Pete Carruthers is one of my favourite commentators (he needs a blog!). He sends out a regular email (click here to sign up for free), and is a great advocate (he calls himself a Warrior) for small business (mainly in South Africa, but his stuff is great for everywhere).
His latest email missive tells of his adventures with Nedbank. We’ve had some of those, too, so for your reading pleasure, here is how Pete Carruthers and his bank got on this past week…

An open letter to the CEO of Nedbank
I don’t normally take stuff like this public, but this letter highlights a number of issues that I get thrown every week about banks. And a few years ago I wrote about Effective Complaining, and suggested that you escalate to the CEO/MD when you get no satisfactiion. After 4 calls to the Nedbank Client Centre, the promised call from a Credit Controller did not materialise, and I sent the following letter to their CEO [after my first call to their call centre gave me the wrong email address].
In that same article I suggested that if you got no action from the top person, then they were telling you to vote with your feet. In the past 20 years, my only requests to the MD:

  • FNB, when one of their clerks, wanting me to call them, stopped my credit card – in the sure knowledge I would phone real soon;
  • Bakers regarding an expensive box of biscuits my daughter bought for her Mom, but which had not survived the journey from factory to store;
  • and Pick n Pay regarding a dead chicken well past it’s funeral date
  • have all been met with responses within 24 hours. [FNB had 3 senior managers on the phone to me within 2 hours!]
    This letter met with no response. You be the judge.
    Dear Mr. Boardman
    Please forgive me troubling so senior a person at Nedbank as you, but I have a problem. Tonight I will be suffering from insomnia, and I wonder if you might be able to help me out?
    Let me explain. I am self-employed. This means that I cannot survive without a pristine credit record. Actually, that’s not quite true. The only time that the credit record becomes a problem is when it is impugned. And thats the reason for this missive. You see, although I only have 3 accounts with your esteemed financial emporium, your team has seen fit to invade my credit profile with 4 entries of which 3 are quite interesting. [I use the term in the same way I am told the Chinese say “May you have an interesting life” to folk they are cursing.]
    This is a bit of a challenge, and while I have your attention Id like to share that challenge with you. On Thursday last week I invested in a wonderful Swedish automobile mainly because it has more airbags than seats. ABSA took 45 minutes to approve the deal. Santam had the car covered after a 10 minute phone call. But they insisted that I have Tracker fit one of those wonderful electronic devices that can track me [or at least my car] in the event it gets stolen, or I get bundled into the boot. [You’ll be happy to know that I have equipped the boot with a cellphone and a panga. Just in case.] I digress.
    You can imagine how astounded I was when Tracker assured me earlier today that I was not good enough for R119/month over the next 36 months. Of course, they refused to tell me why. The best they could suggest was that I touch base with an attorney to resolve the issue. [If I cannot resolve this within the next 9 days, the vehicle will not be insured. Given this country’s indirect taxation system that allows poorer members of society to expropriate the vehicle without warning, you can imagine the amount of anxiety this provokes.]
    Having a modicum of technological knowledge, I took advantage of a personal credit check at which is great value at just R25-00 payable by credit card. And its a good thing I do have a non-Nedbank credit card, because with the entries your team has loaded into ITC I’ll be lucky if my local Spar accepts cash from me in future.
    With some anxiety I tried calling the Nedbank Client Care Centre on 011-7104710. This trepidation because the last few times I had called, there was no electronic option to find a real live human, and I was shunted from one cyberwoman to another. Which reminds me: congratulations on winning the Ombudsman for Banking Services 2004 award for excellence in customer complaint handling last year.
    Anyway, today I was delighted that I found somebody breathing at the other end after just a few redirects. Fortunately she recorded the phone call for you [as did all the other folk I subsequently spoke to] as part of your ongoing efforts to improve your service to us clients. Its good to know you take us so seriously.
    Before I continue, I must quickly overview my accounts with your bank. They are:

  • Your basic Nedbank green Garage card: 5412 8121 0214 0604, with a limit of R2600;
  • Your basic Nedbank gold Visa card linked to Voyager: 4923 1210 0973 9624, with a limit of R15000;
  • And an old BoE gold card: 4550 7400 0604 3100, which I am assured is now a Nedbank gold card, but which I have not received, despite a number of letters way back in January and February from some esteemed person on your side. I am told that the number is now 4043 0701 1454 4012, with a limit of R20400;
  • And, of course, I have my trusty old American Express account which Ive had since 2002, and which is not relevant to this discussion because they deduct full payment each month from my cheque account.
  • To put this into perspective, may I briefly outline the rest of my portfolio because it is relevant?

  • Diners Club
  • 20Twenty
  • Standard Platinum
  • Discovery Gold
  • FNB Gold
  • Bluebean
  • The above cards have limits totalling R400,000.
    So, as you can imagine, it came as a bit of shock that Nedbank chose to tell ITC that I was in default with their remarkably paltry limits when none of the other cards have a problem. Obviously time to check it out.
    By the way, do you know that your statements do not reflect any link to your credit cards? So the 3 account numbers I have from the statements are completely meaningless – making it quite easy to pay into the incorrect account. And here is the provenance:

  • The Nedbank Gold card was last paid in January, I was told by Marlin, as an explanation for why my name found its way into the ITC Hall of Pecuniary Infamy. This took me by surprise, until I checked my statements and found that he was quite correct. I am embarrassed to point out to you that there is a good reason for this. This account was substantially in credit from January until your statement for the period ending 16 May. I am surprised that ITC does not reflect a red star for my financial prudence in investing funds with your bank during this time. Unfortunately, it seems that I missed the 10 June and 10 July payment dates, and the account now reflects that I owe Nedbank R 5922.80, with the installment including arrears being R1000. At least, I am assured by your call centre team member Jodie that this will bring me back to Triple-A status which I assume to be a good thing. She is a wonderful voice, if you don’t mind me saying so.Unfortunately, she was unable to tell me whether such Triple-A status would expunge your negative records from my ITC files, thus allowing me to fit the Tracker system to my vehicle which ABSA saw fit to allow me to finance, and Santam are happily insuring blissfully unaware that I currently have the status of a financial criminal. This is because I am listed as a slow payer of this account.
  • The Nedbank Garage card has also been in credit since January, and even more so recently [Nedbank owes ME R 2059-13 on this card] because I erroneously deposited R3000 into it last month! As we both know, this should have gone into the Gold card, but with your numbering system, my failing eyesight, and Standard Banks Internet banking I misallocated it.Not a problem, I suggested. Simply reallocate the funds into the Gold card. Unfortunately, I understand that Nedbanks internal systems are not up to the task. In fact, the only way I can transfer the next 4 months of diesel money out of the Garage card into the Gold card is if I close the Garage card. So lets do that, I suggested. Oops, I understand from Jodie that this too isnt quite as seamless as it might seem. Despite having identified myself adequately – giving my ID number, current and previous telephone numbers, and colour of my underwear on July 14 th 2003 [blue] I am advised that I personally must appear at a Nedbank branch to achieve this. I will do this tomorrow. [Do you need me to comply with your FICA regulations to do this?]
  • Which leaves us with the ex BoE credit card which I dont have. This is indeed late. I will explain in a moment. But, is it normal practice to enter 2 demerits into the ITC register for a single transgression?By way of explanation, I live in paradise. If you look at my statements you will see that they all reflect a Knysna address. Which is NOT where I live. I moved to Umhlanga Rocks 2 years ago. I have phoned, and faxed and emailed changes of address to no avail. So your mail arrives late. And since your statement reflecting the ex BoE balance doesnt reflect any link to the card whatsoever, I have erroneously filed it with the other Nedbank statements. Congratulations again on that customer service award last year.Anyway, a delightful young lady called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to deposit a couple of thousand rand into a credit card account that I did not recognise. I dont know about you, but with all these Nigerian folk being so clever and all about depriving us SMEs of our money I was a tad suspicious. We eventually agreed that this was indeed the ex BoE account she was talking about and so I deposited R5000 somewhat more than I recall she wanted – leaving a remaining balance of R13991-09.
  • All of the above explanation leads me to ask a single question, Mr. Boardman. How would you feel if you were in my shoes?
    I know that Nedbank, having won all these awards, is beyond parallel in the banking firmament. And I know that the chance of error creeping into your sacrosanct systems is extremely remote. But it does seem a little strange to me that amongst all the banks that supply me with nary a negative comment Nedbank manages to take my ITC record and destroy it at will. I dont know about you, but does it seem possible that, in this case, maybe your team was being a tad hasty? Or is that just me thinking about client service in terms of us small business owners where we cant afford to lose too many of the people that pay our bills?
    As a small business owner it bothers me greatly that my future as a financial entity in this country can be so fragile, and in the hands of strangers and that having destroyed my credibility your team cannot tell me when my record might be repaired, or whether it can be repaired at all!
    So, Mr. Boardman, how would you feel if you were in my shoes?
    All the very best
    Peter Carruthers – Author, Speaker, and Business Warrior
    As I sent this to Nedbank I placed it in the Warrior Forum, where a whole host of Warriors regaled us with tales of their issues with Nedbank.
    I have since closed all 3 accounts at Nedbank, and repaid them in full, and my credit record remains unclean. I have enrolled with ITC for their annual service – and they will notify me as soon as anybody does something silly like this again. And I am astoundingly happy that I have a bunch of other resources at my disposal. What would have happened if Nedbank was my only bank?
    August 9th, 2005 Umhlanga RocksPeter Carruthers – Business Warrior
    I have asked Nedbank Media Relations for their response, which follows:
    Mr Carruthers,
    Reading your letter it is evident that a number of errors contributed to the frustration you have experienced. While we acknowledge the bank’s role in this situation, and apologise for the inconvenience, the need for timely card payments cannot be overstated. The listing on ITC is recorded monthly in line with our clients repayment behaviour. This process is automatically done and therefore behavioural scoring is rated per account. We acknowledge that your account was in a credit balance up to and including the statement that closed on 16 April 2005. Thereafter a debit balance on your statement dated 16 May, was due.
    No payment was received for the statement billing cycles for the months of May, June and July as you explained that monies intended for the payment of your Gold card was in fact paid into your garage card. As this matter is an isolated incident and we value you as a client, we have as a gesture of goodwill requested the reversal of the charges and fees on your Gold Card. We have also requested our Credit Control centre to update the records with ITC directly and this will take approximately 10 working days. We are happy to supply you with a letter in the interim should you require.
    I also confirm that you will be receiving an email under separate cover confirming the above in due course.
    Doug Hardie,
    Nedbank Client Service General Manager
    Post Epilogue
    Thokozani at the Nedbank Call Centre – late this afternoon – assured me that my Garage Card had not yet been closed because the branch where I stood for 30 minutes was not allowed to close it, forgot to tell me, and the paperwork has vanished. It turns out that I must also wait until Monday next week, and then phone again to close the other two cards – lest my cheque payments bounce. As a result – Nedbank now owes me R 2059-13, which I have asked them to transfer across to a real bank – Standard.
    And in a sublime moment of irony, a delightful Afrikaans lady has just called me to ask where she should send my new Nedbank cards to. If I wasn’t so vexed I’d be on the floor right now.
    Should any bank have the right to allow admin errors to completely ruin your credit record? And given my own challenges in getting any valid responses before hurling my cybertoys out, what chance do you have of getting a satisfactory solution when this happens to you?
    But it does make you think, doesn’t it?

    TomorrowToday Global