No Guns, No Dogs, No Naked Men

by Steven van Groningen on 3 April, 2012

When I was working as a consultant in the Netherlands many years ago, one of my clients was a small bank. You knew they did things differently the moment you stood in front of the elegant facade. On the main entrance door, at about 30 cm above ground, a discreet sign “No Dogs Allowed” was positioned. If this bank expected a dog to understand this, what expectations did they have from their clients?

What Signs On The Entrance Door

This memory came back to me recently. We had a discussion in the bank about what signs to put on the entrance doors of our branches. The whole discussion started with the obligation to inform visitors that they are being registered by surveillance cameras. In order to do so, stickers with the image of a surveillance camera are positioned on all entrance doors. That is of course perfectly in order. Apparently the police also suggested that a “no guns” sign should be put up. Then, following an internal discussion, a suggestion was made to add a sticker with a crossed out photo camera. More ideas came in and the discussion became more fundamental. Should we apply common sense and expect our clients to have judgment or should we be very explicit about what is not allowed into our branches?

No Guns

Basically we can identify two groups of people that are carrying guns, those who do so legally and those who do it illegally. The legal group includes police officers on duty and licensed private persons who carry the gun within the limits imposed by that license. The illegal group consists of people that carry a gun without any permit or outside the limits set by the license if they have one. If you are part of the legal group (police officer on duty), why shouldn’t you be allowed to enter a bank branch armed ? And would the sticker on the door stop any illegal carrier of a gun (gangster, bank robber)  from entering the branch? (“Damn, just when I was about to rob this bank,  I see they don’t allow guns inside.”) I believe we may expect visitors to a branch to respect the law and there should be no need for a No Guns sign.

No Cameras

As a Leica carrying bank client I asked why we felt a “No Cameras” sign was needed. The answer was that – for a variety of reasons – we don’t want people to take pictures in our branches. I would reckon that it ‘s common sense not to take pictures inside a building that is not yours without asking permission, especially when there are also other people present. Apparently this is not always the case and from time to time one has to point it out to visitors who start taking pictures.

No Dogs, No Ice Cream

We also don’t want them to bring their dogs, eat ice-cream, shout at our staff or be intoxicated. Do we need stickers for this as well ? How about knives, helmets, ghetto blasters and you name it. The problem is that, once you start stating the obvious, there is no end to it. The greater the number of instructions, the more precise they need to be. In that case we would need a lot of stickers and a very large door indeed. Every now and then someone would argue that he didn’t know something wasn’t allowed. “It said no ice cream, but nothing about hamburgers” and another sticker would need to be added.

No Naked Men

Not too long ago a probably mentally deranged man was running totally naked down the street, chased by a group of boys. He ran into one of our branches for shelter. Do you think a “No Nakedness”  would have helped? ….I don’t think so either.

So, better to apply common sense and judgment and accept that maybe not everybody sees things the same way, but at least they will be able to see through the door as they come in.





{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Stefan April 4, 2012 at 23:01

Hello Steven,

I have to admire your effort to also be involved in “door signs” , as you would not expect a CEO dealing with those kind of things. It is admirable that you do! Perhaps you can take this micro-management effort even further on more levels…. (just wondering if you ever watched the TV series “Undercover Boss” … which is highly interesting)

I understand you have the obligation to inform customers that they are registered by surveillance cameras using a sign on the entrance door.
Then I read: “Apparently the police also suggested that a “no guns” sign should be put up”. Is this a suggestion, a legal obligation, or just complete nonsense, on behalf of the police? If not a legal obligation, ignore the advice.

Regarding the rest of your post: totally agree. I mean where is the limit of putting X amount of announcements on your entrance door for X situations.

Apart from legal obligated signs (I would love to hear from you what law actually states this), I wouldnt botter a single second to put anything else on your entrance doors (please ignore your legal department on this particular matter, unless they can quote and interprete the law correctly, no pun intended!).

As a conclustion: (as you suggested) one has to use common sense.

Perhaps,as an Apple fan yourself, you probably know that Steve Jobs never ever ever allowed any sort of unnecessary labelling or “sticky notes” to be put on any of their products. I know banking can’t be compared with “tech products” all the time , but perhaps skipping some of the excess labeling and some internal redesign of Raiffeisen branches would be on your future radar as well …

Banks look too much alike these days, and the “retail experience” is just plain boring. Just saying.


SvG April 5, 2012 at 09:31

Don’t worry, I am not a micro manager but I might get involved when organizational culture and customer experience are involved. Thank you for recommending a TV series, I stopped watching TV many years ago and don’t have the feeling I am missing something.

If you only look at what we have do from the point of consumer protection in terms of providing information you’ll realize that this is significant burden on banks. Recently we had to install even monitors that nobody seems to look at with mandatory information.


Stefan April 5, 2012 at 23:31

You’re not a micro manager? Why not?


Andrew May 17, 2012 at 19:57

At the pace depo rates are sliding recently, shouldn’t someone think of a “no money allowed” sign:)?
Personally I wouldn’t mind having my bank’s branches photographed. It’s free publicity:).


Luminita June 11, 2012 at 10:17

Interesant! chiar, de ce nu profitati stimate d-le van Groningen de aceasta publicitate gratuita? in fond, ce imagini rele credeti ca ar putea surprinde cei care doresc sa faca fotografii in Raiffeisen? eu as organiza si un concurs inedit cu aceste fotografii, cele mai reusite le-as afisa la intrarea in banca! Imi aduc aminte de o initiativa foarte, foarte draguta a celor din Raiff cu caricaturile salariatilor dv, dar si cu cele ale clientilor! Fiti mai deschis, va rog!

Alex April 9, 2012 at 12:14

Mr. van Groningen

I fully understand your concern about paving yout front door with all kind of signs regarding thing you are NOT allow to do inside a bank. Still, i don’t think there is such thing as “obvious” conduct when it comes to… banks, let’s say. If you don’t state it (somehow), then how do you inform your client you don’t want them to do this or that in your branch? You can do this in a funny way, let’s say, but you have to warn me that entering your premises i have to leave my dog outside (this is NOT the obvious for many other places). I still don’t understand why need of a “no photos” inside a client zone area in a bank. Maybe i like the way you’ve decorated your branch, or i like the flowers in the room… How can photography can harm your business (your staff, your clients, your secrets…)?

Best regards,


SvG April 9, 2012 at 22:30

Not all people like being photographed. When you are outdoors and in a public place you basically have to accept that you may be photographed. When indoors and in a private setting, I feel people have the right to expect privacy and it is up to the owner of the place to make the rules. It is not about harm or secrets. Of course it also makes a difference when you are taking a picture of you own child/friend/wife or someone else. Judgement again. I myself will always ask if someone minds if I take a picture indoors.


Alina May 10, 2012 at 09:27

Come on, Alex,

Haven’t you seen that RZB branches have standard furniture? And the employees do not have flowers, cookies or coffe cups on their desks? So… you do not have what to take photos of :)
There are reasons for which you might want to take pictures and someone can provide regulations (or alternatives) that won’t let you.

Posters from some bank branches’ glass-doors with “No guns allowed” always made me smile, but I never thought of their un/necessity until now…

I think that common sense should indeed prevale. Not only upon using bank buildings.


Luminita June 11, 2012 at 10:01

Like :)


Emil April 9, 2012 at 18:37

If the purpose is great customer experience, seems like the custom logo t-shirts does a better impression..


Stefan April 19, 2012 at 12:22

Al though not directly related to this subject, I would like to point out a small issue which I would like to get to your attention.

Yesterday I opened a business account with Raiffeisen (and yes, the branch was perfectly ok with the fact that we signed -not stamped- any of your forms!- Yeah!), but what worried me greatly is the enormous amount of paperwork that needed to be completed for opening an account,2 debit cards and e-banking.

I fully respect that we have to fill in some forms, but this was really excessive and probably it cost a tree or 2. Even the branch manager appologised for wasting so much paper. As a suggestion, and as a matter of good practice with regards to the environment, can you have your people look into reducing the amount of paperwork? In a sense that I think it will not only be beneficiary for the environment, but annually will save you a huger paper/printing bill as well.

It just a suggestion from my side as I think RZB can summarise the forms as well as using affirmative tick box here and there allowing you to not having to print 5-10-15 pages of general conditions for each product.


Stefan April 19, 2012 at 12:41

Here is an overview picture of the paperwork we had to complete yesterday…


Alex May 22, 2012 at 17:55


I noticed your off-topic post and thought that maybe a private message to SVN or posting the comment into a more relevant post would have worked better.

Even if it’s off-topic here are my thoughts on your stated situation: most likely reducing paperwork is a priority for all the competitive banks in the romanian market. However, this may not be an easy process as it is in your customer perception. Even as an outsider, I would look into the following areas when discussing about reducing paperwork:

1. How does the regulatory framework support reducing the paperwork? Should you make sure a very complete paperwork is signed by the customer or does the law allow you to use references and consider some items as self-explanatory?

2. What kind of effort does this initiative need for quick and visible results? Are the people that could be involved full-time in this project addressing some other important initiatives as well? How about projects that produce more important benefits? (cost cutting, sales growth)

3. How much does this help the bank in terms of customer perception? How many of the customers are reluctant to a lot of paper and how many feel it’s normal and are used to it?

Thanks, Alex.


Parmalat June 3, 2012 at 17:31

The way I see it, this blog post is a hidden call to deregulation (dereglementare). A fair view and this time I agree with you.


Stefan June 7, 2012 at 10:22

Hi Alex,

1.. Regulatory framework support can be easily tackled when one uses creative lawyers. As an example: at Bank X you complete 15 pages for a a product, at Bank Y it’s 3. Still the Bank Y respects all regulatory issues. And yes, using much more “tickboxes” agreeing on legal provisions will definately decrease the amount of paperwork per customer.If I open a company bank account I wish to see no more than 4-5 pages max (not 25+). The fact that many people are used to filling in tons of paperwork, doesnt make it right in the first place.

2. As a customer, I wish to complete a written request a.s.a.p. I am not looking forward to dealing with massive amounts of paperwork when it is not necessary and when I have to complete many forms with the same data (personal/company data/etc). The initiative to reduce paperwork is twofold as well. The amount of paperwork reduced will: reduce overhead costs, and will be good for the environment. As an example: Vodafone Romania saved a couple of hundred of thousands of Euro a year just by not printing all terms and conditions for mobile subcription contracts. Instead they used a tickbox referring to “ones agreement on the terms” (at least that was the case in 2009).

3. Customer perception regarding banks is not a very high point at the moment. If you can make the procedures quicker (aka less paperwork) it will be perceived as positive in any business. Nobody likes to spend one hour completing forms just to open a simple account/card. The same as Raiffeisen has dropped the request for a stamp on company paperwork, which I think is the greatest banking initiative in many years,it could be investigated if the amount of forms can be reduced through a “tickbox project”.

As you responded here also on this blog – not having your personal details-, I hope Mr van Groningen doesn’t mind me responding, off topic, either.


John November 13, 2012 at 17:35

I found out about this blog when I googled your name, upon finding out that you are “cel mai admirat CEO din România”. I would like to congratulate you for this title.
I would like to say that after reading about 6 of your articles, I feel inspired and my knowledge of Romania’s economical situation has improved significantly.
Also, about matters of the common sense, when reading your articles I feel that I perfectly agree and that if I had the words I would have stated them the same way.
Thank you for this blog!


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