How to Survive an Encounter at a Big Bank

‘We are all doing it’: Employees at Canada’s 5 big banks speak out about pressure to dupe customers
— Go Public - CBC News, March 2017*

A friend of mine walked into a Big Bank to make a simple change to one of his accounts. Three hours later, he walked out with a credit card, line of credit, RESP accounts for the kids, and a low-interest savings account TFSA! Make no mistake, walk into one of the Big Banks and you too might become a salesperson's dinner. 

Before you find yourself inside one of Canada's Big Banks for whatever reason (changing currency, depositing coins etc.), familiarize yourself with some survival tips:

1) Identify

It's not easy these days to identify the different roles of bank employees. What the nametag or business card says could just be a fancy term for "salesperson". While there might be some genuinely nice and well-meaning customer service reps and "advisors" at the bank, often the main loyalty is to their own job and company. While you may feel there should be some legal obligation for them to offer you advice in your best interests, currently there really is none.

Pro Tip: Any employee from the bank (from teller to VP) will be biased and loyal to bank products. Understand this and take product recommendations with a cautious eye (and calculator).

2) Stay Prepared

The best way to navigate through the forest is with a map, a compass, and an understanding of the terrain (or in 2017, mobile GPS). Similarly, before you visit the bank, determine your purpose for the visit and stick to it. Also, know and understand what products you already have so you can be confident in what you need and more importantly, don't need.

Pro Tip:  Keep a clear and running net worth statement along with products and services that you already subscribe to (credit cards, line of credit, investments, insurance etc.) 

3) Encountering a Salesperson

Don't make eye contact, walk away slowly (Haha, just kidding.....). Be polite but do understand that this person is trained to sell you high-fee products you might not need. 

Pro Tip: Here are some tried and true tactics to get you out of the situation or buy you some more time. "I'll need to talk to my spouse....", "Thank you for the information, I'll need some time to think about it....", "I will be consulting my fee-for-service financial advisor to see if this product fits within our plan." 

4) If charged

Okay, so you got mauled. Leaving the bank with a $25,000 line of credit and another credit card, you feel confused and betrayed. Fear not - most of these things can be reversed or canceled.  Terms will vary from product to product, but even most bank mutual funds allow you to sell after a 30-day period with no penalty fees. 

Pro Tip: Consult your financial plan and determine if your new products are a good fit.  If not, go back to the bank and get rid of them. (Start over at Step 1.)

Thanks Art of Manliness for these helpful bear tips!

Thanks Art of Manliness for these helpful bear tips!

Go Public, March 2017, see CBC articles here