Commercial banks are letting their elderly customers down, foundation warns

Commercial banks are failing older customers with their shift to technology-driven services, a community NGO has warned, as growing numbers of older people are becoming essentially unbanked.

The St Jean Antide Foundation on Wednesday listed a number of issues older people face when trying to access modern banking services – from reliance on ATM withdrawals to extremely long queues at bank branches physical.

“Many seniors choose not to deposit money in the bank,” the foundation said. “And when we finally convinced them to do so, they face even more problems because the banks demand proof of where the money they have saved for a long time comes from.

Local commercial banks have gradually reduced their physical presence on high streets in recent years, closure of several branches or opt not reopening branches which were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, banks require customers to withdraw and deposit money through their ATM network and encourage them to use online banking for other services. But that leaves seniors in the dark, says the St Jean Antide Foundation.

Many older people don’t know how to use computers or smartphones and don’t trust online services like mobile banking.

“Even when we try to teach them, it annoys them,” the NGO said.

Excessively long queues at physical bank branches mean that many older people find themselves waiting for long periods on the sidewalks outside branches.

And even when they try to call their bank for help, they’re baffled by recorded automated messages that force them to press endless buttons to get served. Many end up confused and unsure which button to press, and end up with the phone call hangs up.

Many seniors don’t want to apply for a debit card to use at ATMs, while others are just too frail or sick to go to ATMs and end up giving their bank card and PIN to someone else with instructions for withdrawing money for them, the Foundation added.

“Banks must recognize that the technological systems they have created lead to the financial exploitation of vulnerable older people,” he said. “We see the problem getting worse. Something needs to be done about this soon.

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About Ruben V. Albin

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