Service at our banks

Dr Errol Benjamin -
Dr Errol Benjamin -

THE EDITOR: Recently I listened with interest to a claim on TV about an account being set up in a local bank sometime in the past, but now being non-existent. I cannot pass judgment here for I do not have the facts either way, but I can speculate that it would be pretty audacious or foolish or mentally unstable for someone to make such a claim in public and for the media.

My concern, however, is that the bank as an institution, previously thought of as being sacrosanct and inviolate in dealing with the public, can be on the receiving end of such an allegation which, inevitably, diminishes the traditional trust placed in it.

What makes it worse is that recently another allegation involving Republic Bank would have been made in the media related to an issue about outdated cheques and inconvenience to the customer, the complaint being about insufficient notice time, although I can personally attest that I was given sufficient notice to circumvent such a problem, which I did.

Nevertheless, these are two instances – of which there may have been others in the past – which add something of a taint to an otherwise perceived squeaky-clean institution.

And I have a concern of my own regarding the safety and accessibility of whatever little savings I may have in the bank as is implicit in the case of the first claimant in this letter, although in a different manner.

Recently I would have been engaged with Republic Bank on Cipero Street, San Fernando, in a matter involving my children becoming beneficiaries of our (my wife and I) finances on our passing, but was told that such was not possible as they can only be signatories in the present to these finances.

True, they are my children and I trust them, but like the other financial institutions dealing with the same issue who obliged, I certainly would have felt more comfortable with the children being full beneficiaries on our passing rather than signatories to the account in the present. But that arrangement was a “no-no” simply because it is “bank policy.”

I think it is a travesty to be dictated to about my own money and how I should manage it by an entity that is merely my money’s keeper. And to add insult to injury, on requesting documentation to attest to the arrangement enforced upon me, I was merely issued a carbon copy of the receipt, in real danger of the print becoming undecipherable in the future, with the “assurance” by bank officials that that was the “required," official documentation.

They thereby disregarded my insistence that I should have an official document which should have the appearance of validity, and certainly more durable, on the event of my children having to make a claim, especially in the absence of the current officials involved, by then long gone or retired.

I have tried repeatedly to obtain such official documentation from the bank but was made to feel that I was fast becoming a nuisance. Heaven forbid that my children not suffer the alleged similar fate of the first claimant when the time comes.

In my case the issue here is that the bank in question is using its policy with little regard to the wishes of the customer, “valued” as he might be as in my case, banking with them over half of a century. But as a form of redemption, I must mention the remarkable support I received from two Republic Bank officials in this difficult situation.

First, Cindy Ann Joseph, financial adviser, Republic Wealth Management Ltd, Port of Spain, who went beyond the call of duty in assisting me with the process but sadly having to leave the conclusion to officials at Cipero Street. And the other, Shadelia Williams of Republic Bank, lower Hight Street, San Fernando, who was the epitome of the true professional, informed, affable and, critically, patient with a senior citizen at a loss re the technology of “online banking.”

In the latter regard I would like to also single Emmanuel Mitchell of the UTC online centre in Port of Spain who virtually held my hand in walking me through their difficult “online process,” and that several times.

I mention these exemplary employees at our nation’s financial institutions, for it’s the employees who can make or break and institution, some not so customer friendly as I experienced, but some very much so. And these are the ones who help to maintain the trust in such institutions, especially our banks, which at the moment seems under something of a threat.


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