A Fool and His Money (Part 1)


Beware the cheating heart.


I’ve been reading with increasing frequency that it’s a fabulous time to negotiate a better interest rate with your lender.

In a world first, Choice has gone one step further by grouping borrowers for a better deal.

Their target was 1000 people prepared to look at switching loans.

In the first three days, they clocked 10,000.

Very interesting.

Back Story

I’m one of those morons who plays by the rules and believes what people say.

Having exhausted traditional communication channels, I took up my bank’s offer to chat via online banking.

After several weeks and follow ups, I got three phone calls from three bank staff in one day.

They began by saying they were recording me for training purposes.

I replied that I was recording them for blogging purposes.

They then said that:

  1. The lending market had indeed become more competitive.
  2. I was a valuable customer that they wanted to keep.
  3. To this end, they wanted to do the best they could for me.

I thanked them and said what I wanted: the same interest rate that their online subsidiary bank was offering, i.e. a 0.48% reduction that’d save me $2000 per year in interest.

They said that because their online subsidiary was run by IT staff – not banking staff – I wouldn’t get the same service.

I replied that, having enjoyed no service for many years, I wouldn’t miss it.

Then they said their subsidiary wasn’t for business owners like me.

I said that if they looked after me now, I’d stay with them and let them handle my investments in the future.

They said they’d get back to me.

They didn’t.


Gloves Off

Finally, I got fed up and tweeted:

My bank’s ‘Mortgage Retention Team’ isn’t even retenting my phone calls. Could be time for http://bit.ly/nzGKb8

Then I signed up and tweeted:

Right. I’m in. Who’s with me? http://www.choice.com.au/consumer-action/money/big-bank-switch/choice-big-bank-switch.aspx

Minutes later, my bank tweeted:

Hi Paul, saw your tweet – can I help from here? Pls follow so we can DM* & I’ll have our team follow up for you, thanks!

This was new. My bank must’ve had a keyword watching brief. I was impressed, but wary. Deciding to test their mettle, I tweeted:

Nice to hear from you! Back stories @ http://bit.ly/YN1z2 & http://bit.ly/aw6baO Still interested? Or am I a too-hard-basket case? :)

As we were chatting in the public domain, with feeds to my 16000 Twitter followers, I thought that’d be the end of it. But the bank replied:

Yes, I’m still interested & want to see how I can help – let’s DM & I’ll escalate to our team :)

I stood on the brink.

Phone calls had failed.

Online banking messages had failed.

Could social media be my salvation?

I had to find out.

So I followed^ my bank, enabling them to DM me.

And DM they did!


<<<<<<    INTERMISSION     >>>>>>

Exciting isn’t it?!

Have you had a word with your bank yet?

How’d you go?

If not, what’s stopping you?

Could your business not benefit from reduced interest payments?

Your comment will inform and perhaps even shape this narrative.

A bit like …

choose your own




Want more?  Head here for Part Two….


| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire


*  DM = Send a direct message (i.e. one not visible to the public).

^  Became one of their Twitter followers, thus enabling them to DM me.

  • Woohoo, first article on the new Pulse – nice one Paul!
    FYI Emma, the email notification of the topic took me to the old SBO blog, with a link at the bottom to the Pulse website for the comments feature. But the link was for the homepage which had no mention of Paul’s fine article, and I had to accidentally wander onto the Business menu to find it.

    Anyway, re the CHOICE mortgage switch things, take a look at this: http://www.barefootinvestor.com/choice-big-bank-switch-trap/ Turns CHOICE are raking in the bank’s commissions on your new mortgage. Just in case you weren’t aware – it’s not really publicised.


  • Nice piccie, Emma! You have quite an eye. Fingers crossed our readers make the trek from the old site to this beaut new space. :)

  • Thanks Sonia! You’ll still be receiving the Small Business Owner email notifications for now, as we’ll be posting across both sites to make sure people can still find us in the crossover. The Pulse link should have taken you to the homepage, but there should have been another ‘you can join the conversation here’ link at the bottom that took you direct to Paul’s masterpiece. Will get the ‘Internet Investigative’ squad onto it this morning!

  • Hiya, Sonia! I was wondering who (if anyone!) would be first. You didn’t let us down. :)

    Thank you for that disturbing link. I can’t quite believe Choice would bugger up their brand like that. It’s the sort of trick you can only do once. I look foward to hearing what finer minds than mine think of the mechanics of this deal.

    Best regards and thanks again for your support! :)

  • Thanks for the link Sonia! I can’t quite get my head around that one, Paul’s right, surely the short term gain isn’t worth alienating customers??

    Interestingly, I never have an issue getting through to banks/phone companies/electricity companies. This isn’t raw luck, however, more to do with the fact that I always press the ‘New Account Enquiries’ when asked for the purpose of my call. Surprising how quickly your call is answered when the possibility of hitting their daily sales targets is presented…

    I’m also a big fan of the ‘that’s very disappointing. Can you please put me through to your cancellations department’. Believe it or not, cancelling your account is a more traumatic process than a relationship break up, and they’ll throw pretty much everything, including their first born child, at you to stop you leaving, if you dig your heels in a little. ‘don’t leave me, PLEASE! Here…take the first two months free, with no account fees and a free Coles Myer gift card, just don’t LEAVE ME!!!’

  • Hello,

    As an avid follower and semi-regular commentor to Paul’s blog I am curious about this new direction in terms of moving the blog to the Pulse.

    I went to the old MYOBnet page today to leave a comment and found I had to come here to do it.

    What happens to the content from MYOBnet? Will it be migrated to The Pulse? I think it should as I do like to search older blog entries from time to time. Continuity is important I think.

    Also, as an aside, I think the comments guidelines at the bottom of this page are a little terse. And there is a typo.

    Now, to the topic of the day. I recently deposited a foreign currency cheque at my local branch. While they faffed about trying to work out how to handle it they mentioned it would take up to two months to clear and they couldn’t tell me the exact costs involved. I found this unfathomable. So, while waiting in the branch, I jumped onto facebook on my iPhone and started a live commentary of proceedings on the bank’s facebook page wall. Whoever was monitoring the facebook page responded virtually instantly and suggested we discuss things further “offline”. Banks hate bad PR, of course. I think shaming them publicly is a useful tactic. I have also found simply demanding something rather than asking works too, but you may have to prepared to walk if they don’t come to the party. In the case of $2K per year it’s worth walking, despite the inconvenience. I think banks bank on the general apathy of their customers. We think they are all crap so their is no point in changing. This is not true! Play them against each other and they will scramble to keep your business, especially if you owe them money.

    • Hi Jason, thanks for stopping by!

      Based on the success of Paul’s fabulous posts and the Small Business Owner blog, we decided to give it an upgrade and revamp – no-one goes through life with the same haircut, after all! :) This post from a few weeks ago explains our plans in greater detail.

      We have no intention of removing all the great content…and more importantly the fantastic comment conversations on the SBO blog, for now it will remain live while we work out the best way of migration. We’ll make sure to keep you all in the loop as we progress with this one. Thanks also for your feedback on our new site, we’re looking forward to you all helping us shape it into a great place to visit!

      You’re absolutely right in terms of using social media to connect with the banks. I’ve had some success in getting a few things changed, and getting a prompt call back when voicing my opinion in the social realm for all to see! Interesting that they seem to be investing so much time and effort into customer service on social networks, but none into their phone, online or ‘real world’ channels. Surely it’s far better to have a satisfied customer, than to spend the time and effort turning an angry Twitter user into a satisfied customer?

      • You said it, Emma. Thanks, Jas! :)

      • Hi Emma,

        I don’t buy the haricut analogy. Consistency and familiarity are key ingedients in successfully engaging and holding web users. Confusion = frustration = I won’t bother.

        I would suggest that content migration is something to plan and execture BEFORE a new site goes live, not after.

      • Upon reflection, my comment is a bit harsh. So I humbly apologise and offer some potential solutions by way of making it up to you.

        Both the old blog and the new one will have some sort of backend database which hold all the content. A skilled database developer or DBA would probably be able use use an existing tool or develop one that could extract the data from the old database, transform it into the new database format,and load it into the new database.

        There may even be a tool that allows this to be done from a higher layer than the database itself.

        If this is not technically feasible or you don’t have access to the databases for some reason then a blog post and its associated comments could be block copied from one site to the other. This will require some manual work, some granularity will be lost and internal links would need to be manually reconstructed (external links should be fine). Not he most elegant solution but still highly effective.

        :) Jas.

      • Also, rather than landing on the old site and then having to click through to the new site where the content is repeated, you may as well direct all traffic directly to the new site. You could perhaps still land on a simple information page on the old site with the same look and feel that explains the change, and then automatically redirect to the new site in a few seconds once the visitor has had time to read the message that the old site has moved. Thsi will make things smoother I think.

    • Absolutely agree with you there, consistency and familiarity are key ingredients. So is ensuring that the user experience and back end technology is seamless and up-to-date, and unfortunately these ingredients don’t always go hand in hand! :) Really appreciate the time you’ve taken to leave feedback, it’s always great to know where we can make improvements, which is not always easy to spot in your own project! It wasn’t too harsh – though I will agree to disagree with you on the haircut analogy. I like that one :)

      Some great solutions there, many of which our online crew are currently investigating. Do you know if these also allow for comments to be migrated across? After consultation with the Small Business Owner readers, it’s clear that they really want to keep their comments and conversations with the posts, in tact. Fair enough too, given that they’re (nearly!) as great as Paul’s post itself.

      • I would expect a solution can be found that preserves posts and associated comments. At the database level there is a “one to many” relationship between them. One post can have many comments. That connection could probably be maintain wokring at the DB level.

      • You’re very kind, Emma. Many has been the time I’ve thought the comments wiped the floor with my post! :)

  • I’m really interested to hear how the bank continues the conversation Paul. I have a similarish experience with Optus. Their phone customer service is oookay/good enough, their in store service is downright appalling and their twitter team KICKS ASS.

    The Optus social media team is the glue keeping us together and I just make sure I avoid going in store because it’s like being at the club when the lights come up at 3am… a rude awakening!

    Why can’t businesses get all their customer service teams working in sync? Singing from the same hymn sheet and walking to the same beat (I’ll stop now). I think that’s a huge challenge organisations face once they introduced social media into their customer service.

    • Agreed Belinda – I have a similar issue with my mobile provider. They have SHOCKING online/phone customer service. But whenever I vent my frustrations on Twitter, I receive an instant response, from someone who can’t do enough to help me resolve my issue. I don’t understand this direction? Surely it’s better to have them all working together?? Or have service providers just jumped on the social bandwagon, and are enthusiastic because it’s the flavour of the month? Can we expect the service levels on social networks to head steadily south, as the newness fades away?

    • I can only assume bad service = more profit. If you can generate more revenue or reduce costs with all but one of your service channels and then only really concentrate on the one that may result in the most loss or damage (the most public one), then it makes sense from a bottom line perspective. And we must not forget that with public companies shareholder value, and therefore the bottom line, is the most important thing.

    • Thank you, Belinda. I’m greatly looking forward to finishing the story. Who knows what may transpire over the next few days? :)

  • Malcolm Owens

    Great post as always Paul. Banks are a never ending source of frustration for a variety of reasons and if they spent less time and effort trying to make cute and clever ads with dogs and redirected some of the time, effort and funds into improving service then things will be better.

    I noticed on the weekend that some banks (in Doncaster Shoppingtown) were open on Saturday morning – now that is a great benefit to us who work full time. Doesnt have to be every branch but having that option is great. Interesting to see how the revival of the Bank of Melbourne goes! They used to be good …

    • Thanks for making your way over here, Malcolm! I appreciate your loyalty. I’ve been similarly impressed with the new weekend banks: http://bit.ly/bTNFxM

      Ironically, I saved my first (only!) home deposit with Bank of Melbourne. I also remember them being really good guys.

      One would think, with your extensive property portfolio, that you could single-handedly create a better deal for yourself and the rest of us. But I take it, from our chats over the years, that this has not been the case.

    • Hi Malcom – you found us! So glad to have you here.

      Banks are now open on Saturday mornings? Yikes. I’ve clearly been living under a rock (or need to get up earlier on Saturday :)). I’ve noticed the big move towards posting the Bank Manager’s mobile number on the side of the window in an effort to look ‘personal and available’. Could they be in danger of over promising and under delivering, yet again? (I think Paul’s earlier post on this one says it better than I ever could!). Is the bank manager really available ‘whenever’ to chat to me about my banking needs?

      You know what? I’m off to suss it out. I’m thinking that 8pm Saturday night is a suitably inappropriate time…

  • Malcolm Owens

    I spread my loans around which may sound counter productive but I found the Bank of Queensland to be excellent for Queensland properties (local feel like Bank of Melbourne had here), several with Commonwealth where I have access to a personal banker and one with Westpac.

    I found you can actually get a better deal this way. Sounds crazy I know!

    • I didn’t know that. Fascinating. Perchance were you good at Monopoly as a kid?

      • Malcolm Owens

        No, I always preferred the thrills and spills of real life!

    • Does it make it easier to switch loans between banks, Malcolm? That being because if you already have one loan at one bank it’s easier to make it bigger or add a second one?

  • Man, I just heard from my accountant. I need to cough up an extra $5,200. A $2,000 interest saving would be REALLY good right now … :(

    • Oh dear. Remind me never to visit your accountant! :)

      • Oh, it’s totally not his fault. He’s a master. It’s due to my GFC recovery. Having a hell year reset my contribution rates. This year has been much better, so I owe more. I shouldn’t complain at all, really. It’s just that everyone likes a tax refund …

  • In setting up some new businesses, it has been interesting trying to ‘follow up’ on the business banking solutions that all the big 4 advertise so ferociously.

    Walking into branches of all the big 4 – not one had a person there who could help me. Always a business card, and a promise of a follow-up (that happened 1/4).


  • To complete the previous (mods, if you can stitch them together..)

    I walked into Bendigo Bank, and they had personal, effective service. Explained things, and the service on phone, in person and internet was top notch. Guess where I set up my business accounts??

    BIg 4 – promised a lot with fancy ads – failed to deliver. What a let down.

  • Great to see you in our new space, Phil. I sure do hear your words. The big 4 will be kicking themselves when your two new businesses start pulling the BIG bucks. Best regards, P. :)

  • Hey, Emma; it seems many of our regular contributors are off their faces. Got any tips on how to restore their smiling avatars? :)

    • They are indeed! To the best of my tech knowledge, your avatar should carry across WordPress, as long as you’re using the same email address as you used to log into the SBO blog. They can also sign in with Facebook, which is an option next to the Log In link, which will grab their image from Facebook.

  • Good for you Paul. Speaking to another Social Media expert this week they told me that lots of these big providers are looking at SM as a way to tap the conversations that are going on. Put the pressure on them mate and tell them how influential you are. Hopefully you can get much more than the online rate.

    Whilst it is disappointing that these institutions didn’t give you anything other than a loan for so many years I wouldn’t expect that the new provider will do anything different should you move. The rate will/may be better but after the paperwork is all complete and they have their commission, it will be on to the next customer.

  • Thank you, Arthur. The SM angle is certainly novel. So novel, there are significant disconnects between old and new channels (as tomorrow’s post will illustrate).

    Rather than use this blog as a blunt instrument, I try to explain to service providers that doing the right thing will result in them being showered with glory.

    Watch this space! :)

  • Dennis Calderbank

    Hi Paul, I have read with interest your battle with the banking industry and your bank in particular. Make for very good reading, but as a finance broker of 15 years experience, I think you should and could take control of your own dilema and make the banks pay by parting with as little interest as possible over the life of the loan. It’s a very simple equation. I specialise in helping folk get their “burden” off their backs as soon as is humanly possible by paying more into the loan than is required without affecting your current lifestyle but it takes commitment and persistence to get the job done. You are no doubt, a man of high intelligence and could easily handle this your self so I’m going to tell you the bare facts and see if it doesn’t work for you! Just this advice a 3 month trial and see how much you have reduced the balance by instead of paying as per the bank’s requirements which no doubt will take 30 years and 3 times the purchase price interest almost. Simply do an accurate budget, identify your (hopefully) surplus cash and apply that to your repayments. Good luck! Dennis.

  • Dear Dennis, I’m so sorry I only just spotted your comment! I believe the team is still tinkering with the email alert system.

    I’m delighted to have your professional perspective. Happily, we’ve smacked our home loan down so hard that we’re several years ahead of schedule.

    The line of credit is more problematic, given its effortless redraw. That said, whenever anything new comes into the house these days, I flog TWO things on ebay. Not only is this giving us more air to breathe (and fewer things to trip over at night) I’m channelling sale proceeds into loan retirement.

    Budgeting is such a bugger. I totally see the wisdom of your words. But do I have the discipline? Let me have a think. Best regards and thanks again! :)