back to article Oh dear, traders: Banker bosses are monitoring your smoke breaks

Banks must consider staff relations when turning to "big data" to identify potential misconduct, says an expert. There are legitimate reasons why banks would wish to monitor staff behaviour through the latest in 'big data' analytics, but they should consider employee relations issues before using that technology, an expert has …

To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

First they came for the bankers...

While bankers and traders may not elicit much sympathy from many people, do they really think this won't eventually seep into normal office practice?

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Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

No doubt they will but when thinking is a big part of your job how do you tell when someone is snoozing or trying to work something out on good old pen and paper (unless you have to log your thinking time but I am sure people will always tell the truth when doing that).

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Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

Call centres have been doing it for years. Because the phone are operated by a centralised computer dialler, and everyone is inputting data on a system linked to it, they've got huge amounts of data available. So it's just down to how much management can be arsed to use it, and how Nazi they are.

The difference with call centres is that their staff turnover is huge, and it takes a while to train people up, so you really have to try to get sacked. The problem is the piss-poor management bullying people, but if you didn't give a fuck (like me) and were willing to sit through the odd telling off by a supervisor with delusions of adequacy, then it was no problem.

They listen into your calls to make sure you stick to the stupid script ("calls may be monitored for training purposes"), they can check how long you take between calls, measure your breaks, how long you spend typing up the answers, how long you're not available to take new calls. All types of stuff.

Of course, if you don't put the phone down after the conversation has finished, it still counts as call time, so you can get the typing up time down to zero, when they're chasing that metric. Bit hard on the people whose line you're tying up of course.

The only time our company ever took it totally seriously is when they made everyone redundant. Then they got HR in to do lots of monitoring. I'm sure the excuse was so that people wouldn't start causing trouble as they were being dumped. But actually it was so they could sack people, and avoid the tiny redundancy payouts they were having to make. I seem to remember I got a verbal warning in that process, and they managed to progress a couple of people to final written warnings, but there wasn't enough time to get away with actually sacking people before the month was up.

And to think I was just about to start doing database work for them, I'd already had the training, so I missed out on a career in IT and ended up in water engineering instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller - @Jungleland

It seems unavoidable. After 2008 it seems that the banks are heading back into dodgy practices again. If you have huge amounts of cash swashing about, the people it swashes by are under unusual pressure to divert some of it. After all, in the good old days of banking nobody went home till the account balanced, and the manager kept a close watch on staff. To what extent is concern about surveillance really a "but I'm upper class! the rules that apply to him don't apply to me!"

I think the real problem is with presenteeism and the US/UK long hours policy. Go to Germany or Switzerland, people work their hours, the time they are supposed to, go home or to lunch. I recall research done many years ago that showed that, basically, once past about 40 hours a week productivity starts to go down. If there was a clear pact between management and workforce - you work your official hours, that's it - it might well lead to a healthier workplace environment.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller - @James51

When I started in R&D the engineering manager who showed me round the department remarked "The people staring into space are working, the ones writing things down are just recording what they've done."

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Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

Frightening stuff but I'm sure you'll agree a call centre isn't a typical office environment.

For starters, I'm thinking many law firms which are partnerships (therefore their own money rather than wasting shareholders money) will be more interested in getting "maximum value" out of staff.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

What do you mean 'eventually'? Where I work we already have to OK on a "no expectation of privacy" notice before logging into the systems.

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xyz

Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

I hate to burst your bubble, but anyone who's ever worked in a factory has known it was like this from the year dot and way before "big data" was a buzzword on a consultant's wall chart.

I remember a supervisor banging on the staff bog door screaming to the bloke behind it that he was taking too long to have a shit. So, all that's really happening is that the white collar brigade is being blue collared with big data replacing the more old fashioned big eyeball.

In the case of bankers I'd like to see them wearing collars and leashes and sniff each others' arses but they'd probably like that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

"They listen into your calls to make sure you stick to the stupid script "

Shows how little respect you have for the company you work for, and how little you understand the reasons and necessity behind this. I run the IT for such a company, we don't use diallers as yes they are inhuman, but those scripts are there to protect yourself, the customer and the company.

They have nothing to do with money, or idiotic rules "just for the sake of it". As a tele-sales person you are unlikely to be an expert with years of experience and deep understanding of products your selling, so these script are their to stop you from going off on tangents, which would pose a danger by giving incorrect information and leaving the company liable, or even worse selling customers incorrect products.

I've seen the agony that mis-selling causes, from a family not having cover after flooding and leaving them destitute, to a child who loses a parent and the family is left without income...like it or loathe it, most sales people are good and honest, but there are a few bad eggs who just want their commission, where scripts and call listening help identify these and weed them out.. down vote if you disagree, but thats the honest truth :)

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Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

Its one thing for monkey jobs like call centers but in my experience companies that are making it obvious they are micromanaging employee behavior in the white collar world have high turnover and almost never are actually growing significantly. Never worked in finance but in IT in a variety of other industries with the boomers starting to retire the smart companies are starting to get their shit together it seems and trying to retain talent. Ask Sony how much having a shitty IT department can cost.

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Re: To Paraphrase Revd Niemoller

I was working in a non-selling call centre. And fully understood the legal requirements of what I could and couldn't say. But you are correct that I had little respect for the company, which perfectly matched their lack of respect for me. It was a shit job for a while, until something better came along. Something that management made more unpleasant than it needed to.

Better training and treating staff with some respect can do wonders. Even a small extra bit of pay, along with respect can give you enough staff retention to make decent levels of training worthwhile. For the right people. But that's not the way they chose to run the company.

Mis-selling is often the fault of management anyway. Pisspoor culture, and pushing badly trained staff too hard is far more likely to overcome the limited safety that scrips can achieve. Motivation need not be entirely financial. Admittedly you always risk bad eggs lying to boost their commission/bonuses - and monitoring is good for stopping them.

Too many managers treat their staff like shit, then whine when they aren't motivated or loyal - and use that as their excuse for what amounts to petty bullying and incompetent unrealistic target-setting.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Only one comment really "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" it's the people at the top I have more concerns with.

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Anonymous Coward

The banks are terrified of insider trading at the moment, to the point where IT Support staff are being required to submit to the same rules governing personal trading accounts (full disclosure, no stop losses, ask your boss for permission first, donate any dodgy looking profits to a charity of their choosing).

To which the correct response is of course, "No. Encrypt your data correctly."

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Anonymous Coward

It's been that way in the IT depts of financial firms for the last 20 years that I've been working in them. Always had to do money laundering training and knowledge tests every 12 months too. Everyone thinks banks are just chucking money around willy-nilly and simply don't care, that might be so at the top of some firms but the ground troops that are keeping things ticking over are usually kept on very short leads with regards everything they do.

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Anonymous Coward

What AC2 said. In my previous bank all employee trading was meant to be cleared beforehand from your bog standard ISA upwards. This was honoured more in the breach for IT guys.

My current bank not only enforces that breach but expects you to log spouse trading as well, with a clear impact on your end of year review if breached. It also has the trading permission system linked to the company watch list as well so any interaction with a clients shares was blocked for duration of the dealings. For instance we were once doing some M&A for a top ftse Telco whom everybody and their granny has shares in. I wasn't allowed to cash in mine for about 6 months.

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Anonymous Coward

Yep, as a Linux sys admin I have to attend manadtory courses and then pass tests for things like money laundering, risk, ethics (no, really). There are also numerous compliance emails that have to be acknowledged that you've read them, though my personal take is that I've read them and then promptly forgot everything.

However you must remember that compliance, like HR, is not there for your benefit, but the company you work for. I once dared to ask someone in compliance a question about a personal investment of shares in a non-listed/exchange company and got the standard reply along the lines of "...our records show that you have read and understood the compliance guidelines on date X..." . Translation we can't be arsed to consider this, so you're on your own.

It makes me laugh when the head bod sends out an email thanking everyone to help keep us compliant, when the emails from HR telling us about the courses etc hilight the fact that non-attendance may result in disiplinary action.

Virtually all the phones are recorded, backups (email, trading data, messaging systems) are kept for 10 years, no mobiles on the trade floor (but fine if you walk a few meters away!), and very soon a lockdown on chatroom messaging.

My biggest laugh of recent times was when my boss decided to buy some Royal Mail shares, and claimed he didn't know we weren't allowed to trade ourselves. It's one of the things I picked up on in my contract when joining over 15 years ago when I asked HR if that was just for the traders, and they said it applied to everyone.

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Devil

Sympathy for a banker?

Please allow me to introduce myself.

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Angel

Re: Sympathy for a banker?

Wealth? maybe

Taste? none.

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Devil

Re: Sympathy for a banker?

Not only did my bank steal my soul, they also stole my face...

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