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Likes Fuddy-Duddy Banks

August 25, 1985

I am pleased that Robert Maslac was "amused" ("Cancelled Checks Costly," Aug. 4) by my previous letter (July 4) deploring the bank practice of not returning cancelled checks--or "check safekeeping," to use their euphemism.

As Maslac explains, the banks have been forced to find "creative" ways of meeting "rising operating costs" such as postage--specifically, those costs above the base 22-cent rate--and the higher interest rates banks now "must" pay because of deregulation. (No mention of the higher interest rates banks now "must" charge on their loans).

Now if Maslac regards check safekeeping as a "creative" solution to rising operating costs, let me suggest another: ban all withdrawals. Surely if check safekeeping is "creative," then the banning of withdrawals would be nothing less than Mozartean.

Unfortunately for Maslac's attempt to defend the indefensible, the bank's current problems were not caused by the 22-cent stamp, but by 22-cent thinking of those bank executives who saw deregulation as a green light to take their banks into activities in which they never belonged in the first place.

For the possible edification of such executives, and for the possible further amusement of Maslac, I submit a paragraph from the book "Can You Trust Your Bank?" by Robert Heller and Norris Willatt:

"We don't have any interest in seeing our banks become dynamic. We don't care a bit if they are marketing-oriented, aggressively seeking new deposits and new loan business.

All we want is that they should look properly and prudently after the business they have--our business. We want total security and reasonable service: no innovation, no initiative can possibly outweigh those two crucial needs. It is the essence of our demand that banks are fuddy-duddy, cautious, unadventurous, uninspiring, conservative, dyed-in-the-wool, deliberate, and dull--all the things that modern bankers have hated to be called."



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