The Land That Time Forgot

The Land That Time Forgot is an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel full of dinosaurs. But it also neatly sums up Natwest Bank when it comes to its policy on resetting an online password that goes tits-up for no reason.

It’s amazing how Natwest’s Bankline system – so modern in terms of how it lets you pay people with the minimum of fuss – is so hilariously backwards when something goes wrong. This morning I was able to log in as a business customer for one of my clients, just as I usually do. A couple of hours later, though, when I tried to log back in, I was denied access. For some reason that no one could explain, the system had locked me out, and bizarrely the other username held by my client for the service had also been blocked (which shouldn’t have happened either). The screen that came up after several attempts at logging in where the system claimed I had entered incorrect details (I hadn’t), was most unhelpful: “Please contact an Administrator,” it said. There was no helpful telephone number, of course – that had to be found via Google, as it was far from obvious where to look for it on the Natwest business banking website.

From there, the fun and games really began. My client rang up the helpline, only to be told that in order to reset the user ID, a special password reset form would be emailed through. This would have to be filled out, faxed over to Natwest (faxed!), and then a new activation code would be sent via email in four hours. The reset couldn’t simply be done over the phone even though my client had to give the business name and the user ID, and could have easily been verified as the account holder by that or further questions. Since the other username tied to Bankline wasn’t working either, two of the request forms had to be filled out and then faxed over separately. What a joke.

The form itself was brilliant. There was a section where I had to put a cross in a box to explain the reason why I was asking for the password reset. Surprisingly, nowhere was there an option to say that the system had somehow failed – instead, I had to choose between “password forgotten” and “activation code expired”, which added insult to injury. Oh, and it helpfully recommended that an extra administrator username should be added to the account in case the first was locked, so that in future, activation codes could be requested through Bankline itself. Of course my client actually did have two administrator usernames, but when one was locked out, so was the other. Overall, the form seemed designed just to ramp up the irritation factor.

In a world where I can pay someone thousands of pounds instantly at the touch of a button, insisting on such onerous requirements for something as simple as a password reset (again: fax! FAX!) that could surely be done by a call centre person in less than thirty seconds, seems utterly ludicrous to me. And since I only go in to visit this particular client once a week I was unable to pay anyone that I needed to today, since the new activation codes hadn’t arrived by the time I left.

What year is this again?

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