My first week at Co-op Bank

by DannyUK

Saturday, 1.15pm and about 30 minutes ago I finished my first week at Co-op Bank.

As first weeks go, it’s been ok. Boring, but ok. There has been very little worry for me about what I’m doing, or what I will be doing as I have experienced in previous jobs. I’ve already identified who I reckon I’ll get on well with and who I won’t, though obviously these are just first impressions.

I started on Monday, turning up at 8.20am as requested, and rang the bell at the front of the branch. Helen opened the shutters and asked if I was Dan, before then doing the awkward “Should I call you Dan, Danny, Daniel… ?” to which I shot back the standard response of “Dan or Danny is fine. If you call me Daniel, it makes me think I’ve done something wrong.” This is a reference to being a kid when you’ve done something wrong and your parents shout at you using your full name: “DANIEL! What the Hell do you think you’re doing?”

Ironically, this was never something my mum did to me, but it seems to be an image that people can associate with, so it’s one I often roll out when meeting people. A couple of days later, though, and Helen pulled me to one side and asked me to just pick a name - Dan or Danny - as she was concerned she was calling me something I didn’t like. I reiterated that either was fine, but she continued to push for one or the other, so I told her to call me Dan, explaining that only people I know well call me Danny, and although I had no problem with the staff calling me Danny, I wouldn’t want the customers doing so. Helen seemed to accept this, thankfully and has now settled on calling me Dan.

My first day was spent on the middle floor of the building. That is the office side of things, with the bottom floor being the banking area (comprising of cashiers and five desks surrounding the counter where various members of staff sit, and this is where I will be based when I’m fully up and running. The top floor of the building is where the Corporate Banking team work, where the kitchen is situated and - bizarrely - where the only bin that we are allowed is situated.

No-one else in the branch seems to think that this is a strange arrangement, but I know from my days at Beneficial Finance that not having bins in a bank means there is less chance that paper will be thrown away in the general rubbish, which means that we are less likely to suffer a Data Protection breach.

I was introduced to the team amongst a flurry of acronyms, including CSA (Customer Service Advisor), SBA (Senior Branch Advisor) and GA (General Advisor). There were loads more, most of which I have forgotten, and even the three listed I’m not confident are correct. We use LMS which stands for Lead Generation System (Yes, I know, I spotted the error there too), and we book in customers for CSR (Customer Service Reviews) using the PB (Personal Banking, at a guess) and Pioneer systems.

We do Current Accounts, CAPs (Current Account Plus), Priv and Priv Prem (Privilege and Privilege Premier) accounts, which are the ones that incur a monthly fee.

We also do ISAs and FTDs (Fixed Term Deposits), as well as offering mortgage services and longer term investments through Rob at Britannia and Stuart who works for Axa. The upshot is that I have a vague grasp of what we do, but no real understanding of how we offer it and to what type of people.

The staff are all fairly friendly, with Helen, the Assistant Manager, having been with the bank since uni, starting there 19 years ago. Barbara works on the front desk as a GA (I think?) and has been there 30 or 40 years, Jenny also works as a GA and has been there for 13 years with Pat and Cathy also doing some fairly lengthy stints in the branch.

There’s also Shaunna (who I think is an SBA) who has been there for a year but is leaving next week to work in the City and Richard and Carly who work as cashiers and have been there just under 6 months. Charlie is the other cashier and seems to have been there for a year or so. Confusingly Charlie is going out with a guy called Danny, so every time she mentions her boyfriend, people glance at me and I do the embarrassed “it’s not me” thing with a laugh. (Kill me now.)

They’re all very friendly, and I definitely have a soft spot for Jenny who has a remarkable knack of seeming to know everything and being great with the customers. I shadowed her for a couple of days and she was remarkably patient, answering my ever-increasing questions as best she could.

Shaunna is strikingly attractive, knows the bank inside out (especially for someone who has only been there a year) and though she seems a little distant towards me, she is very friendly with most of the staff there, and gets on well with the customers too.

Jaz is another girl doing my role and is again someone who knows the ins and outs of things. She used to work as a cashier or GA and worked her way up, and although she seems to have the ability to switch between nice and approachable and fiery, she seems a decent enough girl. In fact, she reminds me somewhat of Darlene from Roseanne. I can already see that we’ll either get on really well or not at all. I’d be amazed if there was a natural middle ground.

Cathy is around 50 years old and seems to have spent my first week telling everyone how busy she is, and why she can’t possibly do certain things, even when she hasn’t been asked to. She has wound me up with this though obviously I’m just sitting back and not saying anything right now.

Today was the first time I have sat down with her while she was dealing with a customer, and she seemed nervous, even admitting that she disliked being watched, but was ultimately ok. When we have meetings she has another annoying habit of talking across people which is also infuriating.

My first week at Co-op Bank in Chelmsford - image taken by Mike Hedgethorne

The Co-op Bank in Chelmsford.

Helen comes across as very confident in what she does. She is a Romford girl and is open to having a laugh and a joke. She started by saying on Monday that if I needed anything from her, I should just ask. After asking once, and being told (politely) that she was busy, and then asking two days in a row whether she had sorted out my training course yet and being told that she hadn’t, I get the impression that she stresses easily and finds it hard to manage her time well.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but using the training course as an example, she only needed to give me the telephone number to call and I’d have chased it myself - something I offered to do when asking her, and eventually something I did anyway.

One thing that Helen does have going in my eyes is that she is open to suggestions, so when I recommend a way of doing something, knowing that I have a financial background, she takes what I have to say on board, and has already come back a couple of times to probe a little deeper. Whether that’s just lip service or not, I dare say I’ll find out in time.

Overall the branch seems well run. Whether that’s because it is, or whether I am being shielded from what’s going on in the background, I’ve no idea. Turning up for work on Thursday, the first thing said in our morning meeting was “Let’s just write yesterday off and forget about it!” - Everyone seemed to be in agreement though I hadn’t noticed the previous day was bad in any special way.

The job itself reminds me very much of what I did at Beneficial when I started 8 years ago (with the same wage too, something that I hate myself for). That means that I am feeling confident about doing well at it, especially when I have a few months under my belt and know the systems better.

There is talk of the Co-op taking over some C&G branches though no-one seems to know whether that means just the physical branch locations themselves (as I suspect) or the branches, staff and customers (which I doubt) and that this will lead to “further opportunities”. It’s a phrase which is often uttered and ultimately comes to little, and I suspect that as much as I want to progress, this will either come too soon for me to take advantage of, or not at all.

All I can do for now is to get my head down, take as much in as I can and do well. The company had a branch target that we need to hit, but seemingly no hard and fast individual targets, which seems strange. Though someone did say that the end of year pay reviews were done on individual performance, so that’s worth bearing in mind. For now, my first week at Co-op Bank has gone as well as I could expect it to, and I’m happy with things as they’re going at work.

Mood: Tired

Location: Costa, Chelmsford

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