Let me distract you from the Brexit woes by drawing your attention to the FICA freeze debacle over at FNB. Some snippets of common complaint:

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Depending on who you’re speaking to at your branch, this has affected anywhere between 5,000 and 16,000 business accounts. And for the record, today is:

  1. Payday; and
  2. The deadline for VAT payments.

Also, more awkwardly, anyone that was trying to take advantage of yesterday’s favourable exchange rate got thoroughly whacked this morning.

According to FNB:

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Only, many of those accounts were apparently compliant.

The situation is not helped by the observations like:

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Nor is it helped by unhelpful advice like:

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Let me give you the brief version of my own encounter:

Tuesday evening: receives 24 hour notice of “transaction hold” due to FICA/KYC non-submission. From FNB 🙂 #servicewithasmiley

Wednesday: *calls Business Banker; told that it’s a system glitch and not to worry; requests a check of FICA status anyway; asked to resubmit a piece of documentation that has been mislabelled in the system ‘just in case’*

Thursday: *account is frozen* *calls go unanswered*

Friday: *still frozen*

Eventually, after I got through this morning, I was told that the account actually needed a letter confirming voting rights from the company auditors. Or share certificates. Possibly both.

This conversation then took place:

Me: “Okay, I can arrange that. But what of giving me some advance warning? I mean, I receive an endless parade of payment notifications by sms and email, but not a single request for a document that I apparently should have known that you needed? And now you’ve put my account on hold.”

Operator: “Yes sir, our system is meant to give three notification requests for documentation before it puts your account on hold.”

Me: “But it didn’t.”

Operator: “Yes sir, we’ve received a lot of complaints about that. We’ve escalated the issue.”

Me: “So does that mean the transaction hold can be lifted until you’ve notified me three times that this is what you require?”

Operator: “No sir, the hold won’t be lifted until your account is FICA compliant.”

Me: “Even though your system is what’s actually at fault here?”

Operator: “Yes sir.”

Me: “And your FICA department is going to take at least 2 to 3 working days to evaluate the emailed documents?”

Operator: “Yes sir.”

Me: “So your FICA department requires more time to check documentation than the 24 hour notice you gave before the account was put on hold?”

Operator: “Yes sir.”

Me: *incredulous silence*

You see, here is the problem:

  1. Is FICA compliance important? Maybe. I mean, I’m sure that money laundering is an issue for some people.
  2. But is FICA compliance more important than salaries being paid, and VAT proceeds being collected by the fiscus? No. No it is not.

So today, there are hardworking South Africans who will not be receiving their salaries.

But, I mean, as long as FNB doesn’t get fined by the SARB for non-compliance with FICA. That is what’s really important here.


UPDATE: thanks to some very patient ladies at the Business Remediation Centre (who have been inundated with calls from angry customers), and an excellent Client Service Manager, my own particular issue was resolved. I feel bad that these poor people stand right in the firing line, while the system-maintenance peeps (who seem directly responsible) get to sit disinterested in the back-end. But I’m very grateful. And feeling far more gracious in retrospect. #relief

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.