Howzatt, Mr SCB?

A few months ago I ranted about the stupidity of the Indian banking system and the ineptitude of Standard Chartered Bank and how they were making me jump through hoops just to set up a silly little bank account. Nearly 3 months on, I thought I’d give an update of where things stand and how spectacularly bad Standard Chartered really are.

At the end of December I finally got confirmation from the Indian immigration office that my visa extension was processed and ready to be collected, this meant that I could now send another document to Mr. SCB to prove that even the Indian home office was satisfied that I am Peter Claridge and I live in Chennai and I work for an Indian IT company. Rather reluctantly, I feel, they admitted that yes, with this final bit of paperwork it was likely that they could open an account for me.

Not long after that I received my “Welcome Package”. It turns out that I’ve not been given any old bank account, oh no, I’m a truly valuable customer to SCB, so they’ve given me a HOWZATT!!! bank account – and yes, it is spelled all in capitals and there really are 3 exclamation marks after it.

Upon investigation I discovered that ‘howzatt’ is not an official banking term but some kind of special lingo for the game of cricket, which you’ve probably never heard of because no one plays it in England. Anyway, in India, cricket is an obsession, so to target these new upwardly mobile 20-something IT nerds, Mr. SCB decided to get “hip, cool and radical” (their words, not mine) and prove that they are the best and trendiest bank to be with…

“Hey look at us, you love cricket, and we love cricket too! We even have a bank account called “HOWZATT!!!” how totally awesome, you should open a bank account with us because we’re all cricket fans after all. Click the Like button to share this with your friends on MyFace.”

So according to Standard Chartered, my special HOWZATT!!! bank account takes the “joy and passion” of cricket and mixes it with the “fun of banking“. (I’m really not making this up, the same text is on their website). Now, for every transaction or action that I make using my HOWZATT!!! Debit Card (more on that later), online, phone or SMS banking then I earn “exciting points” which I can redeem for attractive prizes like, err, cricket crap.

But the thrill of cricket (or maybe banking) doesn’t end there. Every time the glorious nation of India scores more goals than the other team in a cricket match then I am rewarded with double or even triple points. If I make a purchase of Rs 4,000 (about 55) on the day after India win then I win a Man of the Match award and get 60 points added to my score!

Good golly, Mr. SCB, you really are making banking fun and exciting.

(It should be noted that I’m reliably informed that in the entire world only 5 countries actually have cricket teams so I’m guessing that there are not going to be many opportunities to take advantage of the offer above)

I know that by now everyone outside India is green with envy that I get such an amazing bank account ‘loaded’ with “unique and differentiating features“, and I know that you want to tell all your friends that you have got a bank account called HOWZATT!!!, but unbelievably, there is one final benefit that quite simply blows every other bank out of the water. As a special HOWZATT!!! bank account holder, I’ll even get to participate in Cricket Mela’s (according to a Mela is: “a religious fair, especially one held in connection with a festival.“) where I can meet my “favourite cricket stars!!![1]“. This would be quite amazing because I didn’t even know I had a favourite cricket star…Jiminy Cricket maybe?

After being completely bowled over by all these incredible features and benefits that Mr. SCB was offering me, I looked in to the terms and conditions a bit more.

The first thing I noticed is that in return for maybe not being able to meet my favourite cricket star, they charge me a whopping Rs 1500 PER YEAR if I don’t maintain my bank balance above Rs 25,000 (about 140). Quite literally Mr. SCB is charging me money even if I have money in my bank account. I can understand being charged if your account balance goes overdrawn, but charges because you are not keeping enough money in your account? Absurd!

In my previous rant I noted that my salary meant that the banks were falling over themselves to offer me a “I’m richer than thou” platinum (which was actually black) debit card which meant that I could enjoy some wonderful benefits like, umm, having a black card in my wallet. Now though, they have decided that I’m eligible for the…(*drum roll*)…Titanium card, which I think is one up from Platinum? Anyway, Mr. SCB didn’t ask me if I wanted any of this, they just gave it to me. The Titanium card comes with no additional benefits other than it will cost me an additional Rs 500 rupees a year to put it in to my wallet.

Oh no, wait, that’s a lie, there is one outstanding benefit of the Titanium card. According to Standard Chartered, I’ve helped the world “go green” and “saved the planet” by ‘choosing’ a biodegradable card. To be honest I don’t remember there being an option to select a planet destroying non-biodegradable Death Star-type debit card, but I’m glad that Mr. SCB is helping me do my bit for the environment. Quite how biodegradable this card is could be a matter of debate since the expiry is 2018! So is Mr. SCB claiming that by his terms, biodegradable means over a millenia?

Incidentally, Standard Chartered take it upon themselves to prove time and again just how useless they are. I received my “Welcome Pack” in early January with a promise that my new HOWZATT!!! Titanium Debit Card would be with me shortly. A few weeks later and still no card. Out of the blue I get call from an unrecognized number and the person on the other end asked me if I had received my debit card, I replied that I hadn’t so he asked me for personal details like date of birth and account number. Naturally I declined and he replied, “But sir, without these details I cannot help you”. So hang on a minute, you call ME, using the number on MY account, to ask about MY debit card and then you ask ME to confirm my details? Useless bank.

So the possible Standard Chartered employee informed me that if I hadn’t received my debit card I will need to go to my local branch (many kilometers away) and ask one of the cashiers to have it resent. I said “yeah, whatever” and then the next day my card magically turned up! Coincidence?

As part of the HOWZATT!!! banking package I get completely, 100% free[2] access to online banking[3] and SMS banking[4] which enables me to manage my bank account directly from the comfort of my own home! Seriously, Mr. SCB, are you from the 90’s? Even the state run banks of India have online banking facilities and you’re trying to tell me that this is one of the main features of the HOWZATT!!! account?

To activate my online banking I had to fill in a few dozen online forms before being told that a fatal error occurred and they couldn’t proceed further. So I could have a 100% free access to online banking, but since Mr. SCB couldn’t organize a piss up night of getting drunk in a brewery, I can’t even access something which I should get for free.

And now, to cap it all off, I’m getting spammed left, right and center (that’s email, sms and phone calls to you) asking if I want credit cards, home loans, personal loans, financial advice etc. No, I don’t want any of your crap, I want you to close my account and leave me alone!

Honestly, to sum up, I can’t say one good think about Standard Chartered Bank, they have proven themselves to be the most useless, unorganized, inefficient bank in the whole of India…and that’s not something that can be achieved lightly, you really need to work at being this bad.


1 Cricket stars may not be attending
2 Some fees may apply, see terms and conditions for details
3 Internet connection required
4 SMS fees charged at your standard operator rate. Additional fees may apply, see terms and conditions for details.

Sidenote: Standard Chartered are actually a British bank, headquartered in London and listed on the LSE. They have a massive presence in many of the emerging markets like India, Singapore, Vietnam, UAE and Brazil. They are currently trading at 1700p per share on the LSE and frankly given their huge presence in all these rapidly growing markets they could well be a very attractive stock in the long term.

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