Every bank boss should read the story of Karl Lenobel’s missing £130,000.
It’s galling to think that a simple administration error deprived three children’s charities of a generous donation that could have improved so many lives since Karl died 12 years ago.
Although Karl’s tale has ended well, it could be the tip of an iceberg. Sources tell us other banks have also failed to pay out to relatives of deceased customers.
Unless they follow Santander and launch urgent investigations, these firms are depriving customers’ families, friends and favourite charities of vital funds. That would be unforgiveably irresponsible.
Santander is trawling through databases after realising it failed to contact the man’s solicitor about two of his five accounts
Bank bosses must realise that over the past few decades the number of accounts we each hold has exploded.
It’s not uncommon now to have a couple of current accounts (one in joint names), several savings accounts, a spattering of Isas across cash deals and investment websites and up to a dozen pensions from a working career.
So it’s practically inevitable that one or two of these will be forgotten from many people’s wills (which may be decades old).
We rely on banks, insurers and investment firms to make sure every penny is paid to beneficiaries when they get a death certificate or grant of probate.
Santander discovered the errors in its record-keeping only because it was prompted to overhaul its processes by Money Mail’s Looking After Your Legacy campaign.
What if we’d never made such a fuss about the terrible way bereaved families were being treated by big firms?
To its credit, Santander is now setting an example for the rest of the industry. Before, it put the onus entirely on the customer to do everything.
Since our campaign it has employed a team of 40 staff whose sole job is to deal with bereavement cases.
Branch staff now focus on checking ID and accepting forms; the other work — which can be complex — is done by the specialist team.
That includes searching for accounts in the deceased’s name, rather than merely closing those highlighted to them, and looking at official websites for death certificates to save customers sending them in.
Bereaved customers also get a case manager so they always speak to someone familiar.
There’s still a long way to go, but this is progress. If you’ve had an experience that you think sets an example for other firms, please send it my way.
Banking on greed
Everyone seemed to think they were getting something for nothing when Halifax became a bank in the late Nineties.
A huge 97 per cent of members backed the move after being offered £1,469 in shares for having £100 in savings.
With hindsight, I’m not sure they made a smart choice.
Not only are those shares worth just £121, paying dividends to shareholders has reduced interest rates for savers.
Halifax’s easy access deal today pays loyal savers 0.05 per cent, compared to 0.85 from Coventry BS. That difference adds up over millions of customers.
Demutualisation also encouraged greed. Carpetbaggers opened accounts at all societies in case they converted and gave away shares.
Some tried to force conversion against the will of management and long-standing members.
Money Mail campaigned against this and scored a notable victory in seeing off the predators that were circling Nationwide.
Little is left of mutuals which moved to fully-fledged banks. Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Northern Rock were swallowed up or went under because they lacked competitive skills. Most forgot their true customers in search of quick profits.
I do wonder how much better off homebuyers and savers might be today if Halifax had remained a strong, customer-friendly building society alternative to the might of the avaricious banks.
Pay up, BA
Claiming compensation for flight delays and cancellations is a minefield. Our guide will help.
But BA should realise most customers’ biggest concern is their cancelled trips. Children are tearful and parents feel cheated of precious holiday time. Hotels, outings and car hire cost money.
At the very least, BA should pay for anything holidaymakers had to miss out on.
Its bosses must act fast or risk an exodus to other airlines.