I did wonder, when my 12 year old son Max asked about opening his first bank account, how easy it would be. The process exceeded my expectations in many ways: Some good, some awful. So it was crying out to be written about!

Key take outs from this post:

  • If you force customers down a particular route – make sure you can fulfil
  • Do you know what your people are saying to customers?
  • Getting the simplest of basics right can work wonders

Max had been saving his pocket money and wanted to open a bank account. He quite fancied an app on his phone etc. So I had a look into it. I did some research and being a Building Society fan I plumped for Nationwide. Now, although Monzo and others can open an account for you on your phone and you’re pretty much good to go (if you can be identified) nobody yet does it for 12 year olds.

A visit to a branch of Nationwide was called for. So I popped in without Max one day to lay the groundwork. Saturday morning was favourite for an appointment unless we waited until the school holidays. Our local Nationwide closes before we can realistically get there after school. No appointments were available on a Saturday morning “for the foreseeable future”. Oh dear. Now the lady at Nationwide was trying to help. She wasn’t comfortable telling me this, and offered a solution. If I came down on a Saturday morning with Max, his identification and proof of my address it would be possible to open an account via “video link to Swindon”. I’d heard of Nationwide Now – where you can carry out your business on a direct video conference link with someone in Nationwide’s Contact Centre. Just the job I thought. Should be fun!

So on the next Saturday, I dug the young man out of bed early (yes, he’s teenager 12) and we popped down the road to Nationwide clutching his passport and a specially printed off copy of my electricity bill. I began to feel uneasy when there were already 5 people waiting outside the door of the branch at 8.55am…….in we went. We waited a couple of minutes and then approached the lady at the desk. I explained why we were there……”Sorry, the video is being used for an appointment”……..conversation continued along the lines of:
“you suggested this”
“sorry, it’s being used”
“yes but you didn’t have any appointments free so suggested we pop in”
“sorry, would you like to see if we have any appointments free next week?”
no not really, but go on then”
“we have an appointment free in two weeks time”………

Now it was nearly two weeks since I’d popped in to lay the groundwork, so another two weeks felt like a long wait and I just felt like we’d been misled. Why suggest we pop in to use the video if there was a chance it was going to be used for an appointment that I couldn’t book when I first went in. We accepted the appointment, grumbling a bit, and off we went without a bank account.

So we’re on the high street and there were a few alternatives to Nationwide open for business. So we decided to try some out. First up, Santander…………

We walked into the branch. No sign of Ant and Dec. In fact, no sign of anyone really, Santander people or customers. Right at the back of the branch, behind a glass screen, I spotted a gentleman. We approached, and with a big smile I said “hello, what are the chances of this young man opening a bank account today please?”

“ABSOLUTE ZERO” he said. I actually laughed. But he wasn’t smiling. Then he asked me if I was a Santander customer, to which I replied that I wasn’t. And with that he confirmed there was no chance of ever opening Max a bank account, as I wasn’t a customer. I thanked him for his time and off we went. I still couldn’t quite believe the absolute zero comment. Unbelievable.

Undaunted, we continued our quest. Next up, HSBC………..

We were greeted with a smile by a lady with a clipboard and a walkie talkie. I explained our need. “Let me see what I can do” she said. Now that’s more like it. “I’m afraid we can’t fit you in until 10.30”. NO PROBLEM! We can go and get a coffee, and maybe a cake……then she said……“please let me have your mobile number and I’ll give you a call if we can fit you in any earlier”. Perfect. We went for coffee, and cake, and we returned and within an hour, Max had his bank account, a free basic membership for British Cycling, some cycling goodies, jelly beans, pens and a pad, mobile app installed and activated on his phone, initial deposit made, and a linked savings account at 3%….oh and a reusable coffee cup for me. Thank you HSBC, you were brilliant.

Now, I guess we may have got lucky with the appointment being available at 10.30, maybe HSBC were quieter than usual. But we’ll take it. The basics were spot on – smiling, positive attitude, take a number and see if we can get you in, all of that was spot on. Sorry Nationwide, and Santander……well no I’m not really sorry.

Thanks as always for reading my blog folks.

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