Friday, 9 December 2011

Banker from hell

I hope that I've just completed the final chapter of a transaction with my business bank.  This transaction started in May and involved something that I thought would be relatively straightforward - opening a business bank account linked to a trust.

I'd called first and almost completed the process over the phone.  I was given very clear instructions about what I needed to take in to a branch to complete the process:  identification, tax file number, ABN for the business and the deeds for the company and for the trust.  The guy on the phone told me it would take about twenty minutes to complete the process of opening my account.

I had a couple of hours one morning as I went through the city on my way to various other appointments and errands and thought that would be plenty of time.  The particular branch I visited had an electronic queuing system which required me to identify that I needed a business banker and my business was about opening an account.  It then spat out a numbered ticket and invited me to wait in the lounge.  The wait wasn't very long and from the moment I met the person who would be in this transaction with me, I knew it wouldn't go well.  There was something in his eyes (fear?) that told me he didn't know what he was doing.  I was right.  I should have run at that point.  But how could I?

After I'd introduced myself, I told him that I was here to complete the process of opening my business account which I had commenced over the phone the night before.

"What do you mean over the phone?  You can't do that over the phone," was his less than confidence-inspiring response.

"Well I did and here's the account number." He begrudgingly took the details and looked suitably awestruck when he discovered that the process had indeed been commenced over the phone.

Oh no.

Two hours later, I was still there battling with him.  I had 1.5kg of trust documents and company deeds and he dismissed them as being "just pieces of paper from your accountant - they don't prove anything".  I tried to reason with him, suggesting he take a copy of some of the key pages, just in case.  He wouldn't have it.  I cancelled my hairdressing appointment which I had no hope of making in time. When I reached the one hour mark I knew that I would have to stay the distance if the time I had already spent was to count for anything.

My confidence in my choice of bank was waning by the second.

Finally, I was released.  I went straight home, called the customer complaints line and told them the story.  They made all the right noises, apologised and said that they would get my personal banker to call me.  I panicked.  Was the guy I'd spent a quality 150 minutes with now my personal banker?  Were we tethered for life?  This would be a disaster.  Turns out my personal banker would be his boss.  This made me feel no better.  Where there are problems in an organisation, always look at the next level up to diagnose the problem.  To this day, I've never heard from that guy.

Here's some of what went wrong:

  1. My account had been incorrectly opened and would not allow me to withdraw any money.  The customer service complaints people fixed this.  
  2. My mailing address had been recorded, but all mail was tagged to go to my home address.
  3. Three debit cards were issued with the wrong business name on the card before I found someone who could get the problem fixed.  That took several phone calls of no less than 40 minutes each and the insistence that if I wanted a new card issued I had to visit a branch.  The distinction between needing a new card and needing them to fix their error was lost on the people I spoke to.
  4. The account is supposed to be a business cheque account (with no cheque book).  According to the bank that's the rule.  The first time I used my debit card, pressing "cheque account" on the ATM keypad, the machine told me I was wrong.  I now know that I have to press "savings account", even though it isn't.
  5. The account is supposed to be recognisable under my universal customer identification number.  It isn't.  I always end up in the wrong call centre when I call.  Fixing this is unbelievably hard.  So I don't bother.  I just have a script that I read out when we get to that bit of  the conversation.
  6. Details of my trust have not been correctly gathered.
Number 6 above caused me to receive a letter  from the bank the other day.  In bold at the top of the letter was written We need some more information for your Trust Account.  I had quite an emotional reaction when I read this.  I remembered the 1.5kg of paper I had lugged into the bank that day, only to have the pages dismissed as being "just paper from your accountant".  That 1.5kg of paper was now lodged securely with my accountant and I just couldn't be bothered.  

The letter went onto say, "When you established your Trust Account with XXX we didn't collect some details that we're required by law to have on our records.  It's easily fixed.  Please send us a copy of the following items from the Trust Deed:."  A list of four items followed.  

The letter was well worded, carefully putting responsibility for this problem on the bank rather than on me.  But when I reached the bit that said they were sorry for the "hassle" and appreciated me "taking the time to help us with this" my blood reached boiling point again.  What risk was my business at because the bank had failed to fulfil the relevant legal requirements?  What would happen if I didn't provide the documents?

I called my friends in the customer complaints area again.  They were terribly sorry. They didn't know what risk I was at.  They didn't know what would happen if I didn't provide the documents.  Had I spoken to my personal banker about this?  If only he would call me.  I don't think he knows I exist.

The next day, the person who had failed to do his job in the first place called me.  (Perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh.  Perhaps I should refer to him as the person who was expected by his employer to do a job for which he had not been trained.)  My heart sank.  Nothing would be resolved if I had to deal with him.  He offered me his personal email address and phone number and said I could call him any time.  He apologised profusely and realised that he should have listened to me when I tried to get him to take copies of the relevant trust documents five months ago.

I responded very directly and said that I would prefer not to deal with him.  I appreciated him calling and taking responsibility, but it didn't change the fact that I had spent a considerable amount of time cleaning up the mess he had made of my business banking arrangements.  

I've now sent scanned copies of the documents to him.  I'm waiting for another letter to come advising me that they need the originals or something.  

Before I sent the documents - which I took my time about - I would receive random emails from the banker.  Once he actually asked me when I would be providing the documents.  I told him that it was on my list of things to do, but was not a high priority under the circumstances.  He didn't respond.

Is it too much to expect that people know what they're doing?  It seems incredibly unfair to put someone in a customer facing role as a "business banker" when they don't seem to have the faintest idea what that means.  As long as I don't have to deal with anyone, my relationship with the bank is fine.  For now.  One more thing going wrong will tip me over the edge. 


  1. oh my god you poor thing. If it's Westpac or St.G message me on f/b and I might be able to get you a senior contact to fix this - this is outrageous. You poor thing. When i had my own clusterF*#k with a bank (CITIBANK)...i had such a nightmare for 6 months...i finally went to their Media Manager... and said this needed to be resolved. media managers have a considerable amount of pull and can get things 'fixed' as they know this may well end up on their lap...and given the company were 110% in the wrong..this was fixed pronto. The salt in the wound however was the 'we'll make sure that we build your specific case into our training program' - gee thanks. i'm thrilled. As a result i HATE citibank and actively discourage anyone from any dealings with them - either as an employee or customer. they are truly an evil horrible and incompetent organisation..... feel my pain?

  2. Oh I feel your pain Danielle! The problem seems to be resolved for now. I think 6 months is a reasonable amount of time, don't you?