Doomed to fail? Hopefully

A banker who tells her/his customers to take their business elsewhere if they don’t like her/his financial institution’s gender policies should go bust sooner rather than later.

Britain’s Halifax Bank has done precisely that. Having told their employees to wear name badges indicating their gender preferences, they faced questioning from their clients.

They told their customers who are, in fact, their employers, to go and fly a kite.

The Halifax, as the company is called, isn’t a new, post-modernistic outfit founded yesterday by a bunch of politically correct yahoos. A British banking brand, a trading division of Bank of Scotland, that itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group, the Halifax was born in 1853 as a building society. It got its name after the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, where it was founded.

Their founders must be turning in their graves.

The Halifax call their badge decision a demonstration of their values. They also have threatened to close customer accounts and even report people to police if they post “inappropriate” content to the bank’s social media channels.

A value?

Here’s what happened: the bank sent a message to their more than 100,000 Twitter followers. Their new policy would permit gender-specifying pronouns to be featured under staff’s names on their badges, they said.

The tweet included a photo of a badge of an employee called “Gemma,” and had her preferred pronouns, “she/her/hers.”

So far as The Halifax is concerned, “pronouns matter.”

Hey, Gemma, who are you?

How? Here’s how: their new policy would help avoid “accidental misgendering,” whatever this is supposed to mean.

One would have expected bank employees dealing with financial transactions rather than telling all and sundry what their gender preferences were. One would also have expected that one’s gender would be one’s own business, and nobody else’s.

“There’s no ambiguity about the name ‘Gemma.’ It’s a female person’s name. In other words, it’s pathetic virtue signalling and is seen as such by almost everyone who has responded to the initial tweet. Why are you trying to alienate people?”

This customer’s question triggered an immediate reply. A member of the Halifax social media team called AndyM wrote (verbatim): “We strive for inclusion, equality and quite simply, in doing what’s right. If you disagree with our values, you’re welcome to close your account.”

Swift reply

Oh yeah? asked a number of (now former) Halifax customers. The number of closed accounts insurance policies and cards remains a closely guarded secret but, judging by social media alone, it gets quite close to staggering.

The Halifax’s reaction? A link to their Inclusion and Diversity policy. They contact the police if people behave in an “inappropriate” way towards their “social media channels.” What is “racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist” behaviour would be up the Halifax’s social media team to decide.

Gareth Roberts, former scriptwriter for Doctor Who joined serious issue with the idea: “I’m a homosexual man. I’m appalled by your adoption of this homophobic, woman-hating claptrap, and by your attitude to customers making perfectly reasonable objections to it.”

His words echoed widely in Britain: Doctor Who is an extremely successful BBC television science-fiction series. It’s been on since 1963. The series shows adventures of an extraterrestrial being known as Time Lord and called the Doctor, who appears to be human. The Doctor explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship called the TARDIS.

Another person who knows a thing or two about public relations chimed in: the Halifax have just committed a “Ratner moment” that will “go down as one of the biggest PR blunders.”

Thus branding expert Martin Townsend: “It’s a Ratner moment, I would say.

“It’s astonishing that they do something to make themselves look right on and virtue signalling – and they end up looking like the most old fashioned bullies, telling them: ‘If you don’t like it you’re welcome to leave,’” he said.

“It’s extraordinary. Who treats their customers like that?” Townsend demaned.

“I’ve never heard of a company inviting their customers to go. It’s so typical of debate these days: ‘If you don’t like it, off you go.’ How is that inclusive? There are big questions about Halifax today and who came up with it.”

To explain: a Ratner moment describes a situation where one harms one’s reputation or standing by making ill-advised remarks. It’s named after British businessman Gerald Ratner. His till then profitable jewellery business nearly collapsed in 1991 after he jokingly denigrated the company’s products. As contemporary headlines had it, he managed to lose a billion in 10 seconds.

Customer reactions

  • “My wife and I have followed this advice, partly due to Halifax’s current virtue signalling but mostly the eagerness of AndyM to lose customers. Mortgage is being moved, credit cards have been cancelled, deposit account closed. Had been with you since the 90s. Nice work.”
  • “It is incredibly rude for Halifax to say to customers if you don’t like it go away. It’s astonishing to have a bank behaving like a trans activist.”

British finance expert Matthew Lynn told BBC Radio 4 in an interview: “Companies don’t need to aggressively take positions on what are still quite divisive social issues. It probably didn’t come from the CEO – it comes from a bunch of millennial 20-somethings running the Twitter feed.

“To tell customers,” Lynn would elaborate, “that they should go and close down their accounts and go to a different bank because they have a slightly different view on this is way too aggressive.”

Lynn paved a way for the Halifax poohbahs to try and wriggle more or less successfully out of the embarrassing situation. They weren’t aware of what their underlings were doing would be their excuse.

They should have been.

Besides, that excuse doesn’t hold much water: not many would believe the top management were not aware of the Inclusion and Diversity policy that had been there, for all to see, posted on their own bank’s website.

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