Saving the National Neopian Bank: Part Two
"Relax, it isn't going to be something ridiculously difficult," Mr. Roberts said. "It's just a few normal questions, that's all. Okay, so if a customer comes in, what should you do?"
"I would smile and say, 'Good day, sir or ma'am. What can I help you with?'" Hamond said.
"Well, I can't argue against that," Mr. Roberts said. "Congratulations, both of you are now hired."
"That's, that's it?" Don asked.
"Well, I said it would be simple, right?" Mr. Roberts said. "You can start fresh early tomorrow morning."
The two seemed noticeably happier, deposited their neopoints, and then left.
Mr. Roberts sighed again. That had been nice, and he had high hopes for those two, but the thing was that it still wouldn't ease up all the problems with the bank. He then remembered that he had an urgent business meeting that night and quickly glanced at his watch. He was relieved to see that he still had time, but he had to head out quickly if he was going to make it.
He informed his secretary that he was leaving and left her to man the front desk temporarily while he was gone. He went outside and luckily found a carriage which he called. The Unis in front were the same green kind found everywhere in Neopia Central. Both of them whinnied.
"The Neolodge, and quickly," Mr. Roberts said. The driver seemed surprised looking at him, but didn't say anything.
The ride was mostly uneventful, but Mr. Roberts did notice someone passing by stumble on another random event involving a bank error. He knew these things were happening all the time, but still, seeing it was a different experience all together.
The bank errors were caused by a shortage of high-quality staff, which led to the bank losing money, and would cause a further shortage, and so on and so forth. Something had to be done, and quickly.
That's why there's this meeting in the first place, Mr. Roberts thought as he left behind a generous tip for the driver and headed towards the Neolodge. The National Neopian's Banks' partners would be there, as well as some other key financial advisors and investors.
He went to the reception where he found out the room number, and said that he didn't need help finding the room. He glanced at his watch, there were only two minutes left, and having the owner of the bank arrive late would not exactly be a good thing. Not to mention he had always been a man of efficiency.
He walked into the room. It was a very luxurious one, which he considered a waste given the National Neopian's current solvency problem, but it was necessary to keep up the allure that the bank was still doing well.
The Desert Scorchio was there who ran the Lost Desert Scratchcards company, Mr. Roberts really didn't know his name despite the fact that they had worked for a long time together. There was a Brown Lupe by the name of Mr. Edgeworth, who was the bank's head attorney and was in his usual black suit. Then there was Golgoth, a Striped Lenny, who was supposed to be representing the shareholders who had taken on a pinstriped suit.
There was the head of the Shopkeeper's Union, Mrs. Beth, a Pink Bruce with nothing much besides a coat and a delicate looking hat on. There was the Mayor, a Gold Grarrl, who was dressed the most extravagantly in the room and wore copious amounts of dark satin and several diamond studded watches. And last but not least, there was an Island Zafara named Colby, who was the bank's number one economist and analyst and was wearing a blue shirt. There were only that many people in the room, after all, this was supposed to be something of a secret to prevent mass panic.
"So, I'm glad to see that you call could make it," Mr. Roberts said. "As you all probably know, this is a meeting about the National Neopian Bank's current financial status. I believe Colby can tell us more about this."
"I'll be quite frank to say this," Colby said, "but to be perfectly honest I'm surprised that we aren't bankrupt already. The only thing keeping the National Neopian Bank afloat is the fact that the public still believes that we are safe. They assume that these new bank errors are new random events, and while our stock value has taken a hit, very few have noticed."
Everyone in the room nodded; that much they were all aware of.
"However," Colby said, "it is clear that we can no longer continue like this. If changes are not made, then whenever the public begins to question our current situation, then our whole system will collapse like a house of trading cards. We're not sure when that will happen, but there are a few market analyzers who have been questioning just how much profit we're churning out. Nonetheless, for the time being at least, we have the public's support. That, however, is not the only issue. There is another problem, namely the fact that we are no longer able to pay off a large portion of our debts. That is the looming problem, and if we are not able to pay off our creditors, then our trust will be gone instantly and of course, then the first problem will come much sooner."
Mr. Roberts winced. Colby had never been good at holding back the punches, but he was also rarely wrong.
"The National Neopian Bank cannot collapse," Golgoth said. "Hundreds of millions of shares of this bank are sold every day. The amount of assets wiped out of our shareholders, the people I represent, would represent over a billion neopoints. The impact on the shareholders would be bad enough, but it would also damage the economy to a huge extent."
"All of the shops run on loans," Mrs. Beth said. "If they can't get loans, then we will be seeing a lot of shops closing not just in Neopia Central, but in other lands as well. Business is going to be hit hard."
"Not to mention of course, our deposits," Mr. Roberts said. "Our depositors will probably be unable to retrieve their neopoints, and a bank run is almost sure to ensue."
"Don't you have insurance?" Mrs. Beth asked.
"Yes, the city required them to purchase depositor's insurance when they initially set up," the Mayor said. "But, that was ten years ago. All deposits are insured up to fifty thousand neopoints. Beyond that, the bank guarantees nothing."
"Fifty thousand neopoints!" Golgoth exclaimed. "Why, that's a paltry amount! Almost everyone has at least two hundred thousand in, and one million is almost the norm now-a-days."
"Yes," the Mayor said, "but the contract had been set up in the old days, when fifty thousand was still a hefty amount. We considered raising it several times, but we noticed just how successful the bank was, and decided to leave it. Of course, almost no one had anticipated that inflation would reach these levels, or that the bank could even fail."
The last sentence echoed across the room. It was absolutely true, almost every one of them had thought at one point that the bank was infallible. There were several people outside who were sure it was still too big to fail. And yet they were here like this, having this meeting.
"Enough about the problems, though," the Mayor said. "We already knew there were problems. We have to think about the solutions. What have you all planned? I just want to say that a government bailout is not possible; the city doesn't have that many funds. And I also heavily doubt that the other regions will be willing to pour their funds to support a bank either."
"I have an idea," the Desert Scorchio said. Everyone in the room was surprised, and Mr. Roberts dreaded what was coming next. The Desert Scorchio was known for being eccentric, after all, he sold scratchcards and his business was never very stable. "See, a problem is that we have to pay out for all these many workers. Rather than that, let's make a one time investment on robots."
"Robots?" Mrs. Beth asked.
"Yes, robots. I have a contact in Virtupets who says that Sloth left over some robots he wanted to run some odd errands. I say that we can take them and use them to run the bank, and save quite a lot through that," the Desert Scorchio continued.
There was silence for a few minutes.
"I do believe that our customers would not enjoy being greeted by robots possibly under Dr. Sloth's control," Mr. Roberts said, stating the obvious. The Desert Scorchio kept quiet, almost as if he hadn't thought of that.
"Now, what are your plans for dealing with this crisis," the Mayor asked Mr. Roberts. Everyone turned to him, and Mr. Roberts felt the weight of the situation settle on his shoulders.
He had to make sure that this went well. Otherwise, chaos was going to ensue.
To be continued...