Bye Bye Barclays Bank

Tomorrow I’m off on holiday to Singapore again, this time for a couple of weeks and taking my wife with me.  We might go up to Malaysia for a few days in the second week to get some snorkelling in, but we’re undecided on that.

One thing I am not undecided on is that when I am in Singapore I will attempt to do what I should have done several years ago: leave that pathetic excuse for a bank called Barclays and join HSBC, whose offshore banking service would have to be pretty damned poor to be worse than Barclays’.  Sometimes I wonder if they’ve staffed their customer service department with Sakhalin Islanders.  Since I emigrated in June 2003 and was able to conduct all my financial affairs through the Isle of Man and out of range of Gordon Brown’s fat, greedy mitts, I have unfortunately been a customer, or dupe, of Barclays Private Clients International.

Since June 2003 up until today, Barclays have done the following, which is not an exhaustive list:

1.  Sent an unsigned debit card addressed in its entirety to: “Timothy Newman, Dubai”.  Like I’m the Sheikh, or something.

2.  Sent several PIN numbers for my online banking service to the Middle East, none of which worked.  It took a couple of months before I could access my account.

3.  Kept an old online banking service account live when it should have been closed.  It was possible to make payments from my current account using the old online account for at least a year.

4.  Sent a debit card to Dubai which was cancelled before it ever arrived.

5.  Operated a helpline dedicated to its international customers around UK office hours.

6.  Charged me $55 per time to transfer $815 from a Barclays USD account on the Isle of Man to a Friends Provident USD account on the Isle of Man.  Barclays considers this an international transaction, and charges accordingly.

7.  Failed to act on an instruction to cancel a standing order for 4 months, helping themselves to over $200 of transaction fees in the process.  After several hours of international calls to Barclays, they agreed to pay this back.  After several more hours of international calls to Barclays, they actually did so.

8.  Blocked an ATM card without warning on numerous occasions after falsely saying they’d tried to call me to ask if the card was being used fraudulently.

9.  Told me that there is nothing they can do to avoid a card being blocked when used abroad, even if I have called them up to tell them I am going to be using the card abroad.

10.  Told me that it is “impossible” for the daily withdrawal limit on my ATM card to be set to exceed £300.

11.  Stated that they would be in breach of the law if they were to fax me copies of my own bank statements.  This is a lie: other banks manage it without being prosecuted.

12.  Chastised me for not warning them that I was using my card in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 8 months after that had been my residential and correspondence address on record with Barclays.

13.  Sent me umpteen computer-generated apology letters encouraging me to give them more feedback without providing an email address or fax number.  The only way to give them feedback is to make a lengthy international phone call which will be dealt with by the very people you are complaining about, or to write a letter and post it across the world.  They end the letter by telling you that if they don’t hear back from you within two months, they will assume you are satisfied.  I’ll try this approach to my clients and see how far it gets me.

14.  Demonstrated that the bank is run for the sake of their employees, not the customers.  Umpteen obstacles have been put in place to prevent the employees having to do anything which might involve thinking, effort, or leaving their computer/phone terminal.  Most requests are met with a whining jobsworth saying “I’m sorry sir, but we can’t do that, our policy doesn’t allow it”, as if the policy is imposed on Barclays by some higher being without their consent.

15.  Failed to call me back on all but one occasion that I asked, a failure rate of about 96%.

16.  Cost me several hundred dollars in international phone calls trying to persuade Barclays’ staff to solve routine problems or getting them to undo major problems of their own making.  Requests to have some of this expenditure refunded were simply ignored.

17.  Set up their telephone banking system such that the account management, debit card management, and credit card management are in three different places managed by three different groups. 

18.  Demonstrated beyond doubt that they are either utterly incapable of running an international banking service, or they simply don’t want to.

ABN AMRO customers are going to be in for a nasty shock if the Barclays takeover goes ahead.  Barclays should prepare itself for a barrage of calls from grumpy Dutchmen. 

I can’t understand Barclays.  I don’t know much about how banks profile their customers, but at a guess I’d say I’m one worth looking after.  I’m working in the oil and gas industry, not known for its meagre salaries, and at age 29 made it to General Manager of the Sakhalin region of a services company.  I don’t have a mortgage yet, but it should be obvious that I will within the next few years, not to mention a requirement for all sorts of other investment vehicles, insurances, and financial products Barclays claim they offer.  And I send a not insignificant amount of cash by way of my salary each month into their vaults, which is looking good to increase handsomely and continue for the next couple of decades.  What’s more, I am surrounded by fairly wealthy expatriates most of whom do their banking offshore, not to mention that I manage a few of these and will likely manage a whole load more in the future and will be in a position to advise on a lot of the financial decisions they make.  In short, if Barclays don’t consider me a customer worth looking after, what type of customer are they after?  I don’t think they have a clue. 

So I’m off to Singapore, the reknowned hot bed of capitalism, to do that most capitalist of things: booting an incompetent supplier off the job for ever.  Now I don’t know if HSBC will be any better, but as I said, I doubt they could be any worse.  We shall see.

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15 Responses to Bye Bye Barclays Bank

  1. secretdubai says:

    Ah well this is why I use Skype to contact my offshore bank.

    No bloody way am I paying Etisalat’s international charges on a half hour plus phone call.

  2. Girda Clamp says:

    Have had excellent service from First Direct, part of HSBC, and would recommend them to anyone. Tried Barclays years ago and I know exactly where you are coming from.

  3. varske says:

    Sounds just like Citibank, but I have never found anyone else who would let me transfer Euros to GBP online, so I am stuck with it. The best service I have ever had is with SEB (Swedish) in Lithuania where they were really unfussed about what sort of money you paid in and what you did with it.

    Generally I found the benefits of banking offshore where much less than the costs in terms of competitive offerings and service.

  4. varske says:

    were much less

  5. varske says:

    For Citibank I did once send an outrageously large bill for my time and phone calls which I expected them to bin, but I managed to send it to the MD’s fax number and it got paid without a query. This made me respect them even less.

  6. dearieme says:

    Is it because for years Barclays promoted family members at the top? Mind you, I find HSBC much worse than its predecessor, the Midland.

  7. Tatyana says:

    I left HSBC years ago, and my bank of choice now is an online one, ING. Have no idea if they operate abroad, though.

    Have good time in S!

  8. BearBait says:

    You’ll wind up a HSBC Premier Customer & promised all kinds of glittery things including a Personal Relationship Manager. Mine has so far never answered my emails unless you count ‘out of office’ replies stating he is on leave as replies… Arranging cards will be a saga as they wont post your cards or pins to Russia.

  9. Tim Newman says:

    Arranging cards will be a saga as they wont post your cards or pins to Russia.

    They won’t?!! If they won’t do this, I’m not joining them full stop.

    Jesus, am I going to be stuck with Barclays? Anyone know any other decent offshore banks?

  10. Matt says:

    I am an HSBC Hong Kong customer and I have to say they are very service minded and I can not complain at all with their services. When I used to live in China they did not have any problems with sending PIN codes, cards and other sensitive stuff by mail.

    Regret your bad experiences with Barclays. Should you ever come back to the UK one day I would strongly advise to avoid Virgin Media. I have had a very similiar experience with them as well and my list would be just as long as your list with Barclays.

    In short, a crappy company that isn’t able to provide a simple broadband service and when they try they come up with all sorts of lies and pathetic promises.

    I’m now a BT customer and quite happy. Just a friendly advice…

  11. dearieme says:

    I’ve had utterly dreadful service from NTL, now Virgin Media. The best bank I’ve ever used was the National Commercial Bank of Scotland. R.I.P.

  12. Rory says:

    Have the same problems with Barclays at the moment,sent a Visa card to South Africa (know it was not right thing to do, via recorded mail) card was intercepted at the Royal Mail and account was emptied in Barclays Luton over the counter so much for chip and pin, the fraudstes then applied for a loan and were granted a loan of 6k. This was approved the same day,with all their so-called security checks dont know why we have them. I thought it was Barclays policy to do security checks on all enquiries and loan applications. They are now trying to avoid the issue.

  13. Danny says:

    God I hate Barclays. I moved to the UK in September and promptly opened a bank account with Barclays. Its now 2 weeks until Christmas and I still haven’t received my ATM card. I’ve talked to about 30 people about it (no exaggeration) and have gotten about 10 or 12 different explanations….none of which has solved the problem. I also love the overall attitude that everyone at Barclays exudes that screams “I don’t give a crap about your problem..go kill yourself” If this is the banking system the British have chosen no wonder their empire collapsed. All I know is at my bank back in my hometown (New York, NY) when you open an account they instantly print up an ATM card WHILE YOU WAIT..then put it in a machine where YOU PICK THE PIN. You have an active usable ATM card within 20 minutes of opening an account. Am I to believe they couldn’t employ this mind bending technology in the UK???

  14. Nesiskundziu says:

    All of you need to stop complaining, look in the mirror and think what you can do to overcome the challenges of living abroad. If you’re still paying for international phone calls, that’s your own fault for ignoring VOIP technology. If you trust the bank to send you cards/PINs more than you trust a family member back home who could pass those on to you, get a mailbox at your home post office and have your stuff sent there, then pick it up when you return home once a year. Take care of these matters before you go abroad. Set up multiple accounts to give you more freedom, such as circumventing withdrawal limits. I’ve lived the expat life for the last four years and my banks are no more receptive to its customers living abroad, yet I’ve avoided most of the hassles you complain about.

  15. Pingback: White Sun of the Desert » Barclays Idiocy, Part 187

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