It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that we’re in difficult financial waters because the signs are staring us in the face. Whether it’s the tragedy that has befallen our nearest neighbour, Ireland, or gits like Lord Young telling us we’ve never had it so good, times are definitely hard.
So you can understand that banks and building societies (unless they’re the same thing these days – I forget) are now doing everything in their power to get new business. And I do mean everything. One building society has identified a market that has been largely untouched. I’m talking, of course, about the dead.
If this sounds like a sick joke, believe me it’s nothing compared to the letter I got last week, addressed to my brother who died 5 years ago. And they’d helpfully put ‘Dec’d’ after the name, just in case I’d forgotten. But to give credit where credit is due (no pun intended), they also remembered that I’d been the Administrator of his estate. Good to know that their records are up to date, after a fashion.
Apparently, he still has zero shares, presumably on account of still being deceased. Owning shares while in the afterlife is against the rules, I gather. But all is not lost; there was a handy shares application form prefilled in my late brother’s name, plus the legally required Dec’d. They think of everything, these customer-driven financial services.
I phoned the 10p a minute number to inquire what the flip they thought they were playing at, quoted the shares account reference and was asked to confirm my name. “I’m the living one on the letter,” I identified myself.
The poor soul on the other end of the line apologised and explained that some bright spark – my words – had ‘run a script’ based on anyone who still had money in the BS (and for now, let’s take that to still mean Building Society). So, not only do they want my brother to buy shares, they’ve also been holding on to £5 of his money for the last 5 years. And then they wonder why people don't trust banks any more.
July 2011 update
The issue hung in the air for months, my response email and follow-up letter ignored. The longer it went on, the more it bothered me. And I mean REALLY bothered me.
I wrote again to the Head of Quality, who again passed it down the line like a lead paperweight. And even though they've apologised - twice - and now reviewed the matter, and 'taken steps to ensure this doesn't happen again', and finally made a donation to Macmillan Cancer Nurses, I came to realise that six months of outrage can be a difficult thing to set aside.
So I wrote and thanked them for their resolution and explained that, in order to draw a line under the matter, I'd now sold my few shares. Today I received a gift hamper from the Executive Complaint Team, which was a kind gesture. In a no-win situation, I think we've at least reached a no-score draw.