An appalling way to treat bereaved customers

Just over a year ago my Mum sadly passed away, and as her only child I had to sort out her estate, her will, and all her banking related issues. It became very complicated and I experienced several appalling customer service issues with Barclays Bank who she had several accounts with.
This obviously came at a really terrible time for me from a personal point of view. When you are going through a personal crisis and grieving the loss of your mother, the last thing you need is to have serious customer service problems with the very bank where all her money was deposited.
But unfortunately, these type of banking customer service issues are very common for people in relation to bereavement. And it therefore didn’t surprise me to discover that another High Street bank, Santander, has just been fined £32.8 million for serious failings in processing the accounts and investments of dead customers.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that Santander did not transfer funds totalling more than £183 million to beneficiaries when it should have done.
Santander also failed to disclose information relating to the issues with the probate and bereavement process to the FCA after it became aware of them. An incredible 40,428 customers were directly affected by this.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “These failings took too long to be identified and then far too long to be fixed. To the firm's credit, once these problems were notified to the board and senior management, they were fixed properly and promptly. But recognition of the problem took too long. Firms must be able to identify and respond to problems more quickly especially when they are causing harm to customers.”
Santander said it has completed a 'comprehensive tracing exercise' and has transferred the majority of funds in deceased customers' accounts to their rightful beneficiaries, with compensatory interest where appropriate.
Santander also claims to have conducted a major review of its probate and bereavement processes and brought in a raft of changes.
Nathan Bostock, Santander UK chief executive, said: “Santander is very sorry for the impact these failings have had on the families and beneficiaries affected. We accept the FCA's findings and have fully co-operated with their investigation.”
He continued that: “We have now transferred the majority of customer funds and made significant improvements to our whole probate and bereavement process, ensuring we provide both a sensitive and efficient service to our bereaved customer representatives and those who are managing the estates of people who have passed away.”
I really hope that he is telling the truth, and I also hope that this whole incident was just a terrible oversight by Santander. But a little part of me wonders if Santander had secretly thought they had got away with £183 million belonging to these deceased people. I guess it is something we will never know for sure.
But one thing I know for certain; all the major High Street banks really need to sort out their policies and procedures when it comes to dealing with the accounts of dead customers, and also the way they treat grieving family members.

To see hundreds more articles click here to visit our archive