April 15, 2013 Harold Tor

Customer service in times of crisis: The Case of Deutsche Bank Belgium

I recently closed my account with Deutsche Bank Belgium. The reason being that as a customer, I was being submitted to the most absurd requests and bureaucratic handling by their staff.

Here’s my story.

1. Racial profiling and tracing of your money

About two weeks ago (2 April), I received a phonecall from their staff here in Ghent.

  • “Mr Tor?”
  • “Yes.”
  • “You are from Singapore?”
  • “Yes.”
  • “We need a copy of your passport. Also, we want to know where you got your money from. Can you come down to our bank to sign a document?”
  • “What document? Can you send it to me by email?”
  • “No. It is a confidential document. You have to come down to the bank to sign it.”

I was really puzzled. I sent an email stating the date and time to the aforementioned staff member who replied that she would not be able to make it.

Later on, I was too busy with other matters to fix another appointment.

2. Extreme bureaucracy

I joined Deutsche Bank Belgium exactly on 1 January 2011, after seeing their nationwide campaign about the relatively high savings rate they had. I was tempted.

After ONE AND A HALF MONTHS on 17 February, I received a request from their headoffice in Brussels, wanting me to send them a copy of my tax returns OR salary slip, before they could approve the signup. I was livid: Why do I have to prove that I am earning enough money when I am not asking for a loan, but putting my money with them? This is to say, I AM GIVING THEM MONEY. Secondly, why did they take so long to reply me? On top of that, if that was standard procedure, why was this NOT incorporated in the signup process?

I sent them the required documents and also an email to their chief communications officer, criticizing the way the signup communications have been handled. I received no reply.

But I did add that, if I were to suffer any ridiculous bureaucratic requests, I will immediately change banks. I am a customer, they should treat me with respect: I am offering them a favour by putting my money there, but they treat it as if they are doing me a favour by letting them earn my money. How ridiculous is that!

3. Severe incompetence

The whole idea of e-banking is that you do not have to go to the bank anymore. Especially this one, which opens from 9-12.30hrs and 13.30-16.30hrs on weekdays (Why Belgian banks HAVE to have the SAME lunch hours as everyone else really vexes me!). If you are not working in the area, you can forget about getting things done, because these people knock off at 4:30 in the afternoon whereas you have to slog till 7.

For every other bank I have had experience with, e-banking is a great way to not waste your annual leave on their customer-unfriendly/staff-centric operating hours, and also the way to perform simple banking operations yourself. However, Deutsch Bank Belgium’s incompetence seeps through into its e-banking operations. For me to perform an internal transfer from current to saving account or vice versa TAKES ONE AND A HALF DAY to approve. Why?? With every other bank I have had, it was instant.

Back to the request for my passport and my signature.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed ridiculous:

  • I have ALREADY provided the proof of my identity when I submitted a request to open the bank account. Plus they already have my pay slips. Why do they suddenly want a copy of my passport again?
  • While it is legit for banks to ask the provenance of your money, it was blatant that the staff concerned picked me out because I was a foreigner. ‘ALL FOREIGNERS EARN BLACK MONEY’ seems to be the criteria for picking people out, and I was livid! If this were to be a standard procedure for ALL accounts, I am ok with that. But I was singled out not because the sum of my savings was large, but because I was a non-Belgian. I asked for that request to be sent to me in black and white, but have received no direct answer because they know such racial profiling is illegal.
  • Thirdly, why is that document which she wanted me to sign confidential? Her aim was to make me sign a document in legal language in the confined environment of her office to which my lawyers have no access for a preview. Why would I want to do that? On top of that, all documents I sign at a bank or any bank is transparent unless I asked for it to be confidential.

Hence, I closed the account more than a week ago by personally going to the bank the moment they opened.

Then today, one week later on 15 April, I received another phonecall from that staff member who wanted me to meet her.

“What? You closed your account?”

The fact that she sounded surprised could not have been even more shocking for me.

“Why?”

Why??? THIS IS WHY! I closed my account and you do not even know it.

At the time when the interest rates are so low, that it makes virtually no difference to hide your savings under your bed like your grandmother or store them in a bank account, banks should realise that their reputation are even more at stake. Customers should be treated as customers, not idiots who cater willingly to their whimsical bureaucracies. Customer-unfriendly operations like the staff-centric operation hours, racism, lack of transparency, high-handedness in customer relations all listed above, will only serve to drive customers away.

Especially when we know how much you earn using our money, and how you selfishly demand bailouts when you fail, sacrificing both our savings and our taxes.

Time to reflect on your deeds, Deutsche Bank Belgium.

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