The story behind the story (3) Breaking the Bank
Having worked in banking for thirty-six years, a story about the financial services industry was to some extent going to be home-from-home. The challenge, however, was to make it interesting for non-bankers.
The story follows the trials of an ordinary bank manager in an ordinary community in the north of England. I deliberately set the book in the mid-nineties to capture the culture of the time, so the reader can learn at first-hand the reasons for the mis-selling scandal that would hit the banks over a decade later.
Martin Brazier, the manager in question, knows how to play the game, and is not averse to helping himself to some of the perks of the job, notably the new graduate trainee who will do ‘anything’ to forward her career. The book is, occasionally, hedonistic but reflects accurately the culture prominent at the time. Achieving targets was everything; lucrative bonuses were, after all. available for those who attained their goals, the work-hard, play-hard ethic was evident. For others, it was a miserable existence. Bullying, coercion and subterfuge was part-and-parcel of everyday life and many of the extreme management behaviours reflected in the story are based on first-hand experiences and observations.
I regularly use these anecdotes in the management training courses I deliver as examples of how NOT to manage people. Bizarrely, these practices were deemed to be successful as they produced results. Unfortunately, no-one seemed to consider the wider implications, miss-selling, stress, high-turnover, increased disciplinary and grievance cases and so on.
As the story progresses, the appearance of a sleazy local club owner, who has his own reasons for opening an account at Brazier’s branch, adds tension to the storyline as the plot moves in a different direction. Pressure to hit targets results in less-than-satisfactory investigations into the background of this new customer. The tension mounts as we learn of the true intentions of the club owner; money-laundering is the least of his modus operandum.
The book chronicles real events into a fictional story, I wanted to expose the effect poor management has on behaviours of their teams. There are some salutary lessons for anyone in business or organisational leadership roles.
Readers reviews: ‘Having worked in the banking system I can relate to the background culture that was prevalent in 1990s / 2000s, and in other sectors, and I feel I have met the characters. The storyline takes us through an emotional roller coaster of emotions, excitement and despair, hedonistic fun and shattering sadness... recommended’
‘A great read, taking you behind the banking counter of the late 90's. Whether fiction or fact for those that worked in banking during the period much of this book will ring bells in abundance. For those that didn't work in the industry, prepare to be shocked.’