Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Barklays Badly Managed,Damn Near Bancrupt Bank Blues.

Poor Barklays Bank. By 1990 this formerly thriving financial institution was now drowning in a sea of red ink. In fact, the only place you would find more red ink is at your local Office Max. But the reason for this dilemma was clearly Barlays fault.

In the 1980's, Barlays Bank specialized in providing credit cards for clothing,stereo and department stores. The sales staff,always poised and positioned to earn the much desired commission,pushed through credit cards,giving them to people who never should have received cards in the first place. These cards were issued to the type of consumer who had neither the financial resources nor the desire to make good on their incurred debut. One department store actually issued a credit card to a self employed mime artist! I'm not kidding.

Now, Barklays overpaid executive managers should have seen these red flags from the jump and quickly nipped the problem in the bud, instead of letting years go by,letting bad credit card debt mount and doing nothing until it was too late. Which is exactly what they did. Either these executives were asleep at the switch or they naively hoped the problem would somehow iron itself out eventually. Yeah, and pigs fly!

By early 1990, Barklays Bank had one foot into chapter eleven and the other foot on a roller skate, so a solution needed to be found. It was decided that selling off their white elephant was the best way out of a terribly bad situation. But first, they needed to alleviate the overwhelming amount of delinquent accounts in order to make the bank appear to be more profitable to the potential buyer . To achieve this agenda , an aggressive campaign was mounted: Barklays Bank would use their existing staff of collectors and add to that fifty temp workers. With this method, they hoped to eliminate enough of the bad credit card debt making their failing thrift appear to be financially solvent. It was crunch time at Barclays Bank;the heat was on!

Now, here's where I come into the picture.It was December 1990;the recession was getting worse. The DuPont Company and Hercules Chemicals were laying people in Delaware off in alarming numbers. The jobless rate was so high that on the average there were fifty people applying for one job. Former high ranking executives were now scrambling around for whatever jobs they could latch onto.Temp agencies were packed with unemployed people looking for gainful(if temporary) employment.

One day, I noticed in the help wanted section of the paper an ad for credit card collectors through a temp agency. To be honest, at first I wasn't interested in working in collections.I considered debt collectors to be mean,heartless,relentless bastards hounding those who through no fault of their own were unable to pay the credit card company. But,unemployment doesn't pay all that much and since my job prospects seemed slim to none,working in collections suddenly didn't appear to be the monstrous profession I had previously thought it to be. The things we'll do to keep the wolf away from our door.

Anyway, the temp agency procured the position for me, so bright and early Monday morning there I was(along with ten others)being trained as a collector. We were informed the bank expected us to go on the phones after our training and collect ten thousand dollars a week. The trainer made this feat seem as easy as falling off the proverbial log. Following four days of training,we got cracking on Barklays delinquent accounts,attempting to meet the ten thousand dollar a week quota.

On my first week, I collected about twenty five hundred dollars. Not bad for just staring out of the gate,if I must say so. The second week, I pulled in five thousand dollars from the default accounts in my files. I thought, for someone who'd never done collections before, my performance was picking up momentum and that in a week or two I'd reach(and maybe exceed)the ten thousand dollar mark . But there were dark clouds on the horizon.

During one lunch break, a fellow employee came into the break room and told everyone he'd overheard a meeting where the head manager stated,in a voice bordering on hysteria,that the head honchos at Barkleys demanded that efforts to collect on past due accounts be stepped up. It seems they were on the verge of selling their crumbling financial institution and the delinquent accounts had to be purged even further to make their portfolio appear more attractive to the interested buyer. This was to be achieved by any means necessary or people were going to be fired.

At first, I thought this guy was gilding the lily,so to speak ,by making the situation more dramatic than it really was. Suddenly,as if on cue, everyone in the break room saw the board room door open and the managers filed out one by one; each of them scowling and ashen faced. There's nothing more foreboding that a group of scowling,ashen faced managers,let me tell you.

About an hour before quitting time, one of those managers asked all of us to log off of the phones because we were going to have a meeting. It was actually more of a lecture than a meeting. He shouted that we all had to step up our productivity,but wouldn't tell us the reason why. The lengthy harangue ended with," Everyone in here better start pulling in more money and it better start today!If not, we'll start cleaning house!" With that he slammed his fist against the wall,calmed down a bit and then left the room.

At the end of the third week, I'd collected seven thousand in past due debts. I was supremely confident that next week the ten thousand dollar goal was well within my grasp. Then, the hammer was dropped on me. That night, the temp service called me to say my assignment had been ended,that my performance was not up to par. Not up to par? I had never done collections in my life and here I was raking in seven grand in past due accounts.But they were going on a firing jag, getting rid of temps and even their full time employees with ruthless abandon, the coldblooded bastards. The managers were also on the chopping block as well;no one was being spared. The worst part of this was, I got fired two days before Christmas. Merry Christmas to me!

I never found out if Barklays Bank ever unloaded their unwanted white elephant on another bank or if they simply sank into the morass of delinquent credit card debt and were flushed down the sewer with all of the other mismanaged business's; a fate those creeps more than deserved. And frankly, I could've cared less. But on a plus note:while I worked there I did meet a delightful woman named Peg with whom I had a wonderful year long relationship. See? Every cloud does have a silver lining.

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