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25 October 2008

Royal Bank of Scotland incompetence

I have always been a bit surprised by the banking industry. It must be that there is a special set of skills you can only get when working for banking that is completely unavailable anywhere else. The vast majority of banks (when they used to hire people) only took on people with previous banking experience. You might be the best web project manager going, but if you haven't worked for a bank they won't interview you. You might have all the relevant qualifications, but if you haven't worked for a bank, they won't interview you. You might even have extensive payments, e-commerce experience and been security vetted, but if you haven't worked for a bank they won't interview you. Although I have worked in financial services, retail, government and a wide range of sectors, banking is unique in that they require previous experience and will wait forever for the right person and pay over the odds for them rather than take someone who is capable of doing the job. Even government has realised that just employing government people to top jobs is a loser and is keen to recruit from outside. Not so the closed and incestuous world of banking which being so far shoved it own backside is now up the proverbial creek without a paddle and in the biggest mess for nearly a century. Led of course by people who are lifelong bankers, rather than well rounded individuals with a breadth of experience.

I turn now to the fiasco which is Royal Bank Digital Banking which has been the biggest disaster of a service imaginable ever since it first launched, failing of course to casually ignore the bank’s obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act to provide an accessible service for many years.

7 years after the likes of Egg and Intelligent Finance implemented online secure messaging, Royal Bank (they like to claim they are a leader) still doesn't have it. The "alternative" is a long phone call, possibly at expensive rates overseas from a mobile. Not very much of an "online" service then.

They also used to have a very useful financial planner application online. This service was withdrawn.

Recently, and completely unannounced, they made some changes to online banking such that even amending a payment to myself requires a card reader and a card with PIN. Being a business banking customer, my account had no card as all my transactions are online. I write a cheque about once a month and since it's posted, there is no requirement for a card, nor does my account come with one. So in order to do my transactions online I had to have a special online-only card issued. I also need a PIN and a card reader and I have to pack the card and reader as additional extras when I travel just so that I can pay wages into my own account. The alternative (having done it twice now) is a long conversation lasting about 20-30 minutes on the phone to do exactly the same thing but at great expense if I was calling from overseas.

I won't debate the merits of how secure or otherwise this recent change is nor indeed why they would need to implement all that security online when the phone system is as insecure as ever and of course is over an open channel, anyone within earshot can hear it etc. Bit like having 1 lock on your front door and 2 million locks on your back door then saying "we just added another million locks to the back door; our service is really secure now". Burglars aren't stupid. They break in at the weakest point; therefore the security of the back door is irrelevant until the front door is up to the same standard.

So now I turn to the latest set of problems with online banking. They sent me a card, PIN and reader for use with the online banking service over a year ago. However, at that time I had no need for them. The service didn't require their use either for regular payments. A year passed and in all that time I didn't need them once. Then all of a sudden without warning RBS changed the website behaviour so that paying myself via the same payment I had successfully been using for years was now deemed as high risk as setting up a brand new payment to Nigeria in response to a possible scam. Both transactions now need the card, card reader and PIN. No problem I thought and dug out the card and reader I'd got a year ago.

Went to set up transaction and the system said I would need to order a card reader. Funny that, I wonder what the system thought the thing I was holding was that was called a "card reader". There was no way to reset the flag in the system to say I already had one other than to order another one and wait several days until the system thought it had arrived, by which time I could then use the one I already had.

Then I went to use the card I'd had for a year and realised that since I'd never used the card, I couldn't remember the PIN. I called RBS and asked them to send me a new PIN. No can do, that type of card can't have its PIN reset, they had to order a new card instead. However, there's a problem with the supplier and the new card might take up to 3 weeks to arrive. 4 weeks later, I still have no card, no PIN for use with new card and therefore no on-line service. This remember is from a so called leading bank. Buggy websites, poor card functionality and supplier problems too.

On 15th October I put in the following complaint:

1. That the on-line system was changed without warning and for customers like me who required both a card and PIN we needed a 3 week warning at least to ensure no loss of service. This advance warning was not given.

2. I need a card and a PIN to do trivial on-line transactions between my own accounts that have never been a problem, if you are going to change the service to require cards and PINs, you need to check that these cards and PINs are actually available and there isn't a supplier problem. If there is, you need to either delay the upgrade or have an on-line workaround.

3. My wife and I share the same bank account. It isn't possible to set up pay from the business account to our joint account so that my pay goes through as one transaction and her pay goes through as another transaction without endless security checks. Paying a husband and wife who share a common account is such a basic item it is astonishing that it is impossible with direct banking to set up two payments to the same account but with two difference references (e.g. Craig pay and Joscelin pay). Never mind the "Craig dividends" "Joscelin dividends" and expenses payment references I might need as well - one account can only have one reference at a time.

4. When logging the above complaint on 15th October I was passed between several agents all of whom re-requested my details verbally. This is a security risk when I am calling from a phone as it increases the opportunity of people overhearing the conversation. RBS should implement an internal secure call transfer system, just as they already have when transferring from the telephone banking system to when you speak to an agent.

Points 1,2,3,4 were logged as a complaint on 15th October and I was told I would receive a response by 17th October. On 19th October I complained that no response had been received. On 21st October they wrote me a letter saying that they had tried to call me on the 21st but were unable to make contact. My phone has no record of a missed call or otherwise from the bank on 21st October. The response to my complaint was to explain that a card reader order was pending (which I knew) and that I could order a card reader on-line (which I don't care about as they've just acknowledged one was on its way). The letter then said that the changes were introduced to safeguard customers from possible fraud. No explanation as to why no notice was given, no explanation to explain why the loss of on-line service was not considered any explanation as to when my card and PIN which I am still waiting for would actually arrive, no explanation as to their poor call handling and complaint response times.

So I thought I would document the problems on-line just so they have a written record they can look up in case they lose the details again. I also find that telling an organisation I have put my comments on my blog generally results in a better response than the usual stock half-hearted template reply.

Maybe the next time I think of applying for a bank I should put "I want to work for an incestuous company that has no concept of customer service, technical capability or approach to delivering a high class product" and I might stand more of a chance in future. On the other hand, I might just put "Previous banking experience: UK taxpayer. Through your own incompetence taxpayers like me own a part of you. We bailed you out."

Surely an organisation that used to make billions of pounds profit a year and was bigger than Coke could actually deliver a basic on-line service and help desk that is better than this?


Susan said...

You are lucky if you have a PIN.

I have had the famous card reader since last June.
I still don't have a PIN to go with it.

initially I tried to use my ATM card with the reader. This didn't work and they told me I needed a new PIN.

RBSI have now sent me four letters claiming to include a PIN behind a window, behind a scratch panel.

All have been blank.

I live in Thailand and have refused to phone them again. They phone me, but I still can't use the card or card reader.

I can't add new payees to the account.

I can't use an ATM from this account

Other banks will give part of a PIN over the phone and then e-mail the other part to you. This seems to work fine.

No wonder they have problems


Unknown said...

I wanted to change my address so they told me to do it online. Registered -ordered all the card reader and upshot is it still wont let me update my address. So then they sais phone telephone banking - will b automatically registered if ur signed up for internet.
Lucky me I thought seeing the number was 08457... not included in my phone minutes.
Anyway telephone banking told me that my telphone banking wasnt activated blah blah blah

not impressed said...

I can't begin to share my complaints. RBS has too many 'I will transfer you to this department' that they get lost with the intial complaint.
The updates on the banking app is rediculous, they refuse to share information with me on my joint account, yet they call me to change payment amounts on the same joint account which I have no rights to query because of Data protection acts.
A customer representative named Gemma said to me 'its not my fault you took a loan and can't pay it'. Well Gemma I couldn't help that the Army moved us from London to Scotland and I had to leave a well paying job to come here and get bullied by senseless colleagues.
Tell me RBS why have you taken a payment twice from my account yesterday and why is RBS calling me about going over my overdraft when I clearly have not?
Why do I feel like this Bank is disturbing my life and how I manage my money?
Why do I have to suffer for RBS incompetence?
Why won't we told that agreeing to pay less on a loan would incur arreas.
I think Banking with RBS is completely useless and we are looking forward to washing our hands of this 'R'ediculous 'B'anking 'S'ervice

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