision for staff. Since the member had been acting in exactly the same way and following the same system for maintaining ATMs since her transfer, without any managerial intervention, it came as a nasty shock to be told she had committed an act of gross misconduct.
And the managers involved could hardly be blamed. They were being pulled from pillar to post to cover gaps elsewhere created by planned and deliberate understaffing. Had they been present regularly the alleged breaches of security might have been identified but even that’s not certain given the stripping out of knowledge and experience in the network in recent years.
Perhaps most surprising of all was the suggestion, in another case where there had been a cash loss, that a CSA should have organised and carried out a bag check on other members of staff when it was discovered that money had gone missing. It should be obvious that this sort of action is a management task and certainly not one for a CSA who is neither paid nor authorised to act as a manager or police officer! One wonders how other staff, some of whom had already left anyway, would have reacted to this assumption of power by one of their peers. CSAs can’t be expected to do the jobs of managers or the CID, simply because Lloyds has cut numbers past a tipping point in pursuit of cost savings and higher profits.
It’s all too easy for the Bank to point the finger at individuals for their alleged mistakes, but the blame clearly does not lie with branch staff. Nor does it lie with local managers who obviously are doing their best with limited time and resources. The blame ultimately lies with the most senior managers in the bank: its Executive Committee and the Lloyds Group Board.
Top Management Run The Bank
This is of course stating the obvious. But Lloyds top management can’t and aren’t going to have it both ways.
It is right for management to decide how organisations should run. Consultation with stakeholders (like staff) is important but a democratic structure that may work in the local golf club is unlikely to work in a large business that’s subject to the constantly shifting pressures of change and competition.
But having a more or less unbridled right to manage and no opposition from Accord and Unite, who it is supposed to consult under their ludicrous partnership arrangements, Lloyds management are solely accountable for what goes wrong. Yes, staff do sometimes make mistakes but the environment in which they work has been ‘designed’ by the people at the top and if their managerial decisions have made mistakes more likely they, not poorly paid junior staff, should shoulder the responsibility.
If Lloyds was prepared to accept higher error rates and losses to capture larger scale cost savings, that might be a rational management choice; but it won’t happen. Ordinary staff and managers will continue to carry the blame for mistakes unless top management decisions come under much more careful scrutiny and they start earning their money.
Implications For Customers
Not only are staff suffering in this environment, but inevitably customers will suffer too. The FCA expects all Bank staff to pay due regard to the interests of customers and treat them fairly and one has to question whether, in making the branch changes they have, senior managers in Gresham Street have created an environment that allows these conduct obligations to be met?
The FCA has drawn a tighter focus on driving up standards of consumer protection across the financial services industry with the Treating Customers Fairly regime and the newly introduced ‘Consumer Duty’. How can the Bank reliably deliver good outcomes to consumers if it’s failing to staff and manage its branch network properly?
These are significant and fundamental issues which need to brought to public attention. We will not sit back and let members take the blame for problems that the Bank has brought on itself.
Our next newsletter will offer a great deal more detail and although security considerations mean that some things can’t appear in print, you can help our campaign by telling us what’s happening in your area. Anything you report will be received in strict confidence and we will ensure your identity is protected.