Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Banking for Grownups

“Thanks, Mary,” the friendly bank teller said to me this morning after I handed over some money to deposit. I always hate it when people call me Mary; I liked it even less today. As a serious customer with some unexpected money from my daddy who died in August, I should have been Ms. Spence this morning—that’s how serious I was feeling.

I then moved over to meet with a friendly banker to open up a savings account. Patricia, the personal-banker-in training greeted me politely. “Hello, Mary.” I told her that my first name was Mary Gordon.

“How was your weekend?” my new personal banker asked me as she looked at my accounts online. “Weekend?” I repeated in disbelief. “Today is Wednesday; I don’t much remember the weekend.” That’s when Patricia giggled and told me that today was her first day back from the weekend. “It’s so great to have time off,” she told me with a smile. “You know, you can get so many things done. Oh, and I don’t have to work this Saturday—that will be great.” I didn’t reply.

“What are your plans for the rest of your day?” Patricia asked me with a smile as she was retrieving some forms for my new account, “and your plans for the coming weekend?” I looked at her and told her I didn’t know. “Maybe you’ll get to go home and relax,” she said. “How has your day been so far today?”

I ignored that and wished that she would take care of business instead of continuing this idle chitchat. She busied herself for a few minutes, and then asked me, “So, are you from Austin?” Trying to be polite and hold up my end of the conversation I told her I had been here a long time. Then, Patricia, my new way-too-personal banker asked me about the weather. “It’s really cloudy outside, isn’t it? Do you know what the weather’s going to be for the rest of the day and for the weekend?”

Maybe it was because I was sad about my daddy’s dying and maybe it was because I had come to my bank to talk about my money, and maybe because I was feeling way too grown up and yet at the same time like a child—for whatever reason, I acted like an adult instead of like Patricia the child was acting. “Look, Patricia, this money transaction is a very big deal to me, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

I didn’t say another word, and neither did she. Within seconds, Patricia was transformed into a professional banker who seemed to take her work and my situation seriously. Soon, she had done everything to complete my banking transactions. I thanked her, stood up and shook her hand. That’s when she told me to have a good weekend.

I sat back down. “Patricia,” I said in my most serious voice. “I imagine that you’ll make a really good banker, but there’s one thing you need to be aware of. People talk to you because they need your help—your professional help. We don’t come to talk about the weather or the weekend, and we don’t want to hear about how you would rather be away from work rather than helping us. So my advice to you is that you focus on the professional needs of your clients.”

I was as shocked as she was that I had said those things. But I meant it, and I could tell that she got it. She thanked me for my advice. I could hear her talking to the next customer; she sounded all grown up and professional.

Still, I’m wondering what she’s been doing the rest of her day, and what her plans are for the weekend. Growing up is hard for all of us.


  1. I think you did the exact right thing. Let's hope Patricia gets it. And you're right she'll be a better banker for it.

    Sorry about your father.

  2. Sorry to hear about your Father. I know how difficult that can be.

  3. Howdy, Mary Gordon!

    Wanted to wave and say it was brilliant to meet you last night during Jeremy's delightful guidance... And after reading your post about "Thanks, Mary" I wanted to wave a sorry for calling you Mary on first encounter! Please don't be a stranger! Cheers... -gtr

  4. ...and I'm sorry to hear about your Dad. I hear he was an incredible man and character...

  5. Superb job in doing what you did. All of us need to be very aware of that fine line.