The basic requirement of issuing a card remains a chore for too many banks.

So just how long does it take for your bank to issue a debit card to new customers? Or a replacement card to existing customers?

For what seems like the past decade, just about every bank conference chaired or attended by the writer has contained what sometimes seem like never-ending presentations from senior retail bankers on customer-centricity.

The gist of the presentations tend to follow a certain pattern. They start with an acceptance that customers deserve better service; they will talk of clients feeling discomfort, despair even at past service levels; they are used to a certain standard of service from other industry verticals; customers’ service expectations are rising; the bank has got this message and is now committed to improving the customer experience.

Some banks will even make the bold claim that their organisation is being transformed with the customer truly at the heart of their operations.

Having undertaken this dramatic change in strategy, the banks in question now confidently expect to achieve sustainable growth and above-average profitability all thanks to embarking on a customer-centric transformation.

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To this end, they are rewarding branch staff for example, not on sales figures but on the quality of service; careful analysis is being made of net promoter scores and feedback from mystery shoppers. Investment is being made to offer class leading digital services; the whole branch experience is being re-defined by many lenders while innovative use of social media will be flagged up by others.

Other examples will be given about empowering the front line staff; the marketing team are not to be forgotten and can be relied upon to present at length about investment in the bank brand and the vision of the organisation; there may even be mention of customer insight units or something similar.

All of the above are of course perfectly worthy. What is however surprising is the number of banks that for a variety of reasons, fail to execute some fairly basic customer service improvements. In the cards sector, one obvious area for improvement is the time taken to issue a card. A fairly basic fundamental part of a current account, card issuance is not rocket science or novel.

If, for example, Metro Bank in the UK can issue a card in 15 minutes, one might ask how come the self-proclaimed customer-centrics at the UK’s largest and third retail largest retail banks take around four to five working days to issue a card?

The most recent example I chanced upon of a bank launching instant card issuance was Security Bank in The Philippines.
In July 2014, Security Bank rolled out its All-Access Account with Everyday Debit

MasterCard featuring instant card issuance
Customers can receive their personalised MasterCard debit cards within 15 minutes of opening the account. Previously, it took Security Bank three to five days before it could issue the cards.

Thermal printers for personalisation were made available in the bank’s branches – again not exactly cutting edge technology.
The results suggest the relatively simple investment is paying off; as of May 2015, the number of All-Access Accounts grew more than 3 times compared to 2014 year-end.

Perhaps the next time some of the leading evangelists for customer centricity want to congratulate themselves for how well they are transforming their service levels, they could perhaps take a moment to re-assess their card issuing strategy.