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Everyday we get more reminders that we are just a few percent of the way into what the Internet has in store for our business and personal lives. A friend in IBM UK Ltd., just wrote and told me about his experience in applying to re-mortgage his home. The bank, which I will call UKBank Ltd. here, offered an online application process. After filling out the application, my friend received an email that said, “Thank you for submitting your recent online application. From the information on the application, I understand you are an existing account holder. Therefore you would need to make the application via our Customer Retention department.The contact number for the Retention team is 0825 7021347 and they are available Monday-Friday 8.30am-6.00pm. Sorry for any inconvenience caused and thank you again for your interest”. They didn’t even pass the details on to their “customer retention” department to call my friend. In other words, it is up to the customer to call the customer retention people so that they can be “retained” as a customer!

The insanity doesn’t stop there. At the end of the bank’s email was the following…

UKBank Ltd


Jane Doe
Internet Sales Advisor
[email protected]

and then there was an epilogue…

The information, attachments and opinions contained in this message are those of its author only and do not necessarily represent those of The UKBank Ltd. and or any other members of the UKBank Group and are intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. The sender may not be authorized to give financial advice, and nothing in this message should be construed as offering such advice.The message may contain privileged and confidential information and you may not copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on it. If you have received this email in error please notify the Information Security Manager at [email protected]

Replies to this email may be monitored for operational or business reasons.

UKBank Ltd. Registered in England Number : 5349871632

I wonder if the CEO or CMO (chief marketing officer) at UKBank Ltd. are aware of what is going on here. I doubt it. I suspect they have never applied for a re-financing. It is becoming increasingly apparent that it is the CCO’s (chief compliance officers) that are running the show in the financial services industry. There are regulations and laws that must be followed. There are disclaimers that are necessary as a course of doing business on the Internet (I have notices on patrickWeb) but there are different ways to say things. In many cases the CCO and their legal advisors seem to be mostly concerned to be sure they are “in compliance”. So who worries about how things are said? And who worries about the customer reaction and perception of the email communications? In most cases in the financial services industry, I sadly say, it seems no one.

My own financial services company is one of the best. They measure their people on customer satisfaction and do regular surveys to test it. I work closely with one of their employees on various financial matters — feeling a sense of relationship is a positive thing for me and for the firm. However, if I send him an email it gets automatically forwarded to another person who reads and “approves” it before he sees it. His reply to me goes to a person who must approve it before it is sent to me. So much for permission based email relationships. The firm says email has to be treated the same as “written” communication and therefore encourages using the telephone.

Is this the firm’s attitude or is it an SEC regulation? I am not sure, but plan to find out. Digital certificates are easily available and easy to use, albeit not as easy as it should be. There was legislation passed in the United States more than two years ago legalizing digital signatures. Public Key Infrastructure (pki) really works. More on that in another blog posting. See link below for other things I have written on this.

Note: The name UKBank Ltd. and the phone numbers are fictional. If they were the only financial services company that acted this way, I would not be afraid to provide their name. Unfortunately, this story could have been about many companies.