During my time at Porsche I met numerous fantastic customers. Some of them were ‘captains of industry’, brilliant entrepreneurs, and often just normal hard-working individuals who wanted a bit of therapy – in the form of a Porsche.
But then there were the bankers, or “SS” as I privately called them.
‘SS’? – no, not the nasty German soldiers in the Second World War, just my abbreviation for “Shoe Shit”.
You see, you can smell “shoe shit” a mile off long before you see it, and annoyingly, if you accidentally stepped on it or touched it, then that bloody horrible smell lingers on and on and on, no matter what you do to remove it.
Throughout my years at Porsche, the ‘SS ‘ or modern city type bankers were consistently chancers, and without doubt, fearless and relentless liars.
There were a few that were OK – normal and decent enough, but a vast majority were ‘SS ‘.
When I left school and was paid my first week’s wages, my old man said that he would introduce me to his bank manager, as he would be one of the most important people for me to keep on the right side of during my working life.
And sure enough, Dad arranged a meeting with his bank manager in the following week.
It all went very well and Dad gave me another piece of advice: “Always keep him in the picture if you have a problem, or need help. Don’t give him too many surprises. Build up a rapport with him and it will stand you in good stead for the future”.
This was the 1960’s remember, and my bank manager was everything Dad said he would be, helpful, reliable, accessible, sensible and willing to guide a young man starting out in life.
The second banker I met was through work. It was about 4 years later, when I was sales manager in JECoulter Ltd., a large Ford dealership in Belfast.
This pale skinned, studious looking bloke came in one day, saying he was ” in the trade” and wanted to buy some used trade Fords. A deal was done for several old bangers (quite easily for a change) and he handed me his business card – ” Lionel Trooper”, ” Bank Manager TSB Bank”- it said.
“What’s this all about ” I asked him.
“Oh, I do a bit of car trading on the side – but let’s just keep this between us if you don’t mind”.
So, I didn’t dig any further and he continued to buy used ‘trade’ cars on quite a regular basis to supplement his income.
To this day I still am not certain if “Lionel” was using the bank’s money or his own to buy cars off me, but the way he behaved and the way he negotiated made me suspect he was up to no good. He went about his dealing process without a hard edge attached to the proceedings, almost as if he was using someone else’s money.
Then he just stopped calling in.
Out of curiosity, a number of weeks later I called into the TSB bank in question to see if he was around, but a girl behind the counter said that he had left, quite suddenly, and didn’t work there anymore.
So, all of a sudden, my image of the banker was brought into question.
A number of years later – in the mid 90’s, some time after I had started the Porsche business, one Saturday morning, I was chatting with a banker called Nick Manning who ran a trading floor in the City of London. A pleasant enough chap who had bought several cars from us without too much fuss.
However, this may give you an insight into how divorced from reality he and his banking chums really were:
“If you don’t mind me asking Perry,” he said,” how much does Paddy earn?” (Paddy was a top sales executive who dealt with him) “Let me guess,” he said. “He’s at the top of his trade (with Porsche), so I suppose you would need to pay him what £100,000k basic, plus the opportunity to double or treble that with commission?”
“Nick,” I said to him, “You’ve got to be joking, join the real world would you. Paddy is on the going rate for sales executives in this trade, which is a 9k basic wage, and being the grafter that he is, he will work his bollocks off 6 days a week to earn £50,000 this year”.
Nick looked at me in amazement and said, “Perry, how can anyone possibly live on that sort of money?”
You see, these city guys lived in a bubble, in their own little world, happy to be distanced from us normal mortals, because they are special, clever, and could earn vast sums of money because it was made so easy for them to do so.
And nobody would do anything about it.
Over the years, where possible we would try to avoid dealing with the ‘SS’. In general, they were chancers, unreliable, untrustworthy, liars and cheaters (do you get my drift again?) – and those were just the good guys.
The motor trade, quite rightly has had a poor enough reputation, as have estate agents, politicians and others, but in reality, no trade holds a candle to the bankers of this world.
They have hidden behind a 1940/50’s image of upright respectability, whilst in reality managing other people’s money with a brutal disregard to anything except how much money they can make for themselves – at any cost.
“Fxxk the customers” seems to me to be their credo.
In any other business when the wheels come off, then heads will roll. Not just at the top but all the way down the line.
Whenever we have a banking crisis we see the odd sacrificial lamb being slaughtered but usually only after he has secured a mind-blowing pension or severance package, often negotiated by some equally caring business associate.
Nothing really changes.
Those over paid, under talented people at the top of the tree are happy for the guys on the dealing floor to make a fortune. Not because they understand how they are earning their pay-outs, most of them haven’t a clue or even understand how their bonus systems work, but whilst the “rascals” on the trading floor continue to make these huge bonuses- then obviously the people “upstairs” must by their very position on the totem pole earn even more.
“So, please don’t change anything as its fine just the way it is.”
Old school cheats feathering their nests – as it always has been.
It always makes me laugh when we hear of another banking scandal and some high ranking official states that if we take away the opportunity for these guys to earn big bonuses then we will see an exodus of high flying executives to places like Paris, Munich or New York.
Let the ‘SS’ go I say.
We all would be better off without them.
Replace them with people on a normal basic wage – with no big bonus opportunity and see what happens. Rip away all these ultra-complicated transactions processes and get some accountability in place.
We all know that insider trading is common place in the city so introduce proper controls to make it a less frequent occurrence.
Over the years they would lie and cheat their way to a deal on a Porsche because they knew they could generally outsmart the average car salesman. They would sometimes come to us in groups – following one and other to where they thought they could get the best deal or earliest delivery.
If a car was in short supply, for example with a 911 GT3, RS, or a 911 Turbo, you would see them crawl out of the woodwork.
“I was promised the first car”; “Your salesman promised to ring me when the car was launched so I would get an early car”; “You can have all my future business if I get the first car….”
All the usual drivel.
We rarely got caught out in these scenarios, but in the early 90’s one of the “SS” kicked up a huge fuss and got a 911 Turbo when he really shouldn’t have only because he bombarded Porsche with a tirade of lies and eventually they forced our hand to sort him out. (Manufacturers don’t like to contact with aggressive customers and he majestically bullshitted his way through various layers of management and eventually they caved in).
Needless to say, shortly after he took delivery he sold the car onto a specialist dealer for a profit, and some other poor sod eventually ended up paying a huge premium for a car which was in short supply.
Greed is good?
My policy was reinforced from that point and was quite simple – I wanted existing customers, people well known to us to have early access to any new or low volume or long quoted delivery time Porsche.
In my book I didn’t care if Joe Bloggs from the City had made noises when a new model was muted in the press.
When it came to the ordering process, then my existing customers come first. They had been decent enough to support us over the years, now it was our turn to reciprocate this.
This pissed off many, many “SS” over the years, but also enabled Porsche Centre Hatfield to look after its customers like few others Porsche Centres.
Simple it may sound – old fashioned even, but we tried to do what was right – irrespective of the pressures from above, the manufacturer, or the bottom line.
Yes, we cocked up from time to time, but this consistent and up-front approach worked, and our business prospered as a result.
For 24 of the c26 years at the dealership – from the early ‘Chariots’ days, on through HROwen, and finally Porsche Centre Hatfield, we had the best customer service levels of any Porsche business in the Greater London area, this despite the fact that for much of that time we were also the largest Porsche centre in the UK.
We enjoyed our customers and weren’t afraid to engage with them. We appreciated the passion which many of them brought to the purchasing and ownership process. And in many many cases, this manifested itself in multiple repeat purchases from our customers.
Would you miss them if they left our shores?
….didn’t think so.