Decimalisation: One Month After
Article reproduced from the Savings Banks Institute Journal, May 1971
During the last two years savings banks personnel in towns and villages throughout the land have been telling audiences drawn from every walk of life that D Day would turn out to be the non-event of the year.
They were prophesying thus, partly from a sense of conviction and partly from a desire to minimise the anxiety that some, particularly the older members of their audiences, felt about the forthcoming change in the currency.
They had the field virtually to themselves, other financial institutions having declared that they saw it as no part of their business to educate the public in the new decimal currency.
As D Day drew nearer, the speakers could prophesy with greater conviction for, as staff training programmes developed within the banks, it became apparent that many of the fears associated with the changeover were groundless.
Looking back now, it is certain that the opportunity, taken by most banks, to make decimalisation a major exercise in public relations, has been rewarding. Clearly the talks to many groups of people have been greatly appreciated, have won many new friends for the banks and have opened avenues for further talks on other subjects in the future. Add to this the many staff members who have equipped themselves to represent their banks in this way and in so doing have made themselves better known in the communities they serve and the value of the exercise can hardly be questioned.
This feature of the decimalisation programme could well be of lasting benefit and is worthy of development and encouragement.
The training of staff for D Day was, quite naturally, undertaken in different ways and over different periods of time by different banks - and they were all the best! In general it divided itself conveniently into two parts - preparation for the conversion of ledger balances and the training of cashiers.
Throughout the Movement the conversion of ledger balances and the checking and balancing of ledgers was undertaken with a measure of speed and accuracy that was most satisfactory and was certainly a tribute to those concerned with the operations.
The 'quickie' conversion table advocated in the Institute's decimal currency training booklet had been committed to memory by many of the younger members of staff and was much used, together with other quick mental conversion methods. Many of the senior members of staff made use of these methods too but some preferred to use the banking conversion table. Preparation for this exercise had been thorough and the work was carried out with very little difficulty.
With the ledgers balanced and the conversion of ledger balances completed, the tills were prepared for the expected onslaught on D Day.
It was at this stage, the second part of the staff training, that a thorough approach to the task seemed likely to reap the greatest rewards, for it was always in the actual handling of cash during the first few days of decimalisation that the greatest difficulties could be foreseen.
In the event D Day, 15 February, 1971, was an anti-climax for it seemed in many banks to be the quietest Monday for many months. Theories have been advanced to account for this but it would seem that, in addition to the radio request to the public to keep out of the banks on D Day, people were a little confused and apprehensive and the last place in which they would want their apprehension aroused would be a bank. In consequence many of them had visited the bank before D Day and during that period the banks were quite busy. In addition, a considerable amount of the old coin was deposited in the banks in early February.
And so, the rush at the counter on D Day, for which some of us had waited, never materialised and instead of the harassing day that had been expected, most cashiers found themselves with a comparatively quiet period in which to accustom themselves to the new currency.
This quiet period seems to have persisted throughout the week and it was not until D Day plus 4 - 7 that transactions began to build up again to their normal level. By this time the cashiers had acquired considerable skill and confidence and were well equipped to meet the now rapid increase in turnover.
The new coins were handled with dexterity, particularly by the young lady cashiers and once again it appeared that a first class public relations exercise was being carried out at the bank counters as cashiers explained to depositors the conversion of their account balance or how the cash in their home safe had been accounted for. From all accounts it would seem that the incidence of cash errors during this period was no greater than at any other time which suggests that the cashiers had trained themselves well for the task.
On the public side of the counter - our lady depositors are quite well used to the new currency although absolutely convinced that 100p do not go so far as 240d. Gentlemen depositors are more inclined to 'leave it to you'. There is a (diminishing) tendency to treat the old two shilling piece as 20p.
On the staff side of the counter - s d is not only out of pocket, it is out of mind and already there are benefits arising from the introduction of the new currency. It is evident that the machinists in the banks can work more speedily and more easily in the new p amounts; where ledger work is still involved the entries see to be speedier and less prone to error. At the counter the cashiers are already finding the new coins easier and quicker to handle.
That we are singing now that the exercise is over, rather than weeping, is a tribute to the training officers, branch managers and others who supervised the training of the staff and to all those who responded to the training so readily and to such good purpose. In retrospect, it is apparent that the staffs of the banks, given a sizeable task to accomplish in a fixed period of time, responded with enthusiasm and goodwill and with some appreciation that they were participating in an act of social and historical importance. The members of the Institute's Decimalisation Advisory Committee are pleased to have been associated with them.
(Article by C C Lees, General Manager, Chorley Trustee Savings Bank: SBI Journal, May 1971, page 90)