The changing face of banking

All of the nation’s banks are desperately trying to convince us that they are moving with the times to serve us better, and most of them are. Electronic banking, telephone banking and numerous other new services usually do make life a little easier.

ING Direct, Canada’s newest branchless bank, has gone one step further than the pack with its cafés in Toronto and Vancouver. As the bank says, lattes and loans are now being served. There is a certain irony here, of course, when a “branchless” bank sets up in a coffee shop.

As ING President Arkadi Kuhlmann says in the company’s press release, “How do you talk with (people) about saving money? Over coffee of course. And our café is serving up more than coffee – it’s a place designed to empower consumers to speak out about traditional banking, learn there are alternatives and take charge of their finances.”

All well and good, and ING is to be applauded for their efforts to shake up Canada’s stodgy banks. What’s strange is that a “branchless” bank is setting up a retail operation, while other banks are closing branches across the county. This retail cross-pollination is a disturbing trend, which began when McDonald’s startedelling pizza, Tim Horton’s went into soup and chili, and drug stores started selling cell phones.

I knew it had gone too far when the Italian restaurant down the street began advertising “the city’s best fish and chips”. Really? I don’t think so. Everyone knows that the Bank of Nova Scotia makes the best fish and chips.