Once upon a time, banks were at the centre of communities. The local bank manager was a well-known and respected figure, and it was possible to go into your branch and be greeted by name. Both personal and business accounts were administered by kindly, bespectacled clerks who were sympathetic to peoples' circumstances. All was well.
But that was long ago and far away. For many years, banks have turned their interests to complex financial systems and call centres with automated responses and interminable waiting times. Despite their adverts, with smiling bank staff singing rubbish versions of pop hits from 20 years ago, and grinning actors talking about "personal service", banks have lost their souls.
We now have the spectre of NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank wringing their hands and offering media apologies for a catastrophic breakdown of their systems. Millions of people have no idea what is happening to their accounts. There still has been no clear explanation of what went wrong. I'm surprised that it took several days until RBS chief executive Stephen Hester issued an apology to customers. He should have spoken out immediately the problem was observed. That's what CEOs should do. A statement on the RBS website says "We can assure our customers that this problem is strictly of a technical nature..". I have no idea what that means, or how is is supposed to reassure anyone. Do they mean no humans were involved? Was it those pesky computers that did it?
The thing is, banks lost sight of the interests of their personal and small business customers years ago. If this glitch had affected systems that service massive international money movements, it would have been fixed very quickly. The whole shambles is evidence that banking makes you go blind.