DASM: Bank of Montreal, Where I Don’t Want My Money

I was a client of Diners Club for 20 years. When it became simply another type of MasterCard, I stayed with them. I paid my bills in full, each month, for 20 years.

Unbeknownst to me, Diners Club cards were taken over by Bank of Montreal. Not long after, I received a form letter telling me my credit had been limited to a cap of $20,000 “after a review of my spending and credit information” and it basically explained they felt I was too much of a risk for anything higher. (I’m an American Express Black Card member, and my net worth is up there.)

I cut my card in half and sent it to the president, telling him basically that if they want to alienate clients with my history (and credit score), good for them, they succeeded. A month later, a woman calls from the “presidential complaints unit” (they apparently must receive a lot of complaints to have a separate unit) and tells me this is Bank of Montreal’s policy. But they don’t want to lose me, would I please come back.

“No,” I said, “unless you show me some sign of gratitude for my business. For example, raise my credit to $25,000 as a show of faith.”

She told me they could only do that with a full credit check and, of course, every credit check damages your credit score in this loony age of paying attention to computer numbers and not people.

“Ciao,” I said.

Today, I received a letter from the vice president of that woman’s presidential complaints operation (a LOT of complaints to merit separate officers), and he said, “Too bad you wouldn’t come back, but if you decide to reapply, we’ll review your application carefully.”

I suggested he not hold his breath.

Canadians are wonderful, polite people. But even my Canadian friends admit that service standards are lower in Canada than in the U.S. Bank of Montreal probably has more people in the “presidential complaints unit” than in its retail operation.

But it is good at something. It’s earned my Dumb-Ass Stupid Management Award. Congratulations!

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.


16 thoughts on “DASM: Bank of Montreal, Where I Don’t Want My Money

  1. That’s a hilarious story. Congrats BMO!

    I’m Canadian – we are good polite people.

    I do my business banking with BMO and I’ve had my share of issues with them. We’ve got a lot of backwards industries here…banking, telecom…etc

  2. Can you imagine, out of the blue, deciding you’ll alienate clients who are the best kind because you’re changing the policy of the former owners? And then the inflexibility to enforce the new rules over a customer’s unhappiness, when it costs nothing to keep him happy? This is a new low in bank stupidity.

      • You don’t want your dog to relive itself there. BoM is the poster child for stupid management and disregard of customers. One of the problems in Canada—a great place with fabulous people, coast to coast—is that they simply don’t have enough choices in airlines, banking, retail, etc.

  3. Here’s a comment from Kevin Pare, posted with his permission:

    You hit the nail on the head. I had the exact same experience with them. We run our entire company through a BMO Mastercard. Putting through about 500,000 a year on the card. They won’t raise the limit on the card higher than 30k without a full credit check. We tried to bank with them commercially, and even with my history, since I was 15, 4 car loans, 1 mortgage etc, they wouldn’t so much as appove a credit card for my company.

    We left for another bank, the day I went in to close out my personal account, the lady at the teller asked why, and I said, I’m going to another bank, she simply said: Oh, ok.

    It’s good they at least tried to get you back, I never got so much as a phone call after.

  4. American Airlines followed up based on my blogging, but I doubt BOM will do anything but wonder why so many clients are leaving them. After all, it can’t be their service….

  5. I think it is not a specific Canadian issue (even if there are many gaps to good customer service in Canada as well). Stories like yours happen when internal policy thinking infiltrates the managers’ brains in large corporations, turning the whole organization away from its customers.
    Sometimes I feel that consultants like us are doctors with the mission to fight this disease.
    Frustrating is that quite a few managers do not even understand their issue.

  6. It’s arrant stupidity. The letter was offensive, their response was tepid and pro forma, their follow up letter obnoxious. They are worried that customers might hurt them instead of how customers are important to them. Banks have one of the worst management and leadership cohorts in any industry, and Bank of Montreal seems determined to be the worst of the worst. How many businesses are proactively trying to drive away 20-year customers who have excellent payment records? What kind of idiot approves these initiatives?

  7. ‘They are worried that customers might hurt them instead of how customers are important to them’

    And that has just hit the nail squarely on the head. It’s also an attitude that is being taken up with the larger telecomms and retail firms in recent years.

  8. The degree of actual contempt for customers in financial institutions is often amazing, but when you see such dysfunctional policies in Bank of Montreal you have to wonder how executives are chosen. I’m assuming low scores on IQ tests.

  9. Just received a form letter from a Noel Pearlman in charge of US Consumer Product Management at Bank of Montreal expressing his regret that I’ve chosen to leave them as a customer! Maybe it’s something in the water….

  10. As a Canadian I am proud of the strength in our financial sector. I am also proud to say that BMO is North America’s oldest bank, started up in the 1700’s to help finance the North West Company’s fur trade activities.

    However, having said that, I have not and will not bank at BMO. Their down fall began around 1998 (and most likely well before) when they were considering merging with RBC. Having worked at RBC at the time, it became apparent that BMO just up and quit trying to be a customer focused bank. They were waiting for the merge that never happened. During this time, they lost a lot of key and talented people. They stopped progressing in areas of Risk Management, Product Development and Customer Satisfaction. The morale at BMO dropped to new lows.

    The sad part is, 14 years later, they haven’t been able to recover. It is hard to replace top talent and regain customer satisfaction once they have been lost.

  11. Alan,

    In reading this post I couldn’t help but think about how customer service has declined overall. It seems that those who work in a company’s so called customer service department, don’t care, are totally indifferent, and can’t get off their scripted responses. Even when it gets elevated up the ranks, the managers are worse than the person you just talked to.

    I was thinking maybe it’s time you start sending out nominations for the DASM of the year and hold an online DASM academy award ceremony with categories of best supporting manager, best manager, best excuse for poor service and best company with the most DASM policies. I think it would be a well attend event and it wouldn’t surprise me that a number of the nominees would be willing to pay big bucks to advertise.

  12. That’s a pretty good idea. Too many companies, particularly financial services, see their customers and clients as potential threats, risks, and crooks. Don’t you love it when you hand over a hundred dollar bill and they check to see if it’s counterfeit? How come I don’t get to do that with their change?

  13. Bruce, something being merely old doesn’t demand respect. Bank of Montreal is horribly run, a monstrosity of a dinosaur of modern management, and is apparently both horrible and old.

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