A 77 year old close relative set out last week to open two new bank accounts. Douglas Blakey writes
He had nothing ambitious in mind. He knew that he wanted to use a bank branch and open the account in person and deposit up to £75k in each of two new accounts.
I warned him about Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering requirements and told him the bank would have to verify his identity.
He was well prepped. He left for the centre of town complete with passport, driving licence, utility bills a plenty, and a wad of recent letters from his solicitor to show the source of funds: the result of downsizing from a largeish house in the Borders to a flat near the city centre.
If anything, he had an overkill of documents.
I also warned him what to expect in terms of the onboarding process and that he would be asked about what other financial products he held and where.
He had no expectation of a great interest rate – he was interested only in efficient customer service.
He receives the occasional modest cheque to deposit – book royalties from a publisher – and is of an age where he probably enjoys the occasional visit to the bank.
I mentioned that banks were firmly committed to ‘customer centricity’ and that efficient service could probably be taken as a given.
He did ask for some suggestions on where he might “pop in to just open an account.”
RBS was a non-runner as he has most of his other financial products with them and was near the £75k limit.
Yes I know, I know, but if you listen as he does to Radio 4’s Money Box every Saturday, it is ingrained in people of a certain age that they ought not to have more than £75k with any bank.
So I suggested Bank of Scotland. A possible. In his councillor days, the council used Bank of Scotland and he’d never had an issue with them, so that was on the shortlist.
For a second, I mentioned TSB as I had never had an issue with them as a customer and there is a large branch in the centre of town.
Other suggestions included Nationwide, as I knew the branch was just a few steps from his old office. He thought he might also try Barclays, as their new branch next door to the Apple Store looked ‘quite nice.’
He reported back later that day and asked, mildly, why do some of these banks make it so hard?
‘No wonder branches are closing’ was another comment.
Though ageing, this retired minister is not prone to exaggerate and I do not doubt the accuracy of what he reported. He also still has all his marbles.
Nationwide was his first port of call and was a breeze.
‘In and out; friendly; efficient; all sorted; no daft questions – sorted in no time at all. Ten out of ten.”
Next, he tried TSB. “We can see you today if you are switching your current account.”
No. I just want to deposit £75k.” Eh, would you come back a week on Friday was the reply.
He was not prepared to wait over a week just to see someone so wandered along to Barclays. Two queues and half an hour later, he was directed to a chap who started to go through the switching process.
No, he just wanted to open a deposit account.
“Why are you not switching. RBS? Your current account is with RBS? ‘If you are not switching, oh, go back to the service desk and make an appointment for next week. How much are you depositing?”
Dismissive of the sum, the reply was “there is no appointment available in the next week for just a deposit account.
“If you would let me explain about what we can offer, we can see you today and help you switch? And can we demonstrate mobile banking to you today”
Next up: Bank of Scotland.
After a lengthy wait to see the ‘right person’ he was told that he would need to sit through a video presentation. It would “only take 45 minutes to watch the video.”
That would help him to understand the aims, values and services of the bank and help with deciding which products he would take. And she cheerfully added, all questions would be answered about how to switch.
En route home, having managed only a 1 in 4 success rate he stopped off at his local Bank of Scotland branch, walkable from his flat. He gave the “wee branch a shot”. No video. No mention of switching. No hard sales pitch.
“As good as Nationwide.” So he managed a two out of five success rate in the end.
Perhaps, just perhaps, some banks might like to bear in mind that not every new customer wants a lecture on switching, or to be shown how easy it is to use mobile banking or be left feeling that if they only have £75k to deposit, they can come back a week on Friday.