15 March 2009

What's Wrong With This Bank?

My Paper dated 10 Mar 09 published this article titled "Investors wary of big elephant HSBC". Investors are worried about its US$62 billion in outstanding loans at its HSBC Finance arm in the US and rising provisions in its business in Britain.

I am also wary of this bank. You see, early last year, I bought 2 insurance policies from its insurance arm, HSBC Insurance as well as 2 investment products from the bank. The bank committed several blunders which I find hard to forgive of such an established bank.

1. Wrong Policy Document Delivered

When I received one of the policy documents in the post, I was surprised to find an extra policy document inside the envelope. It was a policy document of another person! Luckily, mine was on top with my name/address showing through the transparent envelope window. Hence my policy document was correctly delivered to me. I looked at the address of the other policyholder. Since it was very near to where I am staying, I did both the bank and the other policyholder a favour and delivered the document to the policyholder personally. I wonder if another person would bother to do the same to me if he/she was the one who had received my policy document wrongly?

2. Wrong Notifications Sent

Recently I received 2 letters from the bank. It informed me that "no coupon will be paid" for two products. Alright, that was hardly surprising in the current poor economic climate. However, I was puzzled because those were products which I never knew I invested in! Indeed, a few days later, a bank staff called to say that the notifications were wrongly sent to me. He said that the bank would be sending out another letter to tell me so. To date, I have not received the letter.

3. No Record Of My Insurance Premium Payment

On receiving the "Premium Due Notice" for one of the insurance policies, I paid the full annual premium promptly at the bank's Marine Parade Branch. The payment was made in 2 parts - one portion was in cash and the other portion was a transfer from my savings account. Yet one month later, I received a "Grace Period Expiration Notice" from the bank, as shown in the photo below. Also shown in the photo are the 2 over-the-counter receipts for my payments made to the bank on 31 Jan 2009. When I called the bank's consultant to clarify the matter, he requested me to fax the receipts to him. It was indeed fortunate that I had kept the receipts as proof. Just imagine what would have happened if I had not kept them? All other insurance companies I have dealt with so far always send me an official receipt soon after I have made payment, without I having to ask them for it. Besides, what's so difficult about issuing an official receipt? I strongly recommend that HSBC Insurance adopt the same practice so that its policyholders will have peace of mind, especially in these uncertain times.

4. Deduction Of Premium From Savings Account With No Prior Notification

For the other policy, payment of premium was by annual Giro deduction. However, the premium was deducted from my savings account without any prior notification. I would not have known of the deduction if I have not signed up for "sms notification" of my savings account transactions:

And you know what? I just found out that if I did not have enough funds in my account for the Giro deduction, the bank would impose a penalty for the failed Giro deduction. I think this is plain ridiculous. Other insurance companies like NTUC Income will always send me a "Giro deduction due" notification before a Giro deduction. Why can't HSBC do the same? Hello, even if I have enough money in my savings account, my funds could be for other more urgent purposes, okay? Is it too much for the policyholder to insist on a "Giro deduction due" reminder from HSBC Insurance, especially when the Giro deduction happens only a once-a-year and the policyholder might have forgotten that the payment is due?

5. No Official Receipts Issued For Premium Payments

I did not receive any official receipts for all my premium payments. When I complained to the consultant, the bank sent me only a partial receipt for the first policy. I just went to the bank again last Saturday to give them "constructive feedback" about their poor service level.

Now, if you experience what I had experienced with the HSBC Insurance, wouldn't you be wary of the bank too? Come on HSBC, haven't you heard of GEMS? No, not Go The Extra Mile for Service but Got Enough Minimum Standard? You really ought to pull up your socks with regards to your service level. I am but one really dissatisfied customer. I wonder how many more are there out there?

Update on 17 Mar 2009:

This evening, I found a letter from HSBC in my letterbox. At first, I thought that the bank was so efficient in resolving my problems. But no! It was a "Lapse Notice". Damn it!

I am willing to give up the policy, HSBC. But please refund my 2 years' worth of premiums paid, not a cent less!

Update on 19 Mar 2009:

I finally received the 2 receipts for one policy in the post. There was still no receipt for the Giro deduction for the other policy. There was no apology or even a covering letter to explain what went wrong. Come on HSBC, is it so hard to say sorry when you have made mistakes? And so many serious ones some more.


JollyGreenP said...

Hi Victor,
I hadback to a boss whose attitude to your first instance to where something is delivered to the wrong address evn if it is only next door was that he was not employed to make deliveries and so he always returned the item back to the originator. He did this on the basis that if you continue to do their job for them they will 1. not know they have done it wrong 2. don't have a chance to correct their mistake. 3. probably get wrong again in the future because they have not been put to pains for making the first mistake. Although I am a helpful person most of the time, over the years I have come to agree with him.


Victor said...

Hi John, I totally agree with you that sometimes, we shouldn't be so ready to correct another person's mistake without their knowledge as the wrongdoer may miss out on an opportunity to learn from it.

In this case, it was not the postman's mistake but the bank staff's - he/she had mistakenly put another person's policy document into my envelope. On hindsight, I could have simply returned the wrongly delivered policy document to the bank together with a note explaining the mistake. But even then, the wrongdoer may not learn from the mistake if feedback was not channelled back to him/her. Moreover, such matters are normally handled by the bank's mail section and its top management may not come to know about the error.

However, with the power and reach of the Internet, it is a totally different ballgame now. The whole world knows about the mistakes. I have also forwarded this article's link to the bank's feedback page. Let's hope that they improve their service.

fighting fit said...

Hi Victor,
I initially used those online feedback too, but I tell you so many of them behave like "black holes" into which your feedback goes but nothing comes back. Sometimes not even an automated reply to acknowledge their receipt of it.

If I seriously want to stir the pot, to bring issues to the surface, and I want someone with power to do something about it (or at least consider that seriously), I google or hunt for the country head's name. They will often show up in newspaper stories, or industry newsletters. If you are lucky, some may even have their email address. Otherwise, guess it.

peter said...

U think only HSBC fails? Wait till u heard even Inland Revenue of Singapore also. When they revalued my property tax, they forgot to inform me first that they would need to deduct more from my GIRO account. So when S$XX was required to be paid upfront instead of the usual monthly amount, the request definitely bounced. IRAS had the cheek even to send me a notification telling me that my passport will be impounded and property sized even if I don't make full payment. Whose fault was it?

When I called them, the IRAS person on the other end of the wire kept repeating "typical government policy" of "I should know what....." and put the blame on me. I decided to warn the person that I will lodge a complaint to the Chairman of IRAS and she withdrew their parrot talk. Funny thing they had poly graduates serving as IRAS officers.

Next time I went to one of the Shangrila Hotel restaurants. Instead of someone who could speak English, they had this mainland China girl taking my orders. No wonder my orders turned out different. Now I can understand why my Western friends ask me whether there are many people in Singapore who don't understand English or don't speak English.