Monday, March 12, 2012

If you bank with Access Bank, formerly Intercontinental Bank, now is the time to take your money and run before it's too late

Nigerian Banks have never been anything to write home about with the exception of banks like GTB who though aren't perfect give you a plethora of options to carry out or manage your accounts/transactions effectively on their platform making life easy for you in the process. The part I hate about GTB is having to go to the bank to carry out any activity as there's always the case of having to wait on endless queues and the customer care people being unhelpful on some occasions.

Ever since Intercontinental Bank's erstwhile MD/CEO, ran the bank to the ground awhile back, I've been cautious of banking with them and have been warned on several occasions by friends and family to stop banking with them and move on but I've been positive about them thinking they'd get their acts together and not fail us, their customers, but that wasn't to be as they were recently bought over by Access Bank. Was initially skeptical at first about Access Bank because I've only heard about Access Bank in the papers; never knew of anyone that banked there before now, and even shortly after they displaced some of their staffs recently, I discovered that most of the faces we've been so used to at Intercontinental for years have been let go and replaced by new unfriendly faces.

Things came to a halt last week when we were sent text messages on the 1st of March, 2012 informing us of the upgrade they were about to carry out on their system from the 2nd to the 5th. The message goes thus:
Dear Customer, As we finalize our IT System integration from Friday March 2 to Monday March 5, service disruptions may occur. We regret all inconveniences.
I wasn't in any way bothered about that as I knew I had nothing to do with them during that period, but their first big mistake happened immediately after their system integration. On the 5th of March, they sent us another message informing of us new set of account numbers after the new ones issued out by the former bank, and the message goes thus:
Dear Customer, Your account number, previously 10xxxxxxxx in IBPlc, has been changed to 00xxxxxxxxxx. Both numbers remain valid. Thank you. For enqr 01-2712005.
After reading the message, I had a feeling that something was wrong somewhere. The previous account number they quoted was totally wrong. Though I hadn't memorized any of my account numbers, I knew the first four numbers at heart and it was completely different from that which I had in the text message they sent to me. I planned to confirm what the exact account number was anytime I went to the bank as I thought the mistake was just with me. The following day, I was meant to fund a friend's account to facilitate flight booking from Abuja to Lagos, but I wasn't cautious enough as the account number which he sent to me to pay into was also wrong courtesy the text message being sent to customers by Access Bank. Eventually, the money could not be used for the purpose for which it was meant, and I was quite lucky enough to still be in Abuja the following day to make my complains and get back my money as the recipient never received the money, neither did Access Bank contact me that the money paid in didn't match the receiver's name.

When I called the account owner to get to the bank to make a complaint and find out what we need to do to rectify the problem, he called me back to tell me he met some serious crowd in the bank with a similar issue and was asked to tell me to go back to the branch where I paid to have it sorted out. On getting to the branch where I lodged in the money, I thought I was the only customer with the problem, but that was not to be after about 10 mins when we increased in number. A lady customer of theirs was screaming and bringing down hell at the bank, having sent her sister money in Lagos since Thursday the 2nd, and yet on the 6th, the money was yet to be delivered to her. The bank wasn't in any way apologetic to us, as the head of security in the bank was even trying to ward people of from seeing the person who was to attend to them as regards the problem. I stopped playing cool when I realized she had been coming to the bank everyday since then, up till the moment at which she was speaking and yet nothing had been done about the issue. I had to let our attendant know that I'd be out of town for awhile and wouldn't be coming there everyday so he should ensure he sorts out the problem right there and then. Probably because the lady spitted more fire than I did, she was being asked to go to the counter where they'd reimburse her, but told me they wouldn't be able to give me cash, and asked me to visit the branch where the account owner was meant to receive the cash to sort out the issue, having written some names & numbers at the back of the teller. The fellow attending to me also wrote his number asking me to tell them to call him in case there were any issues.

On the third day, I was yet to get any message nor call from the bank informing me that the money I paid in was not delivered. I went to the bank with the account owner to go get my money and be done with once and for all, only to meet the kind of traffic usually prevalent at GTB at Access Bank. People rarely queued up outside the security door of Access bank, Ring Road like they almost always do at GTB Ring Road, but on this day, we all came with similar problems. When it was my turn to be attended to, the bank was non-apologetic about the problem, never accepted it as their problem and feigned ignorance as if the messages sent themselves to us, and to even make it worse, the people attending to me instructed me to call the numbers written on the teller myself to talk to them since I was the one who brought it to them. I was about lambasting them when some customers came to my defense saying that was silly of them and rarely happened in other banks, so they eventually made the call to confirm my claim and know how to proceed. The only thing I had them repeatedly say was that their link has been down for some days and they have been having issues. They never accepted the fault as theirs nor did they address the issue of misinforming customers on their new account numbers. I wasn't eventually sorted out that day as they took my number and promise to give me a call but they haven't yet called me and I'm waiting for the new week to begin before I unleash my fury on them.

At the close of day on the 9th, four days after their mistake, they deemed it fit to message us to apologize, after four full days:
Dear Customer, Pls ignore the acct number sent to you between March 4 & 5. You will be advised of your new acct number soon. We regret any inconvenience - 012712005.
In closing, for a bank that is insensitive, irresponsible, unfriendly and inefficient, would you rather bank with them? So if you are like me, and you've been getting advice from friends and family to move ship and sever your relationship with Intercontinental/Access Bank, now is the time to do so before it becomes a nigbati issue. I was being told to report them to CPC, but mehn, this is naija, it's not about CPC joor, but it's about you reading this who banks with Access Bank/Intercontinental to give it a thought and decide if it's worth taking the risk with your money.


Opene said...

Lol @moving ships...but here is my take on it. I started banking with ICB in 2002 and Access Bank in 2008. It took me a while to understand that both banks operate different structures, while one was largely retail, (ICB) the second was refinely corporate with a unique retail offering (access bank). I enjoyed Intercontinental bank’s robust branch network and for Access Bank, I love the way I’m treated anytime I had to deal with them (customer care, ambience and their various service).

Ever since this merger, its been different stories about massive layoffs, system integration (i got the sms too)and network downtime etc. While I haven’t paid deliberate attention to what I see as a complex mix of both malicious and somewhat true information shared online I believe Access Bank is having some issues with the IT integration part of the merger and acquisition and if you ask me, I am not surprised at all.

Every M&A comes with its attendant issues, moreso when combining entities have differing operating systems. I got a message from Access Bank, informing me about the system integration and as a mildly savvy IT person, I braced myself for the worst. We are talking about series of algorithms here, that could go wrong in an instant!

Anyways everything that could go wrong obviously went wrong, system/network downtimes and all of a sudden everyone cant withdraw money even those that don’t have a kobo but for the sake of keeping up with unhealthy gossips amplify the….Access Bank is failing rumour.

I made cash withdrawals at at a branch on the island on Friday, though it took longer than expected, I got my cash! This is not disputing the fact that they have service issues, but then, let us all remember M&A cant end in a month and issues like this are the necessary evils that comes with every M&A.

These are my thoughts based on my experience. It is always too soon to pull down.

Babatunde Adeyemi said...

@Opene Thanks a lot for your comment. A bank that never accepts responsibility is grossly irresponsible. Everyone has issues, not only organizations, but hiding from it or pretending nothing is wrong is a big deal. It's the customers I'm afraid for.