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Clarien customer fed up with $5 teller fee

Fed up: Eric Pengelly painting on Front Street in the run-up to the America's Cup (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Clarien Bank’s plan to charge account holders $5 for withdrawing Bermuda dollars with the assistance of a teller has left at least one long-time customer unhappy.

“They’re always coming up with new rates, but everyone I have talked to about this new charge thinks it’s terrible and is upset,” says Eric Pengelly, who says he has been a customer with Clarien and its predecessor banks for some 30 years.

“Everyone I have talked to is shocked. They say ‘that can’t be’ and think the teller gave me the wrong information. I find it offensive. I am sure there is a good reason but I think it’s exploitive. They are getting away with it because there’s nobody putting pressure on them.

“It’s a pattern of keeping hitting the consumer constantly. Everyone hates the banks now. I am sure they will say it’s due to the cost of compliance, all their costs are going up and so they are passing them on to the small customer.

“Some of the charges are just outrageous. There is a pattern of overcharging for all sorts of things that is upsetting the customer. The local populace is outraged.”

Mr Pengelly, a 58-year-old painting contractor, describes himself as “old school”. He says he prefers dealing with a teller to using an automated teller machine, and does not use online banking.

“With an ATM you can only take out about $1,000 at a time,” he says. “When I go to the teller, I get $7,000 to $8,000 at the end of the month and pay my bills.

“I don’t want to go back to a machine over and over. I know you can do it online, but I don’t do anything online because you can get hacked.

“If I can’t get my money out of an ATM in an efficient manner, it becomes inefficient. It’s almost cheaper to pay the $5 because I work by the hour. I’m old school. I like the personal interaction with a teller. Everything is done by machine these days, nobody talks to each other any more.”

The new rate becomes effective March 31. A three-month grace period “to allow clients time to consider alternate transaction options” will make July 1 the effective date for the new charge, according to a flyer displayed at the Reid Street bank.

Simon Van de Weg, executive vice-president, chief banking officer, responded on behalf of Clarien.

“Clarien Bank recently announced fee adjustments to reflect the cost of service provision as we refine our business model in a rapidly evolving digital banking environment,” he said.

“Fees have been adjusted or introduced based on a number of factors including the cost of the service, risks and regulation associated with the service and the alternative channels available to receive the same service in a more efficient, free and convenient manner.

“Equally, while reviewing fees we have also recently adjusted deposit rates to offer premium rates on longer term CDs to support the savings and financial growth goals of the broader community.

“We are committed to the continuous evaluation of our service offerings to accommodate the demands and expectations of our clients, offering a more thorough financial solutions approach with diversified digital and online channels such as Clarien iBank, iBank mobile and digital authentication tokens available today and intelligent ATMs with an expanded footprint and enhanced capabilities that will launch later this year.

“Our commitment to channel diversification provides clients with alternative transaction solutions in addition to in-person financial solution support that will help reduce and eliminate many traditional banking fees while allowing clients to interact with the bank faster, safer and smarter through diversified channels.

“The Bermuda dollar in-branch cash withdrawal fee and other select fees as published on our fee schedule available on clarienbank.com are waived for seniors (65 and older), Iron Kids (youth accounts) and registered charities.”