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Monday, 8 September 2008

Security and Banks

I have just been through a most frustrating time with my bank. It all started when my landlord increased the rent and service charges for our offices in Tolleshunt Major; I went online, accessed my account and tried to amend the standing order to take account of the increased charges; a message told me that I couldn't do this on line but to contact the help desk.

I rang the help desk and was asked the usual security questions and one answer was rejected. I re-iterated that my answer was correct and the lady re-entered it only to have it rejected again. She obviously had entered it incorrectly as I had entered the same information to get online in the first place. I said that she must have entered the information incorrectly as I was on line. The next thing she says that the system has locked me out and she would have to pass me through to the online team. I expected the online team to unlock my account, but no; They would send me a form which I could complete and return to them and I would get an activation code to get me going again.

A week later the form arrived and I signed the appropriate part and sent it back. Four days later I received a letter telling me that they had had some technical problems with my log in and here was a temporary activation code which would be ok for a few weeks but they would need to change my customer number and supply me a new activation code for that new number. The activation code did not work so I telephoned again only to be told that they should not have sent the temporary activation code and had cancelled it before it arrived.

I asked when I could expect the new information and activation code; a few days was the response. A few days later the new customer number arrived and then the following day a new activation code.

With much trepidation I entered the new customer number and activation code; so far so good. I was then asked for a 4 digit pin number and a complex password. The password was accepted but the pin number was rejected. I telephoned yet again only to be told that any pin number cannot have a repeated number in it nor consecutive numbers. My pin number did have two numbers the same in the sequence but not sequential. I had used then same pin number for some time but change my password frequently. This was not good enough for NatWest. I was told either I used all their security requirements or I couldn't use their on line system at all. I protested saying that my security was ok two weeks ago before they messed up my access but not now. I asked if the Bank's security was more important than customer service. The sheer indifference shown by the chap on the other end of the phone left me in no doubt that I could do what I liked but they would not move at all.

This was the final straw in a saga that goes back months and included wrongly debiting my account with amounts that bore no relation to the printed cheques that my sage system had prepared, deducting income tax from the interest paid on business deposit account and then taking three months to repay it.

My branch bank manager keeps apologising but cannot do anything with the bureaucracy that is the bank.

Apparently I am an ideal customer, never pestering the bank staff, never exceeding my overdraft, never complaining about the charges levied. Prepare few cheques and carry out most of my banking online so there is little for the bank to administer . Our deposit account has a reasonable balance in it and my Gold Business card, used for business expenses is never over the agreed limit. So why treat me so badly? Perhaps it is a sign of the times where Banks have a virtual stranglehold on their customers, make an obscene amount of money and employ morons in call centres.

I am actively seeking another bank to handle my business banking; will I be able to find a good bank? I don’t know but surely customer service cannot be a bad as that I have been subjected to.

It is also strange that Quality Matters sets up secure systems including ISO27001 and we always advocate good security but we recognise, as do most institutions, that security is a trade off between total security where nothing gets done and lax security where systems are at severe risk. We know that there is a compromise point where good security also allows users to get on with their business. The balance seems to be lost on my bank.

Security gone mad.

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