Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Londonderry's Mr Mainwaring?


There is no doubt that banking has undergone remarkable changes over the last forty to fifty years. Interest rate swaps; currency swaps; commodity swaps; derivatives et alii would seem like the vocabulary of an extra terrestrial entity to the 1950's and 1960's bank manager. The recession has prompted calls for the return of old fashioned banking, but the traditional Bank manager as personified in the character of Mr Mainwaring will not return to our high streets. The Bank branch network is shrinking as people are prodded into using internet banking. Lending decisions are taken as the consequence of credit scores. Bank Managers now have very little autonomy. Knowing your account holders, their backgrounds and their families is no longer the important factor it once was. Banking is now a very objective exercise with little room for personal knowledge and other subjective imput.


It is nearly forty years since I opened a cheque account with the Ulster Bank. The branch manager who I saw for this momentous event was very definitely a traditional Bank Manager. Apart from the lack of a moustache he didn't look unlike Captain George Mainwaring. Berry Hackett, aka, "Laughing Boy," certainly had the same build as Mr Lowe. I can't remember when he was first appointed as manager, but I suspect that it was in the early 1960's. At that time there was a long polished mahogany banking counter in the Branch with the cashiers in cubicles, no security glass and no crocodile queuing. Very definitely another era, a time when Bank Managers were provided with a house by their Bank. If my memory serves the Ulster Bank had their manager's house on the Culmore Road.



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