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Recently, I got a call from BMO Financial Group about their critical illness insurance which bundles the “female cancers”: breasts, fallopian tubes, cervix, ovaries, uterus, vulva, and, yes, that chuckle-worthy nether region that rhymes with the capital of Saskatchewan.
It’s not every day I’m offered a “lump sum payment for a breast lump” or someone phones to say I have a “1 in 3 chance” of being diagnosed with cancer.
The call left me feeling unsettled—not about cancer, but about the machinations of corporate greed that would propose to milk women, and their potentially malignant breasts, for profit’s sake. I went in search of an email address so I could write an angry letter to somebody when I stumbled across BMO’s Annual Report for 2014.
BMO says they’re “Not just any bank.”
This is the first time I’ve ever been approached by a bank about my lady parts. Before now, I’ve never even been tempted to associate the word “vagina” with “personal banking.” Most financial institutions want to talk to whoever controls the pocketbook. In BMO’s case it’s the holder of the uterus they’re after. Not just any bank—true indeed.
BMO says, “Times change. Values don’t.”
The suggestion that values in the financial sector are unassailable is more than a little gag-worthy. I like to think that even a few decades ago the idea of targeting an under-represented demographic group—in this case women ages 18 to 55—with a scare campaign would have prompted at least a few people to say, “Isn’t this kind of tacky?” I’m going with false on this one.
BMO says, “Real life doesn’t follow a script. Neither do we.”
Ellen, the woman from the BMO contact centre, hardly took a breath during her telephone spiel, which was understandable given how much technical ground she had to cover: hospital stays, surgery bonuses, and the aforementioned organ inventory. She was working hard for the money, too, switching emotional gears (however clumsily) between horror and exuberance, from terrifying statistics to generous refunds. There was ample evidence of a script having been followed, though, so survey says: False.
BMO says, “People’s lives and financial decisions are totally interconnected. Understanding how they’re linked requires more than ticking a few boxes. It’s a conversation. And it starts with listening.”
Ellen was a good talker but she was a horrible listener. Like many telemarketers, she left no room for genuine human dialogue—she might as well have been a robot.
In less than a minute, and with zero conversation, her assumption was that I’d silently transitioned from whatever I was doing before the phone rang to weighing the risk-benefit scenarios of being forsaken by my fallopian tubes. My call was shunted into a queue for a “licensed agent” who was supposed to take my payment. That’s when I hung up.
There are more than a few missing links here and many of them point to a lack of understanding and poor listening.
For starters, even in the age of the selfie there are still a lot of women who prefer to remain private about their privates. Those of us who do talk to one another about our bits and pieces typically do it socially: A cup of coffee or a glass of wine figure prominently. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry but we do it among really good friends or blood relations. When it’s over, we go back home wrapped in the warm afterglow of the sisterhood-of-the-vagina to which we belong. Financial institutions are not part of that sisterhood.
So while there is truth in BMO’s statement, their capacity to work it out in real-world terms is an epic fail so I’m going to say: False.
BMO says it’s focus for 2015 is to, “Increase share of wallet and attract new customers in under-represented customer segments and products.”
“Share of wallet” was the most authentic phrase in the whole of the annual report and was amply reflected in the phone call as well. This statement is definitely true.
Like any bank, BMO wants as much of a customer’s total spending as they can get. A bank’s prime directive is to deliver maximum profits to shareholders. The statisticians and mathematicians at BMO have crunched the female cancer numbers and determined there's gold in them there ovaries—quite a bit, too, if they can scare enough women to sign on the dotted line—and they're going to mine it even if it’s a completely tasteless thing to do.
I can’t wait to see what these folks have up their sleeves next—or maybe I should say down their trousers. Bundling the gastrointestinal cancers perhaps? I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that branding session.