First National Bank – The Most “Innovative” Bank in the World. Really?

I can probably count the times my blood has boiled due to bad service from a company on one hand. My experience of opening a business bank account online with FNB now unfortunately has to fall into that category. Perhaps somewhat brainwashed by the FNB adverts doing the rounds at the time about how good it would be for my business to switch to FNB, we decided to take the plunge. After all, some of the claims the ads made were:

  • Open an account online in 10 minutes
  • Get free bank charges for 3 months
  • FNB will move all your debit orders for you
  • Be a part of the most innovative bank in the world

Yes. We are a start up Internet business, give us some of that please! I am sure they are legally covered by their small print some where but our personal reality was very far from this:

  • Trying really, really hard following up on a daily basis it took us the better part of a month to open a business account with FNB
  • It seems impossible to get the free banking charges they claim to offer for switching. We have given up trying
  • The debit orders – don’t even bother – just do it yourself
  • It seems that the most innovative bank in the world is unable to allow you to pay using Verified by Visa (at the time I enquired they said it only works on personal accounts and not yet for business). Kind of critical for us as an Internet business

When I tweeted about my bad experience, I got a response from the famous @rbjacobs asking me to detail my bad experience and that some one would get back to me (see my email below). At the time I thought, maybe they do care about customer service but alas, six weeks later, still no response. I sent a follow up email earlier this week but I guess I am already at the point where I have written off the experience as just a bad business decision. I must have been right all along about rather the “devil you know” than the “devil you don’t” when it comes to banking.

Surely at best this has to be a case of false advertising?  Steve, I really think you should rather stick with your bank than spread this nonsense  FNB, maybe you should focus less on offering 10% off iPads in some clever bundled marketing deal and focus more on your core business. How can you help me?  All I want is a bank that does what they say they  are going to do.

Yours disgruntled.

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Andy Higgins
Date: 19 March 2013 20:48
Subject: Opening a Business FNB Account Online
To: rbjacobs@fnb.co.za

Hi there,

As requested here is a brief summary of our experience in opening a FNB business account online. It was actually my colleague that handled most of the correspondence  so I might not have the details 100% but this is the just of it:

  • Applied to open an account online on 14th February 2013.
  • Submitted all required documentation online.
  • Ended up having to re-submit documentation multiple times (exactly the same docs as each time we would be contacted by some one different saying they had not received some part of it).
  • There was no single point of contact – we were continuously passed off to another person and felt like each time we had to start over.
  • We were told that we still had to submit documentation in a branch. When we went to the branch they said they needed the originals but if the courier comes and picks them up from us then we do not need originals so we had the courier come and collect the docs that we had prepared instead (after having submitted the same docs online multiple times).
  • We got sent the welcome pack with the Internet banking registration card etc. but the Internet banking did not work. Spent a few hours on the phone with the call center who eventually said the following
    • We must contact our branch to tell them to call FNB Internet banking to activate the registration card (note we had to tell FNB to contact FNB).
    • The branch did not know what we were talking about.
    • The call center then said we must go into the branch to sort this out.
    • We went into the branch and they had to cancel the registration card and issue a new one because they said the Internet people do not know what they are doing (spent about 2 hours in the branch for this).
  • The limits on the one card that we did receive were not set up as requested (in the documentation which we submitted multiple times) so another visit to the branch was required.
  • Two of the cards on this account got lost some where (no one could tell us where) and had to be cancelled and re-issued twice (we are still waiting for the one card).
  • Our company information was not entered into the system correctly (requiring another visit to the branch as they could not help us over the phone even though the correct information was in the documentation we submitted – multiple times).
  • The people in the branch were helpful but were very negative about the Internet division saying they have to sort out their mess on a daily basis (which I thought was not very professional as they all work for FNB).
  • We moved our account from Nedbank hoping for a better experience but sadly this has not been the case. We made it clear that we were moving from Nedbank and the FNB adverts state no banking fees for the first 3 months when moving an account and now shortly after getting access to our account we see we have already been charged banking fees.
  • So in the end it took multiple visits to the branch and multiple hours on the phone and over a month to open a business account (and we had all the required documentation ready from day one).

Tip: If after reading this, you still want to open an FNB account, the best advice I can give is to go into a branch. Do not attempt to open it online.

  • Hey Andy, I was also lured to FNB through all the media hype and the word-of-mouth phenomenon at dinner with friends – my experience not quite as bad as yours but still nothing like the promises made by the brand. Took 2 hours and 2 trips to set up a new business account in the branch, 40 minute queue to do anything in the bank, the free accounting software is ropey. Was considering cancelling and trying Standard but just couldn’t face the paperwork again.

  • Andy, no matter what bank you are dealing with your experience will be the same. They are totally and absolutely useless. Banking industry is the biggest “legal” terrorist organisation. The banks are the only organisations in the world, which take money from the people, make millions with it, and then they charge for it. And when they lose or steal the money they are not responsible.

    Besides most of their business practices are criminal according to the law. The problem is you have to be a millionaire to take them to court.

  • Hi Andy. My experience was pretty much the same as Paul’s. After the collection of the original docs everything seemed to run smoothly, though.

    I agree that the “10 minute” concept is the biggest hoax ever as there is much more to it than filling out an online form.

    I think because I am an existing FNB customer, the linking of the account to my existing profile was much smoother. I was with StandardBank but they did not give very good service either, nor good interest rates. I packed up camp and moved everything to FNB. Once everything is up and running, they are quite OK.

    Mike, you are on the money there…mind the pun!

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