Sell, Sell, Sell

I’m telling my story because the banking industry needs to change

Eight years after our nation’s financial meltdown, the big banks continue to mislead their customers. I know because I was on the frontlines of this predatory practice.

As a JP Morgan Chase personal banker in Dallas, my mandate was to sell, sell, sell. From the moment a customer entered the branch, my job was to find ways to upgrade an existing account to a bigger account — one that often came with a higher monthly recurring charge. I’d refer them to financial analysts and convince customers to get new loans, whether they could afford it or not. I was coached to enter false employment income in order to “qualify” customers for auto loans. The pressure for my branch to meet unrealistic sales goals was also so great that at one point in time my branch manager outright told me to open accounts at any cost, even if the customer presented me with false identification.

A new report, Banking on the Hard Sell, shows that I unfortunately was not alone. Several bank workers who have worked at the country’s largest financial institutions also said that their managers would look the other way on insufficient identification documentation. Wells Fargo employees reported unsavory sales tactics. A worker with experience at both SunTrust Bank and Bank of America recalled, “Managers really pushed me to ignore it when consumers say no.” One Bank of America manager reprimanded an employee for not pushing a new product on a customer who had just lost her job, telling the worker, “It’s not our responsibility for them to pay the bill, just to make the sale.”

Many times I knew that some of the products and services I was asked to sell were not a good fit for our customers. But if I didn’t attempt to pitch them, I risked discipline and even dismissal. In fact, my manager spelled it out loud and clear: sell or face unemployment.

No one should have to compromise their morals on the job. No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and acting unethically.

That’s why I recently traveled to Washington, DC, with current and former bank workers to brief members of Congress. Together with Committee for Better Banks, we explained the need to protect consumers and workers by crafting new regulations that cease predatory banking practices and aggressive sales metrics systems.

I traveled to our nation’s capitol to tell my story because the banking industry needs to change.

We must come together and relieve the sales pressure on employees. We should be able to provide our customers, the American public, with the banking help they need without worrying about losing our jobs if we do not open enough accounts or sell enough credit cards.