One of the things I experienced in the closing days of the year 2020 was not a particularly savoury one.
As a person seeking banking services at a Ginnery Corner branch of an international bank, I could certainly have been handled much better than I was on that Friday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the accountant of the institution I work for had personally gone to the Blantyre office of the bank to enquire when the cheque that had been deposited a few days before would be cleared. She was told that by that afternoon the money would hit our account.
It was with that understanding that I plucked courage to go and present a cheque at the Ginnery Corner branch, to have it cashed from the said institutional account.
I knew that I needed to present an identity document and that the bank needed to seek special clearance from one of the signatories of the account. What I did not know was that this process would take forever.
There were not too many people in the banking hall that day. Eventually, my turn came to meet the bank teller. I did not disclose to him, or to anybody, that I was one of the signatories. He asked for an identity document and I surrendered my driver’s licence. After checking a few details on the face of the cheque, he called for the commissionaire and asked him to present my cheque and the driver’s licence to an officer on the other side of the hall.
I was asked to go sit on the one of the comfortable chairs at the back and wait for the conclusion of the verification process. I obliged. A number of other customers that came after me were also subjected to the same treatment, but verification of their documents progressed faster than mine and they were subsequently served and left, leaving me on the comfortable chair.
After about 20 minutes, and when there was nobody else being served, I confronted the teller to get appraised of the cause of the delay. I was told that since my institution’s account was domiciled at their Blantyre branch, the verification had been referred to that branch, which I had no qualms with. What worried me was the time it took for the Blantyre office to expedite the process. Five minutes later, my phone rang.
‘This is such and such a bank,’ the caller introduced himself. ‘We have a cheque drawn by …. (he mentioned my institution) payable to Mr. so and so (he mentioned my name) in such and such an amount. Can we go ahead?’
“That is in order, please go ahead,” I responded, calmly.
As time wore on, I kept wondering why my documents were not being tossed back to the teller who had began to serve me. Nearly 20 minutes elapsed, from the time I had received the call, before I was invited back to the teller. He fiddled with his computer, fixed a gaze at the screen, then his face suddenly changed. Rubbing his hands, he left me behind his station and went to see the officer at the other end of the hall. All I could pick was a low-toned conversation.
“There are not sufficient funds in the account,” went the teller. By that time, all the customers had left. I was the only one left. I immediately called the accountant who had visited the bank earlier to relay my predicament. She promised to call Blantyre office and get back to me. Three minutes later she called back.
“They say they did not post the cheque to the account but will do so in two to three minutes,” I was assured. I decided to wait patiently.
The officer in charge was on and off the phone, but relayed nothing to me. Losing my patience, I decided to approach him.
“What is happening, or not happening?” I asked impatiently.
“Your account does not have sufficient funds against which the cheque can be cashed. You deposited a cheque a few days ago but it’s not reflecting in the account. I am trying to get Blantyre to complete the clearing process but I am not getting much joy. The best thing for you to do is to come on Monday.”
This certainly was not sweet news, but did I need to wait for two hours to get it? I remembered how in the years gone by I had been professionally served by the Ginnery Corner Branch of Standard Bank. I remembered also how on several occasions I had visited the NBS Bank and had been served well.