Here’s an early test for the NAB’s new ‘principles’.

In a missive to shareholders this week the National Australia
Bank’s outgoing chairman, Graham Kraehe wrote of many things, new
management, new board members, progress on the changes demanded by
regulators, but of course there was no mention of the millions of
dollars the board has decided to pay for John Stewart and the new
management team: somewhere north of $70 million over the next four
years, all things being equal.

Mr Kraehe again enunicated the five principles that will govern the bank’s behaviour going forward. These are:

  • we will be open and honest,
  • we take ownership and hold ourselves accountable (for all our actions),
  • we expect teamwork and collaboration across our organisation for the benefit of all stakeholders,
  • we treat everyone with fairness and respect, and
  • we value speed, simplicity and efficient execution of our promises.

Read about it here.

All very illuminating, but Crikey has come across details of one
customer’s recent experience with the NAB that will provide an early
test of these grand principles.

A
shareholder as well as a customer, it will be worth watching what CEO
Stewart and the team do because the bank has singularly failed in this
case and breached another customer’s privacy.

This is the story:

A customer who transferred almost $200,000 from a personal account
to a business account was horrified to receive shortly after a notice
from the “Team Leader, Dishonour Team” of the NAB, advising that the
transaction had been dishonoured and that she had been charged $50 for
the experience.

The customer’s crime was to have written the following day’s date on the cheque transferring the funds between accounts.

The customer’s funds were in the bank all the time and if the the
bank had any customer service ethos it could easily have checked that
the funds were there and made the required date adjustment or contacted
the customer and asked to give another properly dated cheque.

The fact that the money was there
was apparently unimportant. Nor did the NAB worry that the customer and
her husband – and their business – had beencustomers of solid standing for years.

The customer had in fact gone to the NAB branch to transfer the money
and to take advantage of fee free service accounts for themselves and
theirsuperfund which had become a shareholder in the NAB.

The cheque was written, but obviously no one from the branch checked the details on the cheque.

After the dishonour letter was received, the reponse from the bank was,
“its bank policy, people do that [post-date cheques] all the time”.
No apology. Nothing. Wrong date, so gouge a customer $50 towards the cost of the new management team.

But in their haste to dud the customer of $50, the “Dishonour Team”
outdid themselves. They stuffed into the same envelope that contained
their charming letter to our unhappy customer, another similar advice
to a customer in a nearby suburb in Sydney’s east, informing him that
his cheque – for more than $220 000 – had also been “returned unpaid.”
His crime was chacterised as “signature unknown” whatever that means.
(Actually if you try to decipher the name of the “Team Leader,
Dishonour Team,” you deduce that his
own signature could only be described as unknown! Or at least indecipherable).

The NAB’s carelessness, in this instance, is of course more than
mere incompetence, it is a breach of privacy of the second.
However we are pleased to report that customer one has been in touch
with the gentleman from Elizabeth Bay, who explained that he had
recently suffered a stroke and was and was unable to do his own
banking. He was distressed to learn that a copy of a letter to him had
been
sent to the wrong person.

Again, in his case, the NAB could have quite easily
checked to make sure the cheque was his. It will be interesting to see
if Stewart believes the bank’s mistakes (eg with the letter) can be
forgiven when a customer’s mistake in writing in the following day’s
date obviously could not be excused by the Dishonour Team!

And, by the way, the first customer wrote the wrong date on the cheque
after an hour long meeting with bank officers during which they
attempted to sell an endless offering of NAB “products.”

She didn’t want them, just to transfer the money. It was obviously the
fact that the customer was transferring a large amount of money that
attracted the cross-selling ambitions of the bank staff.

Perhaps they are forced by the NAB management to do this in any case where a customer has a large amount of money.

If
that’s the case then Chairman Graham and CEO John had better fix up the
principles outlined above and include. “We will not harrass customers
with cross selling and new financial products when they do not want
them”. And “we will right our wrongs.”

A
postscript Crikey’s friend has spoken with the NAB complains hotline. A
person there has promised to fix everything, refund the “fee” of $50
against ourselves and the other customer. “I have said okay, but
this isn’t good enough and have written a letter tothe CEO. I await his response with interest”.