Case Study in id verification
Taken from The Times, Troubleshooter, Saturday November 3 2018
Marcus misses the mark
I have power of attorney (POA) for my mother’s financial affairs and was attracted by the interest rate offered by Goldman Sachs’s new Marcus account. I wanted to invest about £30,000 of her money.
After a couple of conversations with the Marcus call centre, when I explained that my mother will be 100 on Christmas Day and suffers from dementia, I was told that she needed to open an account online with my help, after which I should download and complete the POA form.
This went well until the website called for proof of identity and none of the options were applicable to my mother; she does not hold a passport or a driving licence, nor any of the alternatives. Another call to Marcus resulted in a “computer says no” moment. I was unable to open the account, nor could she prove her identity, so I could go no further.
Tim Worrall, Kingsley, Cheshire
This is an interesting example of the potential digital exclusion of older people from financial products. Until this week, Marcus Bank’s online-only account was offering the best return on an easy-access account at 1.5 per cent. In theory, POA should offer those who hold it the same ability to manage money as the person they are holding it for, but many complain that they come up against resistance or a lack of understanding of how it works from frontline bank staff.
Companies need to identify customers for anti-money laundering purposes, as well as their own commercial ones, and each company will have policies on identification and what kind of ID they will accept. General industry guidance says that where a person deals with assets under a POA that person is also a customer of the company, consequently, the identity of holders of POA should be verified too.
The FCA says it is unusual to open a new account once a POA is in place, but with savings rates so poor there must be a lot of people who want to make their parents’ or relatives’ savings work harder.
The fact that Mr Worrall’s mother has dementia should not mean that he has to forgo trying to protect her money. It is likely that a much older person will not have a passport or driving licence, in which case the FCA expects banks to have other options for providing identification.
The Money Advice Service says banks should accept alternatives “such as a benefits letter, immigration status document, or a letter from a prison governor, care-home manager, homeless shelter or place of study. “Unfortunately, FCA evidence suggests that some bank staff and customers aren’t aware of these options.”
Mr Worrall has since been contacted by Goldman Sachs, which has apologised for his difficulties and agreed that two documents from the proof of address list would suffice.
Mr Worrall says: “I duly uploaded two such documents and tried to complete the registration for my mother, using my postal address, telephone number and email, but was unsuccessful. I subsequently received an email confirming the registration and the opening of a Marcus account in my mother’s name, perhaps following a manual intervention? After that Marcus called me to explain that I would need to register my POA by downloading and completing its form and producing the original POA registered with the Office of the Public Guardian; they would also send me a Marcus form to prove my own identity, and I should send all the documents back to them in the post. It was a clunky process which was unclear from the website.”
A spokesman for Marcus says: “We work together with each account holder to make the verification process as simple as possible, but in this instance the customer was unable to provide an approved ID document to complete the sign-up process. We are working to resolve the issue.”