Note: This post refers to Nedbank, FNB, ABSA, Standard Bank. In every example or story below those were the only brands every mentioned

This past month our business (Calidascope) became it’s own legal entity and had to open a Bank Account. A pretty cool step. After the registration of the company came through, next step was a Bank Account. This is our story……

We’re not finance people. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Of course we have to engage with that side of our business, but it does nothing to help us get out of bed in the morning. So the majority of things that fall into the category called ‘finance’ has always been out-sourced to peeps who get completely excited by it. As part of this new phase, we have new finance partners (a cool outfit with offices in Cape Town called About Finance). Their recommendation was Nedbank and then FNB. Their experience, they tell us, has these two at the top of the list of Banks who know how to deal with small businesses. We didn’t know any better and off to Nedbank we headed.

I’ll spare you the granular, tedious, blow by blow account. All I’d like you to know is that it took us 3 different days attempting to open an account with 3 different Banks, at 6 different branches, and 3 different Call Centres before we finally opened up our account. We got slaughtered running the gauntlet by the so-called Customer Service Champions we encountered. This wasn’t a complex application either. All we wanted was:

  • A bank account number where we could direct the money we generate
  • A card or two for us to use from time to time to pay for things
  • Internet Banking

That was it. Vanilla, simple and very entry level. We’d also been helped by our finance peeps so we went armed with the 50 pages of stuff you need to open a bank account. We had everything we needed and more.

Here are my observations and thoughts. I’d suggest that if just one of the banks sat up and took just one of these seriously and fixed it, they’d be a clear winner in the customer experience race they all seem to be trying so hard at, but don’t seem to be making a lot of progress in.

  1. Bank people don’t open Business Accounts. Ever! They surely can’t. Because if they did they’d change a whole lot about how they do things.
  2. If we treated new clients the way we were treated, we’d not have a business.
  3. If we made it as difficult for our new clients to do business with us as banks do with their new clients, we’d not have a business
  4. If we spoke to our new clients as if they were doing us a favour, and not the other way around, we’d not have a business
  5. If we had inflexible systems that were getting in the way, and made it our client’s problem and not ours, we’d not have a business

Here’s what business people in our world say when we tell our sadly very common story….

There isn’t a good bank. They’re all equally horrible. What you need to find is a good branch. A branch with enough really good people is the key to having a good banking experience. Don’t pick a bank, pick a branch.

Where We Ended Up

We ended up where we started. With Nedbank. We found a good branch. Rivonia in Gauteng. All in all it was a positive experience with the people we encountered.

But then the processes and systems kicked in to mess it all up. We were told you have to deposit R270 into a new account to activate it. We took along R270 in cash. And the next day our balance reflected they’d hit us with a fee of around R10 for depositing the money. Who does that? Is there really nobody doing any thinking at all at Nedbank?

The very first experience you give your brand new customer, before the sun goes down on our first day. Before we’ve had any experience with you. Before you’ve executed one service for us. You’ve given us nothing except an account number and Internet Banking details. We’ve not used any one of your services. You’ve added no value to our world. And then you hit us with a cash handling fee because we deposited the R270 you asked us to? Really? Who does that?

Banks apparently do that. Nedbank definitely does that. I’m afraid that while you’re possibly really good with money, you’re really horrible at customers.