A new breed of bankers is bringing old-fashioned face-to-face support to the unlikeliest of places.
Alec James can sometimes be found in a café in one of Scotland’s most popular tourist towns, sipping from a cuppa and having a chat.
On other days he’s miles away, perhaps in another town’s library or the local leisure centre.
It might sound like he’s anywhere but at work.
In fact, Alec is one of Royal Bank of Scotland’s new breed of mobile ‘community bankers’ – and it turns out that the ‘office’ can be just about anywhere.
“On a typical day I might start off at a Job Centre delivering a presentation on how to spot and prevent scams to both the staff and the public,” he explains.
“Then I might pop into the main branch in Perth to meet the customers there.
“Or I might start the day with one of my regular ‘drop-in’ clinics in Aberfeldy’s Breadalbane Community Library, Pitlochry Library or the Royal Bank branch in Comrie.
“Other times I’ll be in a community centre or sitting in a cafe. I have a little lightbox with ‘Ask Alec’ on it,” he adds, “so if someone has a question – and it can be anything from how to pay a cheque in at the Post Office to how to set up internet banking – I can help.”
Alec is one of nearly 100 community bankers appointed by the bank to help bring it even closer to the people it serves.
Along with 21 mobile branches which travel between towns and villages, internet banking, the bank’s market leading app and, of course, its high street branches, the community bankers are a key component in ensuring customers have a wide range of options covering how and where they do their banking.
And with many transactions now carried out online, Alec and his fellow community bankers are bringing a particularly personal touch, helping to steer customers – and even non-Royal Bank customers – through the modern banking landscape at one-to-one sessions in locations that are close to home for most people.
As the community banker for Perth, Alec’s ‘beat’ covers some of Scotland’s most picturesque towns and villages. “I’m lucky, it is an absolutely stunning part of the country – and I get to travel around it,” says Alec.
“Although I have a set pattern of places to be throughout the week, every day is different. And there’s such a diverse range of customers; they might be looking for a financial health check, or want to know how to deal with scams and online security.
“It’s good to meet them face-to-face, particularly those who might not be able to travel to a branch, or might not be confident when it comes to ringing the bank’s customer service line or using other options such as the Post Office – where all Royal Bank customers can go for banking transactions.”
Community bankers can be found across the country – including some of Scotland’s larger towns and cities – often in public spots like coffee shops, local post offices, community centres and libraries. All have timetables and location maps which can be accessed online.
As well as offering support and advice to customers, they can arrange a meeting with a specialist advisor, or provide a financial ‘health check’ to ensure customers are getting the most from their money.
In many cases, they can provide a little extra help for customers who need a guiding hand through the new banking landscape or have worries over internet security.
Although they are in public places, the community bankers ensure that conversations are discreet and private, enabling them to cover a wide range of issues.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of helping vulnerable customers who may be housebound or not as active,” says Alec. “I can help get them set up with different ways of doing their banking which means they can retain control of their own finances and, in turn, remain independent.
“They can do their banking from their armchair and that’s something that brings a lot of comfort and peace of mind.”
Being available to customers is key, adds Alec, who encourages his customers to call his mobile or drop him an email if they can’t manage to his drop-in sessions.
“While online banking means so much can be done from home, people still want that personal touch when it comes to banking,” he adds.
“I aim to reach as many customers as possible, whether by being out with the mobile banking vans, in the branches or on the ‘streets’ at drop-in clinics.”
His role, he adds, is all part of a growing service which is designed to ensure Royal Bank customers have their banking needs covered – wherever they are.
“When you go through all the options that are available to customers – mobile, online, telephone, Post Office, mobile branches and community bankers – you can find a suitable scenario for just about every customers’ needs,” he adds.
Community bankers are just one of the many options available to Royal Bank of Scotland customers. Find out more about community bankers here.