Bankers’ Bonkers Bureaucracy

Filed under: Governance,People,Risk,Security — lenand @ 6:41 am
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Governance matters – and that applies to identity management.  But question whether this bank behaviour is really fit for purpose.  The name of the bank has been omitted, because similar experiences at other banks leads to the conclusion that they are all promulgating the same inefficient processes.  In the end customers pay.

This is a letter sent to the Chairman of a bank in exasperation at trying to delete two names from a signature list, and adding three.  It used to take one working day – it is now two months and counting.

“Dear [Chairman of BBB],

I have been a loyal customer of BBB for [decades]. This is the first time I have been moved to complain about unacceptable service. My simple requirement is to change three signatures on a club account with funds of about £1000. Nothing special, you would think. We have to follow the procedures that would have to be followed by a local authority with a £billion turnover. The bureaucracy is mind-blowing. It must be costing you a fortune in time and lost customers. Where can I begin?

  1. I made initial enquiries on Feb 11th. The local branch did not anticipate any problem. Just get signatures verified. The Form is a fourteen page document, unreadable by visually impaired people. I asked in the branch for a large print version and was told that it did not exist. This is probably against the law, to say nothing of the banking code.
  2. Other signatories had to have their identity checked, which they duly did at other local BBB branches. I presented the Form on March 2nd. One manager had done it right and provided certified copies. The other manager did not provide certified copies; note that the Form does NOT ask for certified copies. The miscreant manager only signed it. ‘Tough’ said my local branch when I submitted it for scrutiny. They said it might be accepted – but only if the other branch photocopier was broken. This was only offered as a solution when I asked if they were accusing the other branch of incompetence.
  3. The previous Treasurer, also with visual impairment, had inadvertently marked Question [x.x], which only applies to limited companies – which we are not. So we crossed it out as Not Applicable. The local branch said that this was “Not Acceptable” and that two of the original signatories would have to countersign. Given that we only meet monthly, we are spread over Hants, Berks, Surrey and Middlesex and we have lost touch with one of the signatories this posed me with a logistics problem. Tough, ‘not our problem’ says the branch – ‘we are only doing our job to prevent money laundering’. Redo the Form they suggested. So I did. This took me another hour, with occasional checks on progress.
  4. The new form had to be re-signed, of course. To speed it up, I hand carried the new Form round Berks, Hants and Surrey to renew the signatures. I did not dare trust it to the post – and it would be quicker. It was presented on March 11th. The information desk asked me to wait until the original manager was available. After half an hour twiddling my thumbs and being accosted by somebody with products to sell, I could wait no longer and asked to see somebody else. This new clerk (perhaps they are managers these days) went through the same rigmarole. Without certified copies, it would not be acceptable by ‘Head Office’, for money laundering reasons. Yes, the other branch may have made an error – but that was my problem – not BBB. Your customer friendly staff training and freedom to act is unbelievable. Is the Government really worried about a £1000 account when billions are being laundered around the world? He would, however, submit it for approval, but it was my fault, not BBB. It is irrelevant that the inaccessible 14 page form did not even request certified copies.
  5. It is now nearly four weeks without any response from Head Office and it is the Club Meeting tonight. And I still can’t sign cheques to pay our speaker.
  6. [Lady] on the complaints line now informs me that it is probably a personal account in Staines, not Commercial. It might be the wrong form. She can’t give me a reference number but she will leave them a voice mail. She does not know the post town of an address she gave me. Amazing! Hence a letter to the top.

What on Earth is going on in BBB? If your bank ever gets round to deleting two signatories and adding three, I feel that a small contribution to club funds would not be out of place.

Yours sincerely, …”

Is there a lesson for the public sector?  I hope so.  When you get round to developing processes to identify staff and citizens, make sure that the bureaucracy is proportionate to the risk.  The country cannot afford the time-wasting that has to be endured in dealing with banks.


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