Monday, January 24, 2011

The Disappearing Nedbank Account

Dear Mike Brown, Chief Executive of Nedbank,
          Having made his fortune in the British horse racing world Ronnie Castelino, the scourge of bookies, was used to taking risks. But when it came to putting his money in a savings account at what is part of South Africa’s fourth largest banking group he assumed he was on to a sure bet.
You'd back that opinion wouldn’t you Mike?
          Ronnie and his partner Gayla live in Kent during the British summer and escape the winter to sunny South Africa where they have a second home in Cape Town. And for the last 10 years he has had an account with your bank.
          And as you know he was not just any old client. His status was such that he was allocated Liza Carelse as his personal banker to ensure that he got the best possible service. Everything had gone smoothly until last December.               
        That’s when that sure bet in his savings account turned into a rank outsider. He had won and lost on races like the Derby and numerous others but nothing had prepared him for what happened to his R200 000 ‘safe’ investment.
          It was too horrendous to contemplate. It looked as though his sojourn in Cape Town would be ruined as this was his spending money for his six months stay.
            Imagine how shocked and surprised he was when he tried to draw money from the account. It had just disappeared, every cent of that R200 000; all in one go.
          Anxiously he tried to get some sense out of your bank. That’s when the call centre horror of big business really kicked in. He described his ordeal to me like this, About six engaged tones, three to four recorded messages, two press this and press that and about five real people.
          What's the point of having a personal banker, I wondered, if even the top moneyed clients have to go through the same minefield as the riffraff when they have a problem.
          A greatly relieved Ronnie was finally able to speak to Carelse. This is what happen he told me. Her branch had a campaign to move ‘dormant’ money to higher interest bearing accounts so without contacting me she moved my investment from my Money Market Account to a new one I knew nothing about.
          In an email Carelse apologised for the inconvenience and stated, We have credited the funds back to your account as per your request. She added this comforting note, No funds will be debited to your account in future.
          The following day he received another email this time from your Complaint Specialist, Shea Blaauw. The unfriendly, ominous heading was Without prejudice. Presumably this was a legal escape route in case Ronnie wanted to take the matter further.
          After mentioning that the money had been returned and that Carelse had apologise she dismissed Ronnie’s complaint with, Without further prejudice to you, we wish to inform you that the points discussed are deemed final and sufficient to declare the case closed.
          But it wasn’t closed. Two days later another email arrived. This one was from Michelle Paddock (a good name to have when dealing with a racing personality), the Cape Town Branch Manager.
          She apologised most profusely for the stress and distrust cause by our recent actions in moving your Money Market Investment to an Easy Access Investment. Ironical name that when there was such easy access to his Money Market Account.
          She went on to say that all they were trying to do was to enhance the return on his investment. We have found that whilst we endeavour to contact all our clients prior to moving funds, this is not always the case and for this oversight I can only express deep regret and confirm that this will not occur in future.
          Corrective action, she said had been taken against Carelse and Ronnie’s new personal banker would be Mishkah Abrahams.
          He told me that Carelse had taken over when his previous, personal banker was promoted and, She did not contact me throughout her tenure as my personal banker.
          The help and response I received as a valued client left an awful lot to be desired and the apology was rather feeble.
        Surely Mike if you have a system that allows members of your staff to move vast sums of money around without the authority of clients you are asking for trouble of monumental 
proportions.

          I see Mike that you have undertaken as part of your bank’s Ask Once Promise to donate R50 (a measly sum if you ask me) to an approved Nedbank charity every time this Promise is broken.
        Does it mean that in this case you will be donating, to be charitable, 17 times R50 or R850?  If so can you confirm this as well as the name of the charity and send Ronnie a receipt because you never know these days; things have a habit of going astray?
          Yours truly
          Would-be Banking Ombudsman, Jon

*   *   *
              The bank replied through Doug Hardie, the Executive General Manager of Client Services who cut my suggested R850 for charity down to R500. He gave a list of 12 charities for Ronnie to choose from and he decided on the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
         Banks don't give away money easily even if it's for charity. Hardie told me they had decided on R500 after going through the records to try and establish if Ronnie had actually made the telephone calls he said he made. This probably cost much more than the R350 Nedbank saved.
         As my original email was sent to Mike Brown personally he lost a lot of points by passing the buck to Hardie. He doesn't come up to the standard set by Michael Jordaan, the CEO of First National Bank who replies directly to emails sent to him.
         BROWN SHOULD REMEMBER THAT THE BEST PUBLIC RELATIONS START AT THE TOP.
         Nobody commented on how Nedbank can have a system that allows members of its staff to move large sums of money around without the knowledge of the client concerned.


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