Message to Bruneian banks: Shape up your customer service

Reading Time: 4 minutes

atmsAs years pass, many new banking services have been rolled out to enhance consumer experience in Brunei. Internet banking, ATM debit cards, branches cropping up here and there, and new financial menus for consumers to invest or dabble in; applying for credit is getting easier and faster.

However, Bruneian banks have its faults and inefficiencies, issues that wish to point out to decision and policy makers, both in the private and public sector. Having studied outside the country for over a year, I have gathered insight to help compare how banks in UK and in Brunei perform. Let me forewarn readers first that my criticism is intended to improve existing services and eventually help protect the consumer from going into the bottomless pit of debt, as well as guiding businessmen into improving their efficiency.

Firstly, bank queues in Brunei are so long that they make Ayamku (Brunei’s answer to KFC) staff look professional. Now I have nothing against those sitting behind the counter, but I do hold gripes when someone wastes 20 to 30 minutes of my life. If the whole place is packed with people then I would understand, but that is not the case here: In my anecdote, there were only four people waiting in line.

Where were the clerks? Waiting behind the service counter thumbing through their cash or talking to their colleague. In Lloyds TSB bank, UK the average depositing or withdrawing or over-the-counter banking transaction period is less than that of Ayamku serving you Nasi Ayam Chicken Spring.

“Sir, I see you do not have a debit card.” eventually says the lady behind the Bruneian banking counter.

“How much is it?” I said.

“BND$20 per year.”

Think of it and let it sink in: BND$20 per year. BND$20 per year! That amount is so massive that it alone would destroy the accumulated annual interest gained – for instance here, it is 2 per cent – for depositing over BND$1,000 worth of my capital in the bank. The advantage of having that debit card is that I can withdraw in their ATM machines. Why should I pay for this service?

In the UK they give the debit cards for free and I can withdraw in any ATM machine in the country. In Brunei not only it is charged on a per year basis but in order to withdraw money I have to make a transaction on a particular bank’s ATM machine. For instance if I have a Baiduri Bank debit card the only  ATM machine is going to accept it is Baiduri’s. Not HSBC, not Taib Bank, not Standard Chartered whatever. As if there’s a monopoly going on around here. Shouldn’t there be a banking association between the leading banks to work together for the consumers betterment?

In the UK market, where there is financial maturity and wide-ranging options of banks, to ‘corner’ the market would lead to economic suicide. Nothing can be said the same here in Brunei.

Thirdly, we let our government employees get exploited into debt. Humans are subjected to whims and desires that economists call unlimited wants. With a mature outlook in finance one can utilise this access of credit for good use. However, that cannot be said for over 60 per cent (or more) of the employees. They misuse and misplace their finances into purchasing things they cannot afford. I thank the former minister of finance for curbing the credit fiasco that happened in the mid-2000s. Because banks are just too happy to exploit employees ‘unlimited wants,’ largely thanks to their governmental background (with their permanent salaries) with blocks after blocks of interest and loans.

And it surprises you why an average governmental employed family can “afford” 5 to 6 cars? If this is not called parasitical then what is? Regardless of the law that inhibits over-credit this matter still happens.

What happens then to a family drowned in deep debt if it does not lead to broken relationships, low self-esteem for the family head, and eventually poor education and upbringing for a child? Where do government employees get the permanent salary if not from the source of it all: oil and gas? The banks through loans and interest have largely absorbed this trickle-down wealth. And we are moving towards Islamic finance, eh?

Finally, internet banking here is so bad that it spills onto the students ability to get allowances on time. This article is partly motivated to correct the financial officers negligence. How many months have students been subjected to these things, I dare not count or mention except of course the article entitled “Why must students suffer waiting for their allowances?” But apart from bureaucratic “mistakes” the banks here too have to be scrutinised.

Why? For instance Bruneian students in UK never have to face such frequent disruption students here have to suffer. And Brunei Hall, which is the main administrative body in UK overlooking over 1,000 students has less than 50 administrative employees. This is thanks to the UK banks’ internet banking! An administrator only has to input a yearly standing order once or twice a year for one student for their monthly allowance, and when it is confirmed you can be dead sure it will be transferred every month. Can the same be said to the banks and their internet banking here?

There are a lot of things banks in Brunei have to offer. Services that they should look to improve include shortening bank queues, charge-free debit cards, ethics in lending money to those who can afford it, and a massive overhaul in internet banking.

The problems mentioned, if studied by bankers and decision makers, can be an opportunity to get that next ‘banking excellence award’ banks proudly post in their promotional ads. Because isn’t excellence all about improving customer service? And isn’t customer service not all about the customer?

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

As years pass, many new banking services have been rolled out to enhance consumer experience in Brunei. Internet banking, ATM debit cards, branches cropping up here and there, and new financial menus for consumers to invest or dabble in; applying for credit is getting easier and faster.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

atmsAs years pass, many new banking services have been rolled out to enhance consumer experience in Brunei. Internet banking, ATM debit cards, branches cropping up here and there, and new financial menus for consumers to invest or dabble in; applying for credit is getting easier and faster.

However, Bruneian banks have its faults and inefficiencies, issues that wish to point out to decision and policy makers, both in the private and public sector. Having studied outside the country for over a year, I have gathered insight to help compare how banks in UK and in Brunei perform. Let me forewarn readers first that my criticism is intended to improve existing services and eventually help protect the consumer from going into the bottomless pit of debt, as well as guiding businessmen into improving their efficiency.

Firstly, bank queues in Brunei are so long that they make Ayamku (Brunei’s answer to KFC) staff look professional. Now I have nothing against those sitting behind the counter, but I do hold gripes when someone wastes 20 to 30 minutes of my life. If the whole place is packed with people then I would understand, but that is not the case here: In my anecdote, there were only four people waiting in line.

Where were the clerks? Waiting behind the service counter thumbing through their cash or talking to their colleague. In Lloyds TSB bank, UK the average depositing or withdrawing or over-the-counter banking transaction period is less than that of Ayamku serving you Nasi Ayam Chicken Spring.

“Sir, I see you do not have a debit card.” eventually says the lady behind the Bruneian banking counter.

“How much is it?” I said.

“BND$20 per year.”

Think of it and let it sink in: BND$20 per year. BND$20 per year! That amount is so massive that it alone would destroy the accumulated annual interest gained – for instance here, it is 2 per cent – for depositing over BND$1,000 worth of my capital in the bank. The advantage of having that debit card is that I can withdraw in their ATM machines. Why should I pay for this service?

In the UK they give the debit cards for free and I can withdraw in any ATM machine in the country. In Brunei not only it is charged on a per year basis but in order to withdraw money I have to make a transaction on a particular bank’s ATM machine. For instance if I have a Baiduri Bank debit card the only  ATM machine is going to accept it is Baiduri’s. Not HSBC, not Taib Bank, not Standard Chartered whatever. As if there’s a monopoly going on around here. Shouldn’t there be a banking association between the leading banks to work together for the consumers betterment?

In the UK market, where there is financial maturity and wide-ranging options of banks, to ‘corner’ the market would lead to economic suicide. Nothing can be said the same here in Brunei.

Thirdly, we let our government employees get exploited into debt. Humans are subjected to whims and desires that economists call unlimited wants. With a mature outlook in finance one can utilise this access of credit for good use. However, that cannot be said for over 60 per cent (or more) of the employees. They misuse and misplace their finances into purchasing things they cannot afford. I thank the former minister of finance for curbing the credit fiasco that happened in the mid-2000s. Because banks are just too happy to exploit employees ‘unlimited wants,’ largely thanks to their governmental background (with their permanent salaries) with blocks after blocks of interest and loans.

And it surprises you why an average governmental employed family can “afford” 5 to 6 cars? If this is not called parasitical then what is? Regardless of the law that inhibits over-credit this matter still happens.

What happens then to a family drowned in deep debt if it does not lead to broken relationships, low self-esteem for the family head, and eventually poor education and upbringing for a child? Where do government employees get the permanent salary if not from the source of it all: oil and gas? The banks through loans and interest have largely absorbed this trickle-down wealth. And we are moving towards Islamic finance, eh?

Finally, internet banking here is so bad that it spills onto the students ability to get allowances on time. This article is partly motivated to correct the financial officers negligence. How many months have students been subjected to these things, I dare not count or mention except of course the article entitled “Why must students suffer waiting for their allowances?” But apart from bureaucratic “mistakes” the banks here too have to be scrutinised.

Why? For instance Bruneian students in UK never have to face such frequent disruption students here have to suffer. And Brunei Hall, which is the main administrative body in UK overlooking over 1,000 students has less than 50 administrative employees. This is thanks to the UK banks’ internet banking! An administrator only has to input a yearly standing order once or twice a year for one student for their monthly allowance, and when it is confirmed you can be dead sure it will be transferred every month. Can the same be said to the banks and their internet banking here?

There are a lot of things banks in Brunei have to offer. Services that they should look to improve include shortening bank queues, charge-free debit cards, ethics in lending money to those who can afford it, and a massive overhaul in internet banking.

The problems mentioned, if studied by bankers and decision makers, can be an opportunity to get that next ‘banking excellence award’ banks proudly post in their promotional ads. Because isn’t excellence all about improving customer service? And isn’t customer service not all about the customer?

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