how (not) to open a bank account

My job requires me to have an account in a specific bank in order to have my paycheck directly deposited into it. I already have an account in a different bank but I had to comply to enjoy the convenience of direct deposit.

But what I thought as convenience turned out be a major hassle.

As I walked into a branch of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), I had no idea what to do. There was no customer service representative or reception where I could go. Instead, there were several desks with what looked like bankers sitting on chairs and bunch of people on the other side of the desk all talking at the same time. For a moment I got scared and wondered if I had come at a wrong place. But it really was a bank, and I was in the middle of a seemingly busy working day.

After a few moments of looking around, I decided to go to the most decent looking gentleman at one of the desks and ask for help. The person I selected, though, was far from my definition of decency, but I had to choose from what was available to me.

“I want to open a bank account, sir” I was nervous, as if opening a bank account was a crime.

“to phir meray pass kyon aaye ho? in sahab kay pass jao!!” Looking extremely annoyed by my query, he pointed to the person at the next desk. So much for decency.

Without uttering another word I quickly ventured towards the sahab he pointed at, praying God to let me get out of this place alive.

“Sir, I need to open a bank account.” God, I promise I will be a good boy from now on.

Without looking at me, he picked up a small booklet from a corner of his desk and gave it to me. I thought he was giving me a brochure of the bank to help me decide what kind of account I wanted to open. But when I looked a little carefully, it turned out to be a six-page form that I had to fill up. I almost got a heart attack because there were a million questions about me and my background that I had never thought of. I also needed someone with an account in that bank as an introducer, the justification of which is beyond me. Anyway, I started filling up the form to the best of my knowledge. I have discovered more about myself during that process than any other activity. I found out that if I am born in Pakistan and have a Pakistani passport then my nationality is Pakistani. I was asked several times in the form why I was opening a bank account. And so on. It took me good half hour to fill up the form. A work mate of mine who gave me the ride to the bank, agreed to be my introducer. After making sure that I had completely filled up the form, it was time to face the bank office again.

“Sir, here is the form.” My hands were shivering.

He grabbed the form from my hands and looked at it.

“You didn’t fill it up completely. Look here. This field is blank. Go fill it up.” I had committed a major sin.

“Oh, I am really sorry sir, I’ll be right back.” I was all apologies.

He didn’t bother to reply and kept looking at the huge register open on his desk. I figured my time was up. I returned to the waiting area and completed the form, and double checked to make sure it was really complete. Once I was sure nothing was left blank, I blessed the form and myself with all the Quranic Verses I remember and decided to confront the ever so polite bank officer.

“Here. It is complete now.” I was confident this time.

He took the form and looked at it again, trying his best to find an error, but there wasn’t any.

“Hmm… did you bring a copy of your ID?” He made another move to send me home empty handed.

“Yes sir, here it is.” I was prepared.

He looked at it for a while, probably trying to find some error or an empty field in my ID as well.

“Do you have your original ID?” Just in case I brought a copy of someone elseís ID with same name.

“Yes sir, right here.” Nature was good to me that day.

After comparing the ID and the copy, he got convinced that he cannot deny me the bank account. I took a deep breath. What a relief. He opened up another huge register and made an entry for a new account. Whatever happed to computerized banking, I wondered.

“Ok, now go and deposit money in your account.” He ordered.

Like a robot, I turned around and stepped towards the teller to deposit money in my newly created account. This process was not as complicated. I had to fill up a less complicated form, wait in line for the teller, give him the money and the form, and get the confirmation receipt.

Now I had to apply for ATM card. I had already obtained another complicated form from the helpful officer. It was time to fill it up. And that’s exactly what I did. I had become an expert in filling up forms as thatís what I had been doing for an hour and a half.

I had to face that uncle, I mean, the bank officer, one more time. But this time he was not so mean to me. He just took the form, made sure it was complete, and advised to return in a week to get my ATM card and check book.

Oh, no! I’ll have to return to this place after a week!! Just the thought is killing me right now.

7 Comments so far

  1. huma (unregistered) on March 30th, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

    oh i KNOW what you mean – i had to open accounts at MCB and UBL on the same day – my blood pressure went through the roof that day.

  2. hafsa (unregistered) on March 30th, 2005 @ 6:38 pm

    tough luck umar. now i know where NOT to open a bank account :)

  3. Anathema (unregistered) on March 30th, 2005 @ 8:48 pm

    customer service makes all the difference. we wont feel as rotten when opening an account at citi or chartered or abn, because the people are trained particuarly for that. but at mcb and sometimes at ubl (sometimes cuz it changegs with renovation), its not so becuase people havent been traiined on the importance of customer service.

    i agree about the tedious long forms being more of a pain than a form of relief but unfortunately thanks to all those people who “created and qualified” the defaulter’s list in the 90s are cause for the SBP regulation M1 and M2 stating “KYC” or Know-Your-Customer for the uninitiated. And no matter how much the relationship manager (myself being one) or branch manaer wish the things to be off the list, the state bank wont permit it, otherwise the account will have to be closed down later on.

    i do pray that withinn one year, the SBP makes customer service as imperative as it has made a headache of the blasted thing called KYC.

    Trust me, once handled, the issues will be no more. with an ATM u never need to the branch anymore.

  4. Sin (unregistered) on April 1st, 2005 @ 2:56 pm

    Seriously. The happiest day of my working life is when ABL told me that I could have an ATM card. I never have to go to the freaking bank again; the entire concept of customer-oriented banking is alien around here.

  5. Sherry (unregistered) on April 3rd, 2005 @ 3:47 am

    MCB – one of the private banks, claims to have the tallest building is the WORST BANK operating in Pakistan! I have had bad eperiences while i was associaed with MCB for 2 years but somehow i managed to close my account 2 weeks ago! Umar get ready for ur ATM will create loads of troubles for u! the ATM machines dont work properly, and if they do they either take the card n dont return or sumtimes the does not giv money but it is deducted frm the bank account. its a lenghty process to tell n give assurance to the staff that ur hard earned money is being used by….. whatever the case, i think that the govt owned banks are much better than the so called behtreen bainkari bank!

  6. Farooq Muhammad (unregistered) on January 1st, 2006 @ 9:35 am

    I read with interest how Umer opened an account at one of MCB branches. I worked with this bank for more than a decade initially as an officer and later as an executive. Probably the situation at MCB was not as bad five years ago when I left it. The reasons for such poor services are 1. Hiring of staff on a basis other than merit thus ignoring the documented and publicised selection criteria 2. Lack of professional training 3. Lack of accountability for poor performance. 4. Lack of motivation / incentive for good performance 5. Lack of professional management at all levels of the bank 6. Stereotyped government/SBP policies to regulate/govern these banks that disregard and belie the concept of customer service and customer convenience. As a result the staff members who are expected to provide excellent customer service are busy covering their asses as the primary goal of their bank job. If they dont comply with SBP directives they dont survive.

    Let’s hope against the hope that things will be better in the future.

  7. Erum (unregistered) on January 20th, 2006 @ 10:37 am

    Its sad to read what Umar went through for opening an account. Good customer service is the solution to all these problems, in which the foreign banks in Pakistan are still far better than the local ones. That’s one reason people go to foreign banks, esp those with good service standards (can include the top 3 foreign banks in Pakistan). Being a banker myself, i’ve seen many banks and branches and have always reported it to the concerned people, rather than just whining and telling my friends about it.. coz if we don‚Äôt tell the concerned people, they never get to know something‚Äôs wrong (common sense). One horrific experience in Pakistan was UBL’s unrenovated branch in Khi, where even their security guard (of course untrained) would replace the bankers in case someone is absent for the day. The branch is fully packed with customers waiting for hours for their turn to make a deposit or withdrawal, with no place to sit, the air was stinking with sweat (i could hardly breathe .. of course there was no AC), highly unfriendly atmosphere and the people are always in a bad mood with “Don’t come near me” written on their face. and as per the branch manager, their high-ups are not bothered about how the branch is being run, they never come for a visit, as long as they know its making money, they’re fine. and he told me there’s too much corruption in the bank. I was quite shocked to hear such words from a bank employee and that too the head of a branch :) not just that, he even gave me his business card and asked if I could arrange for a job in my bank (where I used to work) ..
    As for SBP regulations, we still don’t have detailed and implemented regulations .. in many other countries you have a number of disclosure laws for opening of account and even for a deposit.. thanks to 9/11 and other such events. SBP has done a good job in getting laws n regulations in place before the IMF or World Bank could stop giving us credit and hit us with penalties. Let’s appreciate them for this (btw, I don’t work for SBP) :)
    The problem with us Pakistanis is, we don‚Äôt like anyone asking us questions (the VIP mindset).. but if we’re in another country, we’ll conveniently give all the details (the ‘gora’ scare). But again, there’s a WAY to ask questions and deal with these things which the bankers must learn. again, the answer is.. trained staff!

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