Monday, 22 August 2016

Digital Banking - Some banks just can't get it right

By Stanley Epstein - Principal Associate - Citadel Advantage Ltd -

I really am a really big fan of digital banking. Banking digitally is a positive change from the way banking and banking transactions were carried out in the past.

I really like the way it has changed my life for the better.

I like the way it has given me a new freedom to do my banking when I want to, where I want to and to a large degree how I want to.

There is something empowering in being able to attend to virtually all your banking needs from the comfort of your own office. A massive plus is that you have all the other relative information that you may need close at hand; you can look things up, you can check things, and you can interact with your bank from a “strongpoint”, namely from your own desk.

A particular highlight of digital banking is that there are no queues, no surly or indifferent staff, and the fantastic ability to do my banking at 1.00am if I so choose.

I also like the little extras that I didn’t expect and that have now become a nice part of my new digital arrangement with my bank and how I manage my affairs. Extras like friendly little reminders or comments that arrive comfortingly on my mobile telling me I am close to my limit or confirming a credit card transaction.

Of course, all of this comes at a price and it somehow rankles that I am to pay a fee for every little thing that I do. After all, I am doing the bank’s work by entering my own transactions, and feel that to pay for this privilege is a bit of a cheek. However, the question of bank fees is another issue. Everything else aside, I would say that I am pretty satisfied with this new digital way of doing things.

That said I have a couple of bones to pick with my own bank when it comes to some failings in this new digital world. The name of my bank will remain anonymous. They know who they are, and hopefully someone from my own bank will read this and take note. I am sure that many other banks will recognize some of the problems that I list below too, and that they too, will take action.

  1. Bank statements (digital on-line version). Ever since I can remember, bank statements displayed on-line, start with the first or earliest transaction, displayed at the top of the screen and subsequent transactions are shown below each other in date order. So it was with my bank for all on-line accounts (cheque, foreign exchange, investments, mortgage). At least, it was so, until about a month ago when for reasons unknown, the online cheque account statement began to appear backwards! By backwards, I mean that the latest transaction appeared at the top of the page with preceding transactions slowly being pushed down as new ones appeared. It would have been nice if the bank had bothered to tell its clients of this change, but that was not to be. From what I hear from other clients of the bank there was massive confusion among customers if not downright anger. Not a clever move.
  2. Terminals. As many banks have done, my local bank branch has dispensed with tellers. The lobby, as you enter the bank proper, has an impressive array of terminals, including ATM’S, where clients who still wish (or need?) to have a branch “experience” can transact their business. As with any system, there are many occasions that a transaction cannot be completed for any number of reasons. When this happens, the appropriate reason should be stated on the terminal so that the client is aware of what the real problem is. Giving a stock answer that “this transaction could not be completed”, is simply not good enough. It can easily lead to panic attacks (best case) or even heart attacks (worst case) among some bank clients. Could the transaction have failed because my balance is insufficient (‘OMG what has gone wrong with my finances?’) or is it a system problem (irritating, but I’ll live)? Why not add an extra line and tell the customer why the transaction could not be completed, like “your balance is insufficient”, or “there was a system problem” or perhaps “SNAFU” for this one would be even better?
  3. Cash dispensing at ATM’s. Yes, even in this digital age, there is still a need for some cash. Unfortunately my bank believes that cash withdrawals mean dispensing the largest denomination banknotes possible. Giving your customer the largest denomination notes possible, is not a service, it’s a burden. Cash generally is used only for small transactions, and a client with no human teller to go to, is really in a bind. If the bank won’t allow denomination choice at the ATM at least offer a change machine!
These three examples are currently my own pet hates. I get the feeling that many banks, having switched to digital, often do things that suits the bank best, with no concern for their client’s needs. Please banks, my own included, take heed of what your clients say. Please get digital banking right.
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