Banking: Through the Decades

Hello!

Something a little different today to be a bit more encompassing of life as a whole rather than strictly tableau content this week.

I am pleased to have Jon Bastable as a guest blog on the site today to reflect on how his personal experiences of how banking has changed over the years. I have a huge admiration for Jon ever since I met him roughly two years ago. Its evident he wants to make a real impact to both the colleagues round him, as well as the banks processes and operations. Jon exemplifies everything that is great in terms of sharing skills, collaborating and also has a somewhat incredible technical domain knowledge.

Without further ado, over to Jon.


Jon: My name is Jon Bastable and I have worked for Lloyds since 1979 and I currently work as a Technical Lead specialising in data and SQL in particular. I wanted to tell you about my journey from a data and technology perspective and how it has changed over the decades.

1979

Fresh out of school I started at a branch of what was then called TSB.  We served customers who carried out transactions similar in content to today.  However, it was largely paper based, and we had to write details of deposits on a blue sheet and withdrawals on a pink sheet (and external cheques on a white sheet).  These sheets were sent to the computer centre for inputting, and 2 days later we would get some dot matrix printouts for each transaction which we had to file next to each customer’s account card (some of the older ones had been touched so many times they were falling to bits).

  • Customers would normally use cheques to draw from a Current Account and to help eliminate fraud we had to stamp the last page of the cheque book to stop them going to lots of different branches to do the same thereby running up huge unauthorised overdrafts.
  • Savings accounts had passbooks where we wrote the transaction by hand, thereby making it impossible to go overdrawn.
  • Current balances for Current Accounts were always 2 days in arrears so customers were encouraged to keep their own account records ahead of their monthly statements

Early 1980s

We got some desk computers with characters made up of orange dots on a black screen.  Not sure who made them, but it definitely wasn’t Microsoft.  We were able to input each transaction as it happened but still had to wait for the next day to get the customer printouts.  It was one step closer though.

  • The data lag was improved to 24 hours for current balances but we still had to file the daily ‘position slips’ in front of each account card

Mid 1980s

The computers were upgraded to an Online Real Time system (OLRT).  The desktop computer was smaller with a screen about 5 inches square with green characters on a black background.  The idea was the transaction would be input and it would affect the balance immediately, quite revolutionary at the time.  It also meant we could ditch the computer printouts, filling about 50 confidential waste bags! The computers were piped to a regional ‘Concentrator Site’ and in turn to the Mainframe.  I worked in a branch that had a Concentrator Site above it and I was on hand to deal with issues – it was a massive room with slices and slices of tech, lots of blinking lights.  It also had a halon gas trip switch in case of fire which would suck all the air out of the room within seconds – I always left the door propped open with a fire extinguisher just in case.

  • OLRT was a massive step as it eliminated the ‘position slips’ and stopped any potential branch to branch fraud as explained above. 
  • Also by then we had ATM machines installed which changed the dynamic and reduced the number of customer coming into the branches

Early 1990s

More new computers were installed and this time including Customer data input which was managed by a ‘Branch Controller’ PC and backed up by tape.  I was appointed Systems Administrator for the local area which got me out and about installing updates to different branches in the area, also covering any training. Still no Microsoft though.

  • Customer data direct input was key to getting the Customer’s data right while they were in front of us, rather than sending information to a central area

Mid 1990s

The Branch Controllers were upgraded to Windows NT (hooray!!) and the branch PCs were re-configured to look like Windows, although still largely monochrome

Late 1990s

I left the Branch network, moving to an admin centre who were using Windows 3.1 which is where I started learning things like Excel, Access etc.  My main tasks included:

  • Setting up electronic banking installations.  We had a really old ‘disk cutter’ that wrote 3.5 inch floppy disks – the machine was so old it failed the Y2K testing on 1st Jan 2000 so we had to move to CD ROM
  • Creating electronic banking mandates with electronic signature capture
  • Creating Excel tools to work out staff effort and job timings

Early to mid 2000s

I moved around jobs learning new skills with Excel functions and Access databases.  I designed a helpdesk call logging tool in Access for my team and started looking at report design out of it.  As you can imagine it was quite simple and probably not the best design, but it got my interest going and when we were told of a new system we were getting where we had access to the data in the background, I jumped at the chance to be involved.  I had training in Relational Databases with very simple SQL and a tool called Crystal Reports.  This was everything I needed and went about designing loads of reports for stakeholders…. Until I got told to stop!  It apparently wasn’t my job…

2007 to 2021

Bearing in mind the above I went on the hunt for a data job and found one in London as part of a Data Management team.  All subsequent jobs I have had since then have been very much data centric – I have listed below all the things and technologies I have been a part of.   It was a long journey, and it would have been nice if such jobs existed back in 1979 but I don’t regret any of it. 

If I was to give any advice it would be – always follow your heart and go for the type of work rather than promotion for its own sake, and keep things simple; take a step back and think logically.

Some examples of skills now used: SQL (Teradata, SQL Server, Oracle, BigQuery) SAS, Business Objects, Tableau, MS (Access, Excel) , Python, Google Cloud Platform

CJ round-up: Thanks for sharing this with us Jon. I was really wow’ed when personally reading as a lot of the things mentioned in the early half of the blog were completely new to me. Changes to technology over time has affected many aspects of life. The way we lived in the past is different to the way we live today and this is vastly due to the changes in technology. Personally I am so excited to see how companies develop with the range of different product offerings, services and technology around them. With this in mind, it is interesting to see how companies strategies adapt to cloud solutions and whether they will adopt multi-cloud solutions too. Similarly it will be interesting to see if companies move towards utilising multiple visualisation toolkit, and away from picking just one.

LOGGING OFF.

CJ

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