Dear Santa

Is free banking; surely that's not too much to ask, especially seeing as we taxpayers have bailed out these profligate, overpaid, fat cats. In fact, I really object to paying the incompetent rather large fees for truly erratic and third-rate returns on my savings be they bankers, stockbrokers, or hedge fund managers. It's about time their many wheezes were rumbled.

Seeing as I can hardly remember a time when I had to pay monthly fees for access to a chequebook, cashpoint, credit card, payments systems and regular statements, why am I thinking of this now? Because I believe there is a very real chance that in 2016 we will be forced to pay them to hold on to our money.

The new regime for handling cash is, like so much else, a response to central banks' loose (and looser) monetary policy. If they are applying negative interest to commercial bank holdings, then it is just a matter of time before the process spreads from corporate to retail checking accounts. Savings account holders will cough and splutter, and may be spared for a little longer, until the numbers simply don't add up.

 

Swedish Riksbank rate

 

Charges are likely to be introduced in a piecemeal way so as not to shock the victim into closing his or her account - the last thing banks need when capital ratios are constantly being upped by regulators. So, one step at a time, new charges for what some might class as non-essentials. Chequebooks: a one-off fee for each (ever thinner) little book for those who have big children and extended family where a slip of bank paper inside a card is the most welcome of all gifts.

 

German 2-year Schatz yield

 

Then perhaps internet banking, beloved by the young. But dear reader of a certain age, ask yourself: do you really need this? Surely it's for the heavily indebted who borrow from Peter to pay Paul on a day-by-day basis, beating deadlines by a whisker. Consider the risks: data theft, identity cloning, and whatever else the hackers can dream up. Easy to justify new heavy charges on encryption and new safer software systems.

 

German Schatz price 

 

Handling charges, annual fees and hideous exchange rates are an old favourite on credit cards. Customers have become so fed up complaining about these that they no longer do so. Another easy area to add a little jam to profits, again extolling the invaluable global service provided, and why not throw in a little insurance protection for good measure? Get them to opt in for an 'extra premium' status symbol card, be it black, gold, or platinum coloured plastic.

 

Swiss 2-year government bond yield 

 

Regular printed statements are already another opt in, and where, if they can get away with it, banks already don't even send annual ones. Makes you wonder if the money is still really yours and where they say it is.

As for a local branch, let alone an understanding bank manager, that is already a distant memory, the sort of thing of sepia-coloured photos where men wear bowler hats.

If we are correct, and some or all of these are in the pipeline, think and prepare. Decide what you really, really need and ditch what you don't. Hold as little cash as possible and the bulk in AN Other asset you favour. Monitor these closely as no one will be doing it for you.

 

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