The UK’s National Savings and Investments organisation – those lovely people who run the Premium Bonds – have finally woken up to the fact that it is now the 21st Century. For years, they would only do electronic transfers of prizes or payments to UK bank accounts. If you live overseas, they would send you a crossed warrant. The one time I got one of these, I trotted along to my local bank branch (now closed, for reasons of efficiency) and handed them the crossed warrant. They stared at it with a sense of wonder. Clearly, they’d never ever seen one before. It took them a while to find and fill out the requisite form to deal with it, and charged me for the privilege of doing so.
A few days ago, I received an email from the NS&I proudly announcing that they could now do electronic transfers to international bank accounts. All I needed to do was to apply for the service, and it would be added to my NS&I account details. Well, you can guess what happened next – a simple request gets changed into a maze of twisty little passages.
First, you have to log on to your NS&I account. If you have ever done this, then you will know that they have THE most convoluted sign-on mechanism that I have ever come across. It’s also time-limited. You have to complete it within five minutes. For some people, I can imagine that this will be a challenge.
Once you’re on, you fill out an electronic form with all your bank details. Then, 24 hours later, you receive an email saying that there is a secure message waiting for you in your account. Back you go, sign in again, and the “secure message” simply tells you that there is an electronic document waiting for you elsewhere in their system. You leave their message section, and enter their document section to get hold of it. It needs to be downloaded, printed out, and posted back to them, together with yet more supporting documentation.
And just what is this “supporting documentation”? For starters, they need a bank statement, less than three months old. It must be an original, or a copy of an original certified by a lawyer or notary. It cannot be a printed copy of an online bank statement. Er, hello, I haven’t had paper copies of my bank statements for years – I do all my business online – and the bank has closed my local branch, remember? So I’ve had to ask the bank specifically for a paper copy of my last statement. They were happy to oblige – just pay €5, sir, and you’ll get it within two weeks.
Then I need to send the NS&I evidence of my identity. Er, hello, I’ve been through this before – they needed it when I moved to the Netherlands. They have my account details, we’ve had subsequent correspondence via post – they know who I am and where I live.
Well, apparently the people in the NS&I’s international payments service section don’t know who I am or where I live. So I have to send them my current passport (no, I don’t think so…) or a certified copy of it, a letter or notification from my local tax authority, which must be dated within the last three months and include my name and address. Furthermore, I have to send them my tax identification number and my date and place of birth. The latter details have to be on a separate piece of paper; it is totally irrelevant that these details are also clearly given on my passport and all correspondence with the tax authority. It also appears to be irrelevant that I have done all this before.
I have an appointment with a notary next week. He will be very happy to make a certified copy of my passport for this group of British bureaucrats and charge me for the privilege – again. Once I have received my paper copy of a recent bank statement then I can assemble and send all this information off to the NS&I – again.
The irony of all this is that the email announcing the availability of this service was signed by a Ms. Jill Waters, “Assistant Director Customer Experience” of the NS&I.
I’ve sent her an old-fashioned letter pointing out that, all in all, I felt this was not a shining example of a good customer experience…