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Policy Advice You Can Bank On: One Citizen’s Tale of Woe

A few days ago, I called my bank, a major Northeast financial institution, to find out why a large deposit was first credited to my account and then removed. During the course of my inquiry, I was connected to two different phone representatives, each of whom went to great lengths to explain how the Patriot Act prevented them from answering my question.

“It would be a violation of the sender’s privacy,” they said in almost identical fashion. “But there are a great many reasons why this could have happened: a missing signature, an incomplete endorsement, an incorrect date …”

It didn’t take long before I felt like the person in those commercials who suffers through an automated explanation of which are business days and which are not.

Frustrated though I was, I could at least accept their answer because I understand that banks have their policies, and these folks were just being compliant. But what was NOT acceptable was the arrival in the next day’s snail mail of a copy of the very check I was inquiring about – a copy that displayed for all the world to see precisely the information I was requesting.

For all I know, citing privacy protection (with or without the actual cover of the Patriot Act) is what the bank’s policy requires its reps to do. But the arrival of the copy less than 24 hours later tells me it had to have been made and mailed before I called the help desk – meaning any such policy does not apply to printouts, only phone calls. Which, of course, makes no sense at all.

I tell this story to illustrate just how important it is for you to ensure your policies are written and enforced in a consistent manner. Not only does this eliminate a possible source of customer dissatisfaction – think I’m going to keep that money there long? – it closes the door to potentially costly compliance gaps by ensuring privacy is safeguarded regardless of the medium of communication used.

And that’s advice you can bank on.

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