Greg Wright: We will miss the cheque in the post

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If you want to succeed, you’ve got to hop on the bus.

Or in rugby league legend Jamie Peacock’s case, get off the bus at the right stop. It’s hard to believe that the towering former England captain once suffered from crippling self-doubt. Last week, he provided a business audience with an insight into the demons that almost destroyed his career before it had begun. In 1996 he was an 18-year-old rugby player with bags of talent but little confidence. The Bradford Bulls saw his potential and invited him for a trial. Nerves got the better of Jamie as he approached the Bulls’ ground on the bus from his home in Bramley. So he stayed on board. For several miles. Finally, overcome with shame, he got off, and phoned his dad who told him that he must pull himself together and go back for the trial. With support from the Bulls - and later the Leeds Rhinos - he went on to win a stack of domestic and international honours and received an MBE for serving the game he loves. But without people who believed in him, Jamie’s story would not have been worth telling. You’re nothing without a supportive network. He was among an illustrious panel who took part in a lively debate at KPMG in Leeds about the importance of improving social mobility through mentoring. We need to encourage youngsters from deprived backgrounds to gain the confidence and skills to apply for jobs in areas such as professional services and engineering. The UK is suffering from an appalling skills shortage, and it’s more important than ever that we don’t discriminate against children because they were born into poverty, or lack support at home. If we want to compete, we must enlarge the homegrown talent pool. I chaired the debate along with KPMG’s Chris Hearld and what struck me was the criminal waste of human potential caused by social immobility. It brought back memories of a meeting I had with James Haddleton, of law firm DWF, who is a supporter of the Ahead Partnership, an organisation that works with business to improve the skills of young people from deprived areas. James had been stunned to discover that there were children living less than three miles from the heart of Leeds who had never set foot in the city centre. KPMG is doing its bit by seeking candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, but the wheels of social mobility are still turning far too slowly.

REMEMBER the day when the big record companies decided to make vinyl history? Many people are still traumatised by the memory of the day the music - or more precisely the 33rpm LP - died. I’m among a band of dissidents who believe that the old-fashioned LP was killed off long before its time. The world became a glummer place. You can’t admire the artwork on a CD or a download. And did we, the paying customers, have a vote? Of-course not. A similar passion surrounds the impending demise of the cheque. I was contacted by Donald Robinson, from Garforth, near Leeds, who said he had been angered by Leeds Building Society’s decision to close his cheque book account in December. He believes all financial services firms should respect the wishes of customers who still want to use cheques. I contacted Gary Brook, of Leeds Building Society, who told me that the mutual is reviewing accounts which aren’t available to new customers. This review has included closing non-core products that provide personal cheques. Customers will be able to write cheques against their savings accounts until December 15. After this, they will still be able to withdraw cheques from their account, by visiting their branch or by post, and continue to pay cheques into their accounts. Gary told me: “Less than two per cent of all accounts with the society, around 15,000, have a cheque book facility and only 3,000 accounts, less than 0.4 per cent, issue more than 10 personal cheques a year.”

Such statistics tell a story of decline. But many will still mourn the passing of the cheque in the post.