Standard Bank – not inspired, motivated and whatever the other one was

It’s been over a year since my last post about a bank’s systems, and perhaps I’d naively thought I couldn’t get surprised any more.

I’ve had the dubious pleasure of using almost all the online banking systems in South Africa. I’ve mentioned before how, First National Bank, in their upgrade, introduced a rather obvious regression into their system, and greatly increased the annoyance factor and possibility of error for people, like me, who have more than one account linked to their profile. It seems no FNB decision-makers actually use their site, as it still hasn’t been fixed.

Today’s experience was with Standard Bank. In many ways, their website is one of the better ones in the country. Intuitive, functional, easy to use. Except for a minor little detail…

The account was mainly being used to draw cash with a card. The first wobbly was when, with no notification at all, the account was suddenly unavailable. The website reflected a zero balance, and wouldn’t let me do anything, and the card couldn’t draw money.

I phoned the bank, and got told I hadn’t submitted my FICA documentation, so the account had been suspended. Thanks for telling me…

Since I had given them all the correct documentation, at the branch, just three weeks prior to that, this wasn’t too satisfactory. I was told to go the branch with the correct documents, but after some persuasion, got through to someone at the branch, and they fixed the problem telephonically.

Annoying, but mistakes do happen.

Today it got better. I, for the first time, needed to make some online payments. I needed to make them quite urgently – as in immediately. I set up the beneficiaries painlessly, used the friendly interface to allocate multiple payments, and tried to pay. And couldn’t, as I’d exceeded my daily limit. My daily limit turned out to be zero. An odd default choice for an internet account, but nothing a quick change of settings can’t fix.

I looked for the option to increase it online, but there was none.

Fine, a phone call instead then. When will they get the online part of online banking right.

I phone the helpdesk. They explain that my limit is set to zero, and to change it so as to be able to make the payments today I need to go into a branch. Of all the insane systems! To access my money online through my so-called online banking I have to go to a branch.

I thought this kind of lunacy went out with first dot com boom. No persuasive powers could work this time. Standard Bank’s systems were simply unable to allow me to telephonically set my limit.

Not too pleased, I went to the branch. It was lucky there was still half and hour until closing time.

Certain words have very negative associations for me. One of them, permission, got thrown at me when I asked for my limit to be set. I was told the limit I requested was too high, and I needed to ask permission to set it at this level. The idea of asking permission to access my own money doesn’t charm me much.

When the consultant started telling me it was based on my salary (the account has no salary going into it), I felt I was in the Truman show. The account has no overdraft, no credit. All I want to do is put money in and take money out. I’m even happy to pay Std Bank a fortune every month for this arcane privilege.

But to have some faceless decision-maker (the consultant went off to her supervisor to go and ask permission) decide whether I can access my money when I need based on utterly arbitrary criteria doesn’t sit well with me.

I was in a hurry, so never got to meet the supervisor, but the unfortunate result is I will have to repeat the experience in a week or so when I will need to increase my limit to make some more payments.

Pure lunacy.

Sorry Std Bank, you’ve got everything else right, but forcing people to needlessly waste their time at a branch, and then telling them they can’t access their money without applying and meeting some ludicrous criteria doesn’t leave me motivated, inspired and whatever the other one was.

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  1. There’s a “secure message” function in SBSA’s internet banking you can use to send a message to your branch for things like increasing your daily EFT limit. Unfortunately the turnaround time on this is up to 24 hours, but it does mean you don’t have to physically go into the branch; someone from the branch will phone you, authenticate you, and verify the instruction(s) in your secure message, all over the phone. I will point out that being able to raise your transfer limit through the internet banking website would pretty much defeat the point of having a limit in the first place, unless I’m missing something.

    The part about not being allowed to set your transfer limit to a certain amount is bizarre; I’ve had my limit raised on a few occasions where I was passing large amounts of money through my account (much higher than, say, my monthly salary), without any questions asked.

  2. It was the 24 hour delay that got me – I needed to make the payments urgently.

    I agree about the limit online, but I’d have been happy to have been able to do it by phone.

    The limit could be raised further, I was told at the bank, if I put more money into the account, but the point was I only wanted to go through the hassle once. I may have R100 in the account this month, but why should I need to go through the process again if I happen to have R100 000 next month. I was shown a very bizarre formula where my suggested limit was one quarter of the money that’s been through the account this month, but at that stage I needed to leave 🙂

  3. That’s unbelievable.

    I moan about my bank (The Co-operative Bank) in the UK sometimes, but the website works effortlessly and I only go to the branch every 6 months or so if some one gives me a cheque.

    Bank accounts are free.

    The bank has an ethical policy, investing in renewables etc. and not giving money to nasties.

    Also, being an ethical bank, it’s one of the few that hasn’t collapsed in the credit crunch – all that desperately unsexy business of doing things properly and not throwing money around.

  4. Couldn’t agree with you more. I recently closed all my Standard Bank accounts, as I had to go in to the branch 5 /6 times to submit my FICA documents (account was also frozen several times without notification, despite me submitting the documents several times!!).

  5. Hi

    All institutions have their quirks and issues that we hate, but mostly I must say that Standard Bank has given me good service through the years. Any issues I may have had always got sorted out immediately. I also went through the having to go into the bank to set the limit on my internet banking. The only difference is that i went in once to do it. everytime I need it to be increased or decreased, i send a secure message from my online profile and they call you either the same day or for latest the next morning to confirm your request. We have to remember that it is their security checks they put in place, to secure themselves and our money from theft and fraud. It might be a headache at first,but afterward their service only gets better.

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