A banker goes a-banking, volume 7: why can’t we be friends?
Oh HSBC… why can’t we just be friends?
A few weeks ago, I got a call from my “new relationship manager” for my HSBC expat account.
That was rather exciting for me as I didn’t know I had an old relationship manager (if he/she existed they never called and I bet you my new one wishes he’d done the same…).
Also, I most definitely have not come up in the world as I have a small savings account with the bank that hasn’t seen action in a few years.
No matter. He is here. He is new. He called.
I missed the call though and I emailed back suggesting we schedule a call as I tend to spend my hours on calls, in meetings, working to deadlines that chequerboard my day in a way that means I never take an unscheduled call unless it’s from my mother and that’s only because she never calls unless the world is on fire.
But I digress.
Ask me how long it took for the man to actually schedule a call rather than try his luck?
Weeks. Yes, weeks.
But the scheduled time came. He called. We spoke.
I gave my views on the service I had received to-date (poor) and the use I was making of the expat services (limited). I explained I was no longer an expat so… you know…
And then the fun began.
“Are you considering leaving again?” he asked.
“Not at the moment,” I replied.
“Was Doha your first time abroad?” he asked.
“Technically, the UK is abroad,” I joked.
“Oh,” he said.
Oh? You have my passport on file.
“I am sure we do,” he said.
Now. I am 99% sure this was shoddy client management rather than phishing. But. It’s not good either way.
And then it got better.
“I will need to ask you some security questions,” he said.
“No, I don’t think so,” I said.
“This is how we do it,” he said.
Oh I am sure it is. But. As every consumer protection directive out of the FCA will tell you, a customer should not divulge security information if the service provider has phoned them and have no way of identifying the true identity of the caller.
As you seem to not have access to my passport, you are either not who you say you are… or unprepared for this call. Either way, you should have verified who I am by now, because I have mentioned what accounts I have with you and when I joined, in our conversation.
“This is how we do things,” he said. He was not loving his job at that moment.
But I was only getting started. Because that’s when I got annoyed.
This being what, I ask… ignoring FCA directives, coming to calls unprepared or both?
“I don’t know about the FCA directives,” says my relationship manager. “This is how WE do things.”
How much is wrong with this one statement?
How much of this is banal and infuriating in equal measure?
And then he makes it better.
“We are HSBC, we wouldn’t do that kind of thing.”
It is impolite to point out someone has spinach stuck to their teeth during dinner but you do know you’ve been all over the news recently right?
“Yes, but it wasn’t me.” Always a mature response, I find.
So I thought I would make it easier for him.
I said, look Bob (it was not Bob, but I will spare him the publicity on this one). Right now, your job is not to lecture me on your internal processes (which he tried to do) or get on with the task at hand (which he also tried to do) but to give me comfort.
“And why would there be discomfort?”
Because you didn’t seem to have basic know your customer (KYC) data or decided you didn’t need to prepare and because you are dismissive of privacy and security considerations and concerns raised by your client, not to mention your regulator, and if nothing else this is terrible client management so I need someone in your chain of command to give me comfort that my assets (such as they are) and my data is securely held despite your performance today.
“Well,” he said. “I can get my manager to call you but it won’t be today. He just came back from a two-week holiday and he has a lot of important things to do.”
And a customer questioning the integrity of your compliance as well as the quality of your service is not on that list?
“Just saying,” Bob says, “it will not be today.”
Of course not.
It’s been years of banks hiding behind their processes as if that is an answer. This is not new and therefore not urgent.
“That’s how we always do things,” says Bob in mounting desperation. “I don’t understand why this is a problem now.”
And that exactly is the problem, Bob.
It’s always been a problem.
And it still is.
You and your colleagues across high street banks got away with it. Or rather, the banks got away with it. Because, the truth is, Bob and all the Bobs in the world are poorly trained and under-equipped for the job at hand. They have no choice but to do it badly. They just don’t know that is what is happening because most customers are less informed than them and have lower expectations than me. Both hard to achieve. And yet.
Plus I am sure I made him feel bad by the end of the call.
And I didn’t mean to. And doing so achieves nothing.
But “the way we’ve always done this” and “this is how it is” responses, not to mention the “you’ve been told by your betters so why are you kicking off” attitude was never ok. And it is no longer viable.
Here they are.
Here Bob is.
And his boss is yet to call me.
So you tell me, what 15 years of digitisation, modernisation and innovation have gotten us from the consumer’s point of view? Because it’s not looking great from where I stand today.
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!