Disclaimer: What follows is not a complaint.
After 20 years as a customer, I am no longer surprised or even aggravated by my bank's stumbles. I view my bank—Sovereign—as an old uncle who drools and is hard of hearing. The guy can't help himself—and neither can my bank.
For years Sovereign had branches in Connecticut and New York—but no electronic link across state lines. My jaw dropped when I first learned this... but I calmed down. Poor Uncle Sovereign. My son made a deposit in New York City... but the money was lost in the interstate transfer. That's my Uncle Sovereign—so absent-minded. But hey, I love the guy.
Then in October 2008, after losing nearly $1 billion the previous quarter and floundering in the worldwide panic, Sovereign escaped disaster via sale. The bank sold out to the Spanish banking giant Santander.
My local Sovereign branch quickly put "Santander" on deposit slips, signs, brochures, websites—and announced that it was now part of "one of the world's strongest and safest banks." Made sense at the time. I thought that now Uncle Sovereign might get the care he needed.
Well not really. Just today—(and again, this is not a complaint. I love my uncle)—I can't find my business account online... because suddenly my business account is not linked to my personal accounts as it was for years.
I call the bank: the recording still welcomes me to "Sovereign, now part of Santander, one of the world's strongest and safest banks."
A long wait on the phone accompanied by bland instrumental music? No. A long wait accompanied by a guy wailing "You---oooo don't know-wo-wo me---eeeee" followed by a woman singer croaking out, "I am weak and star--ar---ar-ving for mercy."
When the customer rep finally comes on, he explains that my business account was de-coupled from my personal account—and he gives me THREE new passwords and IDs for monitoring this entirely separate account.
Since the parent, Santander, is based in Spain, a new concern about bank safety now swirls. This month Santander's bond rating was cut... with "long-term Issuer Default Rating" termed "negative." Looks like Uncle Sovereign's new wife might have a drinking problem.
I am not complaining. I admire the wonderful people at my local branch—all smart, warm people and solid, diligent professionals. It's the institution around them that produces odd brand experiences—whenever possible. Check out the uninspiring prize being offered by the bank (pictured above). "Coffee for a year... You could be one of 50 lucky winners." Gee. How about linking all my accounts for a year.
Once I had a real flesh-and-blood uncle... In college I told him I was majoring in history and he sneered: "In my day history was a crap course." Ooo-kay. But I loved the guy.