If you though Wells Fargo’s unauthorized account scandal was amateur hour, what with its heads-up-for-forging-signatures program and practice of firing people who said something or called the whistleblower hotline to the deer-in-the-headlights look of soon-to-be-former executives confronted with uncomfortable facts to the all-around lack of responsibility taking, just wait until you hear about the scandal unfolding at Citizens Bank. The northeastern regional bank is making its former corporate parent, the Royal Bank of Scotland, proud by setting up a program inviting customers in for a “financial checkup”—at which they’d be pressured to open a few extra accounts—and then just lying about setting up or having those meetings.
“For a week or so, I had my bankers [try to make] real appointments. No one was picking up the phone,” said a former branch manager in Massachusetts, recalling when the “Citizens Checkup” program was introduced in February 2016. “So we put random people’s names down and said, ‘We have an appointment.’”
After a fake appointment was supposed to have occurred, bankers sometimes marked that the customer didn’t show up or attended but didn’t sign up for any new products, the former employees said. One former Citizens branch manager in New York state recalled putting stars or exclamation points on falsified forms to make them look like authentic meeting notes.
Bankers said they felt under pressure to hit goals set by headquarters, so they just started making things up. But unlike the cross-selling pressure exerted by Wells brass, which rewarded employees for getting customers to open (or have opened for them) all sorts of new accounts, Citizens just rewarded employees for having conversations (or saying they had conversations) with customers. Conversations which did not go well, even the fake ones, since apparently no financial checkup found the need for new Citizens Bank products in customers’ lives.
The information that the current and former Citizens employees said was falsified doesn’t involve opening customer accounts without consent, the practice that led to Wells Fargo’s problems.
But who wouldn’t want to do more business with a bank after a conversation like this?
The bank added any new program entails change and that, “as expected, a small number of colleagues have struggled in making the transition to having deep needs-based conversations….”
To make appointments, Citizens’ staffers cold-call customers, the bank said…. When meetings occurred, bankers were told to ask questions such as: “Are you a caretaker for an aging parent?” or ��Are you planning for an upcoming divorce?”
“No? Happily married, you say? Well, that’s too bad. If anything changes, do be sure to give us a call. Hello? Hello?”