The Hightower Report
Oh joy – the branch bank of the future is here!
The giant banks that wrecked our economy are thriving today, thanks to public funds that Washington continues to make available to them, even as the middle class continues to sink. Yet, those same narcissistic bankers wonder why they are so despised by the public.
But, wait – some of the giants now have a plan to reach out to you common wretches and make you feel all warm and fuzzy about them. Get ready to welcome the new "neighborhood bank," the return of convenient, brick-and-mortar branches right where you live. For example, JPMorgan Chase, the nation's biggest banker, sees these facilities becoming community centers, like the old corner banks with countertops of cool marble and friendly tellers who knew you by name.
Only ... no tellers will actually be present. Rather, the "branch of the future," as JPMorgan refers to its new edifices, are to be electronic centers, with the hip feel of an Apple Store. You'll do most transactions yourself on automated machinery that offers the same personal touch you get from, say the ticket machine in a subway station. Oh, you can, of course, still chat with a teller, only he or she will be off-site (perhaps even offshore), coming to you through the warm glow of a video screen.
In fact, that human disconnect is the whole idea behind these reinvented neighborhood branch banks – why pay people to handle your withdrawals, sign you up for loans, or just generally relate to you? With computers, the banks can make you do their work, and still sock you with transaction fees, meaning more money being siphoned out of your neighborhood and transferred to the banks' faraway executives and wealthy investors.
JPMorgan's head of consumer banking, who's overseeing this project, confesses that, "To be honest, we don't know if we have it right." Trust me, sir: You don't.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown" – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.