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Thu 1 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Good Apples and Bad Banks

The pace of Dubai hits you like a physical blow, effecting all your senses.

The pace of Dubai hits you like a physical blow, effecting all your senses. The sound of construction, the people and traffic congestion on the streets, the crush of shoppers in malls, the sometimes outrageous architectural design of the high-rise towers. Love it, or hate – Dubai is a dynamic, constantly evolving creature.

It should therefore not come as a surprise that, amidst the chaotic process of rapid growth, there exists wide fluctuations in the quality of services, particularly in the financial services sector.

All of the banks occupy shiny, modern looking office-towers and, like their western counterparts, pump a small fortune into the advertising of their retail products. From credit cards, personal loans, and auto loans to property mortgages – competition is intense among the banks to get the customer to sign on the bottom-line. The problem is, that’s the point where Dubai’s banks seem to switch off and turn to the next customer.

Credit cards are the best example of this. Firstly, as part of the “product package” of opening a cheque account, the banks tend to include either or both a Visa/Mastercard credit card.

But, the banks also require the customer to write a “security cheque” to the bank for the value of the credit card limit (a practise that would not be possible under the consumer protection laws of most western countries). The bank then arranges for the security cheque to be picked up from the customer by its approved and contracted courier service.

Should the bank not receive the security cheque, it places a hold on the credit card(s).

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a bank, which I have no services with, informing me that my cheque written out to my bank was sitting with them. I dutifully contacted my bank to inform them that the courier service had mislaid my cheque and where it could be located for pickup. I assumed the matter would be dealt promptly. Wrong.

Two weeks later my credit cards are stopped by the bank claiming that they have not received my security cheque, and yes, they are aware that the cheque is sitting with another bank waiting for pickup.

The problem is, the bank is now squabbling with the courier service over whose fault it is that the cheque was incorrectly delivered. And, no, it has not occurred to anyone at the bank to pick up the cheque personally and thus avoid causing disruption to the customer. After two weeks of dealing with multitude of indifferent bureaucrats, the bank reluctantly agreed to reactivate my credit cards.

To my knowledge, the security cheque has still not been picked up by the bank.

Hopefully, as Dubai finds its maturity, so will the banking industry learn that customer service and client retention is just as important as the signing up of business.

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