Soapbox David Culm: Common sense is lost in favour of a sense of security in financial matters
HERE is an example of the lengths some financial institutions will go to make life difficult.
I wished to cash in an ISA account, in my name, and have the proceeds transferred to my current account with a bank.
I wrote and signed a letter to the building society – including my name, address and the account number – authorising them to transfer the money to a current account in my name.
I received a letter acknowledging receipt of my request, which said "unfortunately we will be unable to do this as we cannot verify your signature."
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"Just a minute," thinks I, "haven't I sent them a hand-written letter with my signature on it?"
Then they go on to ask that I either send a current signed passport, or a current UK photocard driving licence in a prepaid envelope, or take them to their local branch which is, wait for it... in Nottingham.
So, picking up the phone, I call the building society.
"Hello, can I help you?" says a polite lady.
"Yes, it's about a letter I've received about an encashment of an ISA".
Then follows a convoluted security procedure which eventually actually proves, to the lady on the other end of the line, that I am the account holder.
"So how can I can help you today sir?"
I read out the letter I have received asking me for a signature, then ask: "Why don't you just transfer the money in my name with you, into an HSBC bank account also in my name?"
"Security reasons sir" comes the reply.
Now I have assumed a Basil Fawlty stance. "But haven't I just satisfied those?"
I ask to be transferred to the complaints department, only for another jobs-worth to tell me security policy doesn't allow such things to happen without a verifying signature.
"So have you got a copy of my signature on the original ISA application then?"
"No", says she, "That was with the building society we took over."
Now I am fuming.
"But you have a signature of mine on the letter I sent you, requesting the transfer to a bank account in my name with full details of that account. So where's the problem? I am the transferee and transferor."
Then, as if my words have bounced off a brick wall: "But we'll still need a signature verification."
"Okay", says I, "Put me through to a director of marketing before I write a letter to the press highlighting your idiocy."
She asks if she can call me back, which she does indeed do – and this is the real cruncher.
"Hello Mr Culm, we've had a word with management, and if it's okay with you, we'll send you a cheque.
"But we'll need a signature to acknowledge its receipt".
Things can't get more stupid than that... or can they?