Piling on the fees

I READ with interest, but no surprise, the article (Sunday Money, July 18) about the introduction of an ATM fee of $50 per year by Standard Chartered Bank. I'm sure it will not be long before the remaining banks in the ''cartel'', who have yet to introducethis fee, seize the opportunity to earn a few more dollars from the dejected consumer.

In addition to the normal bank charges such as chequebook transactions, credit card fees, inactive accounts, money changing into smaller currency, accounts without the minimum level of funds, and the latest affront against customers, for putting cash into their own accounts, banks now wish to charge customers for doing their own banking.

Later in the article it was suggested that ''people don't know it, but ATM machines are a huge expense for banks'', with an estimate that each time a customer uses their card it costs $4.50. Well, my heart bleeds for the poor banks. Why is it then that profitability figures still show a very healthy and reasonable return for shareholders? Perhaps profit margins have been improved as a result of the ''electronic banking'' philosophy? I suggest several areas where cost savings are significant: Perhaps banks would be willing to publish how much it costs to electronically transmit funds around clients' accounts, even on a global scale, in comparison with the previous paper-based methods.

Perhaps the banks would like to publish how much payroll costs have been reduced as a result of the queues being redirected outside rather than inside the bank.

Perhaps banks are prepared to publish how the increase in the number of electronic transactions has reduced overall workload due to massive reduction of expensive, time-consuming and labour-intensive cash-and cheque-based transactions.

Will these cost savings be passed on to the customer? Of course not! PAUL WILLIAMS Dept of Hotel and Tourism Management, Hongkong Polytechnic