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7/13/2009

How to turn away customers?

My son started talking a week ago and my wife reminded me of the promise I have made. I was to take leave for my son for a day. So today is the faithful day. Both my wife and I took leave, sent our little girl to her nursery and took our son for an outing.

While doing so, I took the opportunity to visit my bank HSBC for some funds transactions. I needed to renew the time deposits to ensure that they do not fall a sleep. True enough one was found dormant and I requested for it to be closed and have everything deposit into the other account, thus a long wait of an hour was expected.

While waiting for the whole process, I was witnessed to two incidents:

1 Man making deposit
A Chinese man (I think he is a Singaporean) was trying to deposit some money into his account. I have managed to glimpse at the stack of money he held and the first piece was orange color and total thickness around 8mm. I gather that it is a stack of SGD1,000 amounting to SGD30,000?

When he tried to go through the process with the bank teller, he was asked to answer where he obtained the cash. He questioned the purpose of the question because this is the first time he encountered such thing. He commented that he was simply trying to deposit his money into his own bank account, what was wrong with that? Nevertheless, he told the teller that he withdrew the amount from another account in another bank and decided to place the money in HSBC.

After receiving his response, the teller went to the back office to relay the message to her officer. She was back in around 5 minutes with the seconde question," Could you provide a transcript of your transaction from the other bank?" This seems to be the last straw or the man who replied,"Never mind, I will just put my money into the other bank." and left.

2 Man making deposit
I know, the title is the same because this man is also trying to do the same thing, except a bigger amount.

This Italian was there before me and I only have part of the story while guessing on the rest. He was waiting for a response from the Customer Service officer and was told by the teller that the officer needed more time. Eventually after the officer came out from the back and asked him a few questions on the amount he was trying to deposit. Base on the conversation, there seems to be 2 sets of transactions, a cheque of SGD50,000 and probably a cash deposit of another SGD50,000.

He was asked about the source of the SGD50,000 where he replied that it was a payment to a contract work he has done. In addition, he told the officer that he needed to deposit the money into the bank so that he can make payment to his sub-contractors. The officer continued to grill him on the reason for using his own account.

My father was a sole proprieter and I could understand from my experience that there are times when sole proprieters would use their personal accounts for payments. It make little difference since both accounts belong to them.

It is obvious that the Italian was running out of patience, he just came back from Shanghai the day before and would be flying off soon. He needed to settle all the transaction with his partners before he go.

The officer went to her back office again to consult her higher authority. She came back more than 15 minutes later and asked him to produce the tax invoice of the job. The man grumbled on, kept his documents and left the bank very angrily while the officer did nothing.

Base on these 2 incidents, I can conclude 2 things. Firstly, HSBC is very strict in large cash deposits. They are fear of syndicates trying to launder money through their banks. Secondly, the officer and tellers sucks at quality service, the way they treated their customer like they were crooks. Putting mysel in their shoes, I can empathised with the customers. They are simply trying to deposit their money into their own account and yet they were being suspicious of money laundering?

I can understand that HSBC wants a clean sheet of paper, yet they are offending their customers in doing so. How many people who come into a bank and deposit their money are crooks? How many of them are stupid enough to deposit an obscene sum knowing that the money cannot see day light? I think HSBC is over zealots on this customers activities.

True enough, a teller from another bank confirmed with me that HSBC is VERY STRICT with customer's deposit.

There is one more thing, for the recent 2 times I visited HSBC I noticed that their service standard has dropped. In the latest incident, the officer is simply very cold towards their customers. They are willing to see them walk out of the door without even a blink. As for the manager at the back office, it would probably be good if he or she once in a while walk to the front and take a look at the situation.

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