Banking in the Dark Ages

February 1, 2011 in Berytech News, Financing, General by Tania Saba Mazraani

old coinThis morning I had an interesting call from my banker. A procedure at the bank dictates that customers’ address, phone number and work information must be officially updated every five years for the records, thereby I was kindly summoned to visit the bank in order to provide such information.

As a busy working mom, juggling with impossible schedules, I naturally enquired if I could email or –God forbid- fax this information. I even volunteered to fill in any web-form, or even paper form they wanted, scan it, and send it in any way or manner they wished. “Just don’t make me come to the bank, I really have no time to drive one hour in traffic and waste another hour waiting for my turn ”, I begged and pleaded.

Alas, despite the fact that we are in the 21st century, despite the fact that I bank with one of the leading financial institutions in Lebanon and the Middle-East, and despite the fact that web technology is now used in every day life in this country, from checking kids’ school assignments, to procuring airline tickets or even participating in the Egyptian internet revolution from the comfort of our homes, we cannot complete a simple administrative task with one’s bank over the internet. Yet we consider Lebanon’s banking system to be the pride and joy of our economic well being!!!

I presented my argument to my caller, who adopted a sympathetic tone of voice, to explain, patiently and slightly condescendingly, that no matter how advanced technology is in administering our daily lives, whenever I deal with my bank, I have to crawl back into the caves of the dark middle-ages, and physically present myself in front of the almighty, and wait patiently in line until an audience is accorded to me. Ok, just kidding, she obviously did not say that. But something quite close to it.

It is also irrelevant that the bank has posted a net profit in excess of $350 Million in 2010; partly by slapping unsuspecting customers with unknown fees for unknown reasons, little of it would be invested in the advancement of technology in order to make basic administrative tasks simpler and less burdensome to us customers, sorry, I meant to say, mere mortals. Unless this auspicious institution can invoke some darker law to defend the fact that it is within its legal right to be so technologically-impaired.