Friday, September 11, 2009

Epic Fail Natwest Bank

What started out so promising turns sour because banks have forgotten why they exist, to help us store our money with them and in return they pay a nominal interest rate while they leverage our money for their investments.

Some of the banks have forgotten the basic ideas of customer service.

Evidently being a virtual/online customer allows them to treat you like you don't exist.

I saw this with Citibank over the years went from an excellent bank to being nearly useless. American Express as well went from being exceptionally helpful to being a nickel and dime operation.

But Natwest has gone too far, or perhaps not far enough.

I understand in the modern world security is important but if the processes do not make sense, neither does your security methods.

Having banked with them for 11 years now and perpetually frustrated by their myopic view of their customers who live outside the UK, this has broken the camel's back.

Called them to the UK to arrange for a transfer for some bills from our summer trip. Provide all the usual numbers, codes, pins and I thought passwords.

Turns out their system claimed my password submitted was invalid and after 3 tries locked me out.

No problem or so I thought, just reset it for me.

No dice.

Natwest has absolutely no way to reset one's password without mailing by postal mail, from the UK, a password change code. One then signs it and returns it, again via postal mail before the password can be changed. Knowing the UK/US postal route, the round trip is at least 2 weeks if all is efficient without Fedexing it.

There is no other way to resolve this I was told. They asked for my debit card # which I never carry obviously here in the US. Will try again from home with it to see if it makes a difference. But seeing how this is working, I wouldn't bet on it.

And once your password is bad, you are locked out of online banking until the new one can be issued, again via postal mail after the previous 2 weeks, so we are looking at 3 weeks before I can get access to MY MONEY.

Having worked with many banks through the years, I know the processes in place and also recognize when a major fault in process exists. And this is huge.

Asked the 12th person I spoke with in 45 minutes what would they do for someone who had 100,000's or millions of pounds with Natwest? And was told, in a very British way, they would have to wait.

You could bet all your money no one in their right mind would leave their money hostage with a stupid bank like Natwest. If I was in the UK I would write a check for the whole amount and move it to anyone.

But as I am in the US, it makes it more complicated although I certainly intend to move all my money out of there now.

So evidently no matter how much I know about myself, or can provide information, if I was traveling in Singapore and really had none of this information but needed my money I would be stuck there indefinitely.

You see Natwest, for security reasons, ONLY sends the mail to the address on record. So you are SOL if you are traveling and need money that badly. So beware you Natwest account holders, make sure you know all your details and they are valid.

Still don't understand why I can't just change it online like I do for my credit cards, utility bills, other banks and systems. Something which is so simple and could be done with NO human interaction,but Natwest doesn't do it and instead holds my money hostage.

Natwest uses at least 5 pieces of information for me before I can do anything with them, someone would need to know all 5 pieces to NOT be me and I find it hard to imagine they would know them all. account #, sort code, Pin #, Cust #, unique reference #, 1st school I think or college but they stopped asking that one.

And yet they think a letter mailed to my house and replied to and signed guarantees someone is not stealing my identity? Are they serious? I can't do it via email, fax or secured anything but the regular totally unsecured postal mail?

Natwest you got a lot to learn.


  1. I think in fairness your missing out anti-money-laundering laws. The ability to transfer more than £7k between (nation) states now counts as money laundering.

    What you hit on is a most important thing: The basis of 'identity'. However, instead of focusing on 'trust' - the exchange of known-name correspondence through a trusted intermediary - you focus on the idea of 'speed'.

    Here's where the digital world breaks down. Without a known, trusted, world-wide authority, this is how banks *must* operate. Its not stupid. Its the law.

    And whilst the US implements a passport that any teenage hacker can leech data off (using RFID) using < $200 worth of pocketable hardware, then this ability to live in one country, and then use the banking system in another, will remain an impossible dream.

    Identity is important. And we cant just buy new fingerprints when the database is breached.

    Remember. Drugs represent 10% of world turnover, and the only available way of stopping them - short of legalisation - is to hit them in the money.

    So. You have a choice. Either use a credit card, and suffer their terrible service, or campaign for drugs legalisation. Neither is an attractive option, especially in the politically polarised US.

    Banks - however stupid and impersonal we all feel they are - are only carrying out the legislation that is forced up them.

    Welcome to democracy, and the idea of personal responsibility.

    ---* Bill

  2. Bill, I wasn't offering alternatives, there are many of the trusting type.
    The point is instead of making it easy on customers they have chosen to make it harder.
    If this happened when I or anyone was traveling and needed the money they would be totally out of luck.
    I understand laundering laws and until this final straw all had worked well for 10 years.
    Plus as I pointed out Natwest's archaic solution to prevent fraud does nothing of that, only increases it because they do not require any personal intelligence, only that one sign a document and send it back.
    I accept personal responsibility, but I never changed my password thus the problem in the first place.

  3. My wife tried to activate a credit card and they wouldn't let her because she didn't know the color of her car. Apparently the bank knew better than my wife, who was looking at the car!