"The client trusts the brand, but the employee even more," Romero said. "But when you touch their money, people change radically. We've seen death threats, insults, people who come in with shotguns."
Romero heads a Bancaja union and he has seen an increase in the number of complaints from employees who feel they can't go out on the street because they are scared.
Spain's Confederation of Savings Banks declined to comment on gun incidents at bank branches and said all investors in the bank stock had to authorize purchases by signing contracts containing "brief and non-technical language" about the risks they were agreeing to take on. The confederation added in a statement that investments in "preferred stock" were sound when introduced but their value was hurt by market conditions and Spain's deteriorating economy.
Preferred stock entitles the holder to a fixed-rate dividend, paid before any payouts are distributed to holders of ordinary shares- common stock. Holders of such preferred stock also rank higher than ordinary shareholders in receiving proceeds from the liquidation of assets if a company goes into court protection.Romero, like most of his colleagues, sold preferred stock in his bank and believed at the time that he was promoting a good product. They were first offered at the end of the 1990s at a time of economic boom and many people benefited from the returns. The problems started when people started signing up between 2007 and 2009, just as the bubble was bursting. "There was a market that worked at the time and had good returns," he said. "But the crisis came suddenly and it all collapsed." The country's financial crisis has already yielded many dark milestones, including 25 percent unemployment and home foreclosures on an unprecedented scale. Add to that the scandal of up to 1 million Spaniards whose money is frozen or have been lost after banks allegedly mis-sold them complicated financial products.