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WTF … who the finanser are you?

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The bank that wants to verify my identity but cannot accept the information ... OMG, what’s going on?

Under new UK government rules, there’s been a crackdown on money laundering and customer identity in the banking system.

The response of the banks has been archaic to say the least.

By way of example I blogged yesterday that I debanked my bank. That was after they accused me of running a money laundering scam on my personal account by taking money out of Coinbase, a UK regulated exchange for cryptocurrency.

Then, in a similar issue, my business bank started acting crazy and threatened to close my account, purely because I had not sent some identity information that was in public domain (Companies House, a UK government owned organisation).

Apparently the bank had sent some letters in the post – which I rarely get as I don’t go physically to my office - and they also sent some in-app alerts, but there was no link or clarity to respond to their verification requests.

So, in a ridiculous cycle of absurdity, I then get an email from my business bank threatening to close my account, and that they had restricted its activities due to identity issues. They asked me to fill in a 20-page form and return it as a PDF. I downloaded their forms and filled them in.

Then, trying to upload the documents they asked for, I discovered their system could not take the upload … so I called the bank.

The process was then humongously difficult. To start with, the in-app contact number turned out to be out-of-date and was no longer available. Duh?!

Luckily, I had a call centre number in an email and that worked, but led to a constant loop of options, none of which led to a human, and thirty-minute wait times to get through the system to a human.

It all proved incredibly frustrating.

So far, just to be clear, this bank has asked me for information, threatened to close my account, asked me to spend an hour filling in forms that I had to print, and then left me in a loop on a call that took another hour … until I could find a human to sort it out.

And this is not a challenger bank. It’s a very old bank that basically underfunds all of its customer support processes (as do most businesses these days).

Eventually, I get through to a human, at which point I am ballistic. I avoid swearing but shouting is fine. So, shouting answers down the phone from the start, I express my anger with the bank and its processes.

Luckily, the customer service rep (CSR) is a calm person and they calmed me down. In fact, shortly through the call, I apologised to him for my anger. Was it out of order or warranted?

By the end of the call, we got chatting and agreed that the process the bank has implemented is all wrong. The bank’s process is implemented through fear of governmental controls. The government, for both personal and small business accounts, has demanded that every bank verifies customer identities on their accounts and, more than this, does this process every five years.

So, how did my bank implement this process?

Basically, ask for the information required and, if no response, threaten to close the account unless you hang on the phone for an hour. Worse than this, after the CSR sends the form you have to fill (20 pages), you find that the website gives the wrong instructions. It demands that you send the forms in PDF format, but the website can only accept a couple of PDF pages. It doesn’t accept .zip or other formats and, as it turns out, happily accepts JPG’s.

After three calls and various debates, everything uploads adequately … except that I’m now feeling that both my personal and business banking providers have absolutely zero idea of how they appear to a customer.

As I said to my CSR during the long call to sort it out, “have your management team ever gone through this customer journey process?” He said no. I followed up with: “am I the only customer this angry with your process?”. He said no (in fact, many are worse). Finishing with a final swagger I asked: “why has your bank done it this way?” He said because the government demands it.

So, the government demands it, the banks must do it, the customers must comply and everyone is pissed off. Great result.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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