Do computers devise banking policy?

Well customer services at HSBC certainly seem to think they do. Recently I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pay off tranches of my mortgages albeit not for the luckiest of reasons. So on Monday, having transferred several disparate pots of money into my HSBC savings account, I rang them to pay off another tranche.I had wanted them to calculate the early repayment charges and transfer an amount such that the charges and the amount transferred amounted to exactly what I had sitting in my savings account. It’s not an easy calculation but I was assured it could be done overnight and if I checked my account the next day, I would be able to see exactly how much my mortgage had been reduced by. By Wednesday lunchtime nothing had happened – so I rang to enquire why. I was informed that it takes 48 hours to make such a transfer and I was still 3 hours short of that magical number.

“Why does it take 48 hours?”
“We have to send the request to someone in a different department”
“Why?”
“Because the computer won’t let people in the dedicated mortgage department make the transfer.”
“Who are these people? What do they do that takes 48 hours?”
“The screen is showing me that the transfer is due to be made within 48 hours of your request.”
“Who made the decision to programme the computer to delay such payments and for what reason?”

It was clear no one had thought to script an answer to this question, so one was picked at random.

“It’s because you’re on a fixed interest mortgage”
“But when I paid off another tranche of exactly the same fixed interest mortgage a couple of months ago, it happened immediately.”

There was a pause whilst she surveyed her list of available answers and reviewed my account and then an audible sigh of relief when she found a full proof answer. The last time I had transferred less than £10,000 but this time, because I was transferring more than £10,000, banking regulations had caused the delay and security issues meant she was unable to give me a reason. Phew! both she and the bank completely off hook … except that only days before I had transferred £11,000 to HSBC from a completely different bank which, completely unhindered by her hastily devised excuse, had transferred the money overnight. I decided not to tell her … it was clear that the computer had run out of excuses for its arbitrary rules.

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One thought on “Do computers devise banking policy?

  1. And having taken 48 hours, they’ve got it wrong they haven’t deducted the charges, they’ve credited the mortgage with the whole amount. I don’t for a moment think they’ve let me off so it’s yet another phone call tomorrow. Can’t wait to find out what excuse the computer comes up with this time.

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