Representatives of Oriental Bank reassured members of the V.I. Banking Board, including Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach, on Friday that they are addressing customer concerns following a chaotic, complaint-filled transition from ScotiaBank.
Chief Operating Officer Ganesh Kumar offered “profound apologies” to the bank’s approximately 300 individual and 1,200 business customers in the territory, and said that “we do accept responsibility for the situation.”
Following the closing of the sale from ScotiaBank to Oriental on Dec. 31, the bank’s leaders scheduled the transition of accounts for July 20, but delayed that to Aug. 21 due to COVID-19 restrictions that slowed normal business operations, Kumar said.
“Since that happened, the banking board has received complaints from consumers about difficulties experienced during the conversion, on the banking side. And we’ve also received complaints with regard to the COVID preventative measures, the social distancing, both inside and outside of the bank,” said Roach, who also serves as banking board chairman.
Kumar said the bank sent customers information via mail, including a welcome booklet with information about the transition and the steps required to use new accounts and ATM cards.
But when only about 20% of customers had activated their new cards, “I think that’s when we realized there might be delays in postal services, or some mailers were not there,” Kumar said.
Some customers reported waiting on cards or provisionary PIN codes, and Kumar said the bank printed 8,000 temporary debit cards and sent them to banks so customers could pick them up directly. About 4,000 of of the cards have been used.
But Kumar also said that the bank has been trying to encourage customers to resolve issues online or via phone, rather than coming in to branch locations, where long waits and crowded parking lots left customers lining up in the sun, often without adequate social distancing. He added that the bank increased security to remind customers to separate, and staff went outside to try and resolve problems so fewer people would need to go inside the bank itself.
Banking board member Richard Grant detailed his own struggle to access one of several Rotary Club accounts he has with the bank, and said many customers have been left stuck in Spanish-language help lines or waiting for a response that never came.
Kumar acknowledged that the bank’s capacity to receive customer service calls has been inadequate for the volume, but said they rectified the language issue after two days, and have been using social media and the website to try and get information to customers.
He also said there were certain technical problems that prevented customers from accessing accounts — for example, some accounts classified as checking under ScotiaBank, had been reassigned as savings accounts under Oriental’s new system, so customers weren’t selecting the correct type of account when using ATMs. He added that many customers have given positive feedback about the service they received, and encouraged others to schedule an appointment online to avoid long waits in line.
Board member Rosalie Javois asked whether customers are leaving for the other two competing banks, but Kumar remained upbeat.
“It’s been positive since we took over,” Kumar said. “We are proving to our customers how quickly we can respond. We are not hiding behind what happened, but making sure our customers are happy.”
Still, a lack of accurate contact information is preventing the bank from contacting some customers, and Kumar said that “the data quality problems that we inherited,” are still a “stumbling block” to getting all debit cards activated.
Activation has increased from about 20% to 57% since the transition, Kumar said, and “we will continue the efforts until all the problems are solved.”