The Big Banking Chat: How to talk to your bank

No one should be scared of starting a conversation with their bank—here’s our guide on doing it with confidence.
4 min read
Talking to your bank should be the easiest thing in the world. Whether you’ve got a problem or just want some advice on handling your finances in a smarter way, it shouldn’t be difficult to come out of the conversation with the guidance you needed.But for too many of us this just isn’t the case. Our research into people’s attitudes towards banking revealed just 31 percent of consumers across Europe and the US felt in control when they last spoke to their bank. That’s far less than those who associated a negative emotion with talking to their bank, with 43 percent of us feeling frustrated, nervous, worried or annoyed. This leads to people avoiding talking to their bank and burying their head in the sand rather than addressing issues. And that’s not ok—your bank shouldn’t just be someone you go to to have difficult conversations when you’ve exhausted every other option, but a source of guidance and advice to help you resolve problems before they get out of hand.

Barriers to success

What’s causing these conversations to go so badly wrong? The central problem is the nagging sense that the customer and the bank are having two completely different conversations. It would be great if banks would use the same language we all do to talk about money, but the technical jargon and the complexity of the forms we have to fill out adds layer after layer of unnecessary complication.The way most banks approach the conversation doesn’t help either. It’s so rigorous, logical and by the book that the customer ends up feeling like the bank isn’t really there to help them, and is only trying to protect the company’s own interests.The net result—we avoid speaking to our banks until the last possible minute, meaning the conversation is even more stressful and the possible solutions have narrowed. Voices end up raised and everyone involved gets frustrated, leaving consumers even less likely to talk to their bank in the future.

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Making the conversation work for you

It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve outlined five simple steps you can follow to make sure that every conversation with your bank gives you what you need.
  1. Do your homework: whether you’re asking about a product or for advice on reaching a life goal, spend 20 minutes before you call reading up on the different options and the language used to discuss them. And if you’re worried about certain terms, here’s an overview of what banking jargon really means.
  2. Make a plan: write out the top three things you want to achieve from the call and what success looks like to you. Doing this will help you guide the call down the path you need it to take, rather than getting stuck in a customer service maze. And when you’re talking to your bank, make sure you agree what happens next for each element of the plan so both you and them know who is doing what.
  3. Outline exactly what you need: start the conversation by outlining clearly what you need and why. It’s best to say up front exactly what you’re looking for rather than spread the details out piecemeal—it means the person on the other end of the conversation knows from the start what they need to go through to help you succeed.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask: talking to your bank is no time to pretend. If something isn’t clear, ask for it to be repeated or explained in a different way. After all the adviser is there to help you and it’s their job to make sure you understand everything involved in your discussion. But if you don’t tell them when things don’t make sense, you’ll end up frustrated and unhappy with where the call goes. Don’t be intimidated or afraid to ask them to explain in a different way or give an example to illustrate what they mean.
  5. Recap at the end: Once you’re happy with how the conversation’s gone—recap everything you’ve discussed and agreed with the adviser to ensure you’re both on the same page. It’s also a useful chance to jog their memory in case there’s an option they’ve forgotten. Doing this means you can end the meeting with confidence and most importantly an agreed plan for what’s happening next.
The easiest way to follow these tips is by creating a checklist to work through, covering your plan, the questions you want to ask and any terms you need clarified. This will give you a structure to work through and the satisfaction of ticking off each element as it's covered off. You’ll be amazed at just how much more in control you’ll feel and the ease with which the conversation flows. And if something can’t be solved there and then, make an appointment on the spot to follow up on that particular point—this will help avoid your request getting stuck in limbo. Our finances can seem more stressful when we put off conversations and don’t ask for help when we need it, which increases our anxiety and not to mention our sleepless nights.

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