Tuesday, November 23, 2010
IN OLDEN DAYS
This weekend I found myself telling true tales about events in my life as a banker. These I had not been given reason to recall in a very long time.
1968 found me taking my first banking course. The professor teaching the class had told us some outrageous predictions involving the future of banking. This instructor, a banker himself, told our class of skeptical minds that the day was coming when everyone would have a plastic card, much like a credit card, but this card would access our personal checking accounts. This card, he told us, would eventually eliminate the need for anyone to write checks or carry cash. This check-card would enable us to go up to any machine and purchase even a can of soda pop. The cost then of that carbonated drink would come directly out of our checking accounts. This classroom of modern day, upcoming bankers burst into laughter at the absurdity. After all most of us had only been introduced to desk top computers in the workplace and we were still struggling to learn how to use them.
I was glad that I had this class because in the late 1970's my employer asked me to take the responsibility of installing our bank's first ATM (Automated Teller Machine). We were a front runner in that field and it was my duty to see that the machine was installed and up and running in a timely manner. I was required to determine the software, the hardware, the physical building of the machine casing at the front door of our facility, work with the telephone company for the connections and make the arrangements with all vendors involved with the installation. I was also my responsibility to make arrangements for making the cards and getting them to our customers and encouraging them to use these debit cards. (Getting anyone to use these very strange cards was the most difficult part.)
The ATM was ready to go and it only made sense that I be responsible for the maintenance and repair. The rest of the bank staff was not familiar with the machine and this left me responding to the machine calling my pager for repairs at all hours of the day and night. As a single mom with two small children at home, this meant getting the kids out of bed and taking them with me to the bank to implement the needed solution. After doing this on my own for several months it became clear to management that this probably was a dangerous job for a young woman with children to complete on her own and new protocol was implemented. All of the bank officers would be required to train on machine repairs and take turns carrying the pager plus no calls would be answered after midnight. It was not a happy time for the other members of the repair party and the louder the complaints and the more powerful the voices, better remedies were soon found.
Little by little other banks became involved and more ideas for servicing these machines came into being and now, as you know, armored cars do most of the servicing of these machines.
I was telling this story to a young woman who could not imagine a time without debit cards and ATM machines. This young woman had a job that required her to be out at night and go in and out of a facility in the dark. Sometimes it required her, a single mom, to take her young daughter with her and this mom was extra cautious and concerned about their safety. So while a lot has changed over the years and banking and computers have progressed, single parents are still required to make scary sacrifices for their daily bread.