Retirees report bank’s incompetent service’
Social Insurance found error
A spokesman for Crown Agents Bank apologised for the missed pensions for a Bermudian senior, Catherine Gregory, living in the United States.
He added: “We recognise that pensions are a vital source of income to many people and can therefore understand the difficulties missed payments can cause. Given this, our aim is to ensure that all the pension beneficiaries of our clients receive their payments in full and on time — considering anything short of this benchmark unacceptable.
“Crown Agents Bank had never received instruction to pay Mrs Gregory’s pension; however, we are working closely with the Department of Social Insurance in Bermuda to resolve this issue swiftly and any other concerns with respect to payments on behalf of this client. We understand from the Department of Social Insurance the situation with Mrs Gregory is being resolved and look forward to receiving instruction directly.
“We are keen to ensure any other issues with respect to Bermudan pension payments are dealt with quickly and successfully, and would urge anyone with a query — or who simply seeks reassurance regarding future payments — to get in contact via the following e-mail address: to PensionsServices@crownagentsbank.com or Tel: +44 203 903 2990.”
A retired Bermudian who complained after eight months without pension payments said she got her money yesterday only after she took her story to The Royal Gazette.
However, another senior said he had the same problem with major arrears in his monthly pension, and two others said the Bermuda Government should switch from the British-based Crown Agents Bank, which the Government said had “drastically” changed its procedures after the bank was sold off to a private firm almost four years ago.
Catherine Gregory, a Bermudian living in North Carolina with her husband, David, went public over nearly $9,000 in unpaid pensions that caused financial problems for the couple.
An elated Mrs Gregory said yesterday: “It all went into my bank account, a little over 24 hours after my story came out in the paper”.
Mrs Gregory said it was “a relief” to have her money, but said she was “disappointed with the social insurance office in Bermuda”.
She added: “I was calling and e-mailing trying to get my pension.”
Mrs Gregory explained: “They let it ride and ride until I said, ‘enough is enough. I’m going to have to do this.’ I said to my husband a couple of months ago, if they put out an article on this, I will get my money, and that’s what happened.”
She added that payment of the cash meant her husband, who had to put off retirement this month, can step down from his job as an inspector at a construction firm in South Carolina.
However, Mrs Gregory’s problems caused a retired government worker, now in Britain who asked not to be named, to complain he was $4,500 out of pocket after his pension failed to be paid for seven months.
He added: “This is money I am entitled to, having accrued it during 27-plus years as a government employee. How ironic is that?”
He said the Department of Social Insurance had told him his bank information was missing, but that it was “clearly there, including a photocopy of a bank statement” with his documents.
He said: “Curiously, I have received a pension from the Government Superannuation scheme, also paid by Crown Agents for the last five years or so. “It was paid on time and continues to be paid each month on time without fail.
“I would assume that this is paid by a different government department which begs the question, is the problem is with Crown Agents or the social insurance department?”
Two other retirees complained of poor service from Crown Agents, as well as deductions from their pensions. The company, formed in the 19th century, was set up to handle grants from Britain to its colonies.
Its financial wing, Crown Agents Bank, now has responsibility for transactions such as Bermuda Government payments to pensioners overseas.
The holdover from the British Empire was sold in March 2016 to Helios Investment Partners, an African investment firm with a main office in London.
Angela Poletti, a Bermudian who lives in the UK, said she and her husband both received Bermuda pensions and could “confirm the awful incompetent service from Crown Agents in the UK”.
Ms Poletti said she had written last year to the Ministry of Finance to complain about the company, but got no answer.
She said that Crown Agents Bank had “changed procedures, not for the better, and they now also take a commission of $19.50 every month from our pension” since it was bought over.
Ms Poletti said the Bermuda Government should “set up direct payments via a local bank and stop using such an incompetent agent in the UK”.
She added: “This is the way most foreign Governments deal with overseas pension payments.
“The commission fee we have to pay to receive our pension is unacceptable, especially as their customer service is so bad.”
Dale Thornton, a former Bermuda police officer who retired and moved back to the UK in 1999, said he and many former police officers got their superannuated pensions through Crown Agents Bank.
Mr Thornton said he had switched to using Crown Agents at the suggestion of the finance ministry because the change would be “more practical and worked quite well”.
However, he said he was not told at the time that the company would be charge him and that £5 — now increased to £15 — was deducted each month from a pension that was his only income. The London resident said the charges would amount to “a considerable loss” for colleagues on smaller pensions.
Mr Thornton added: “They refused to provide monthly details of the exchange rate being levied and would not issue regular financial statements, as I would have liked.”
He said he had found out about the sale of the company in a phone conversation with the bank years after it happened.
Mr Thornton added that “it would have been good business” for pensioners to have been told of the sell-off in 2016.
Mr Thornton said a group of former police officers had asked the Government to pay their pensions through Crown Agents twice yearly, “thereby incurring only a £30 total annual fee, compared to my £180”.
He added: “It would be preferable to have pensions converted by the finance ministry and paid directly to overseas pensioners via cheque, bank transfer or other form of payment.”
Government admits error
A government spokeswoman said an investigation found “an error with the completion of her banking details within the” Department of Social Insurance.
The department is also “working diligently” with Crown Agents Bank to rectify issues.
Pensioners who experience problems with Crown Agents Bank are advised to contact it at the address below, between the hours of 8am and 6pm British time, or the Bermuda Department of Social Insurance directly at email@example.com or at the number 295-5151 ext 1129.
She added the department “does not have the resources” and that Crown Agents Bank provides vetting, security services, and administration of payments around the world.
Its services include proof of life services, essential to determine eligibility of pension benefits.
• Contact Crown Agents Bank’s Pension Services at 1+44(0) 2039032990 or at PensionsServices@crownagentsbank.com
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