BPI clients frustrated over service concerns, money woes due to glitch
MANILA, Philippines – Faith Manay, a 33 year old who works at a logistics company, had only P300 left in her wallet when she heard of the technical glitch that led to unauthorized transactions on numerous bank accounts of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).
“I barely made it to work so it was very frustrating but what can we do? It's a nationwide glitch,” said Manay.
On Wednesday, June 7, BPI’s 8 million customers awoke to news on social media that many account holders found decreased or negative balances in their banking accounts. The widespread confusion left customers worried that money in their accounts was lost. (READ: BPI to clients: You’ll get your money back)
A day later, long lines snaked through many of the bank’s branches where customers waited for hours to check on the status of their accounts.
Anna Cruz*, was one of the many who stood in line. "I haven't even been able to check my account since yesterday; that's why we're here." Cruz, who did not want to be identified by her real name, was accompanied by many colleagues who likewise were left clueless as to the status of their accounts.
To address customer concerns, BPI issued a statement at around 8:00 am on June 7 stating that mis-postings were being corrected. By the time banks opened at 9:00 am, however, BPI’s electronic channels, including ATMs were offline.
“Kung na-debit kami o nadagdgan (If we were debited or credited), we don't know because we still can't check. Now they’re offline again so they can't even check our balance," added Manay.
As to how many bank accounts might have been affected, Senior Vice President Catherine Santamaria said the scope of the glitch was nationwide but declined to give an idea of the number of accounts that had unauthorized transactions.
“It is also highly confidential. As you know, we are a bank… It’s information we cannot share at this point,” said Santamaria.
Mark Santos* waited for more than 4 hours in a day after BPI failed to do good on its statement to resolve the glitch the same day it occurred. (READ: BPI still 'rectifying' mispostings on accounts)
"Parang wala silang sense of immediacy, hindi sila crisis mode. Tawa-tawa pa sila. it's not the situation you'd expect para mahandle nila yung problema," said Santos.
(“It’s like they didn’t have a sense of immediacy; they weren’t on crisis mode. They were even laughing… It’s not the situation you’d expect for them to handle the problem.”)
However, Santos’ ordeal did not end there. After his number was called out, further discrepancies in balances were made apparent.
Santos was among the clients who were able to check the status of their accounts before electronic systems were down on June 8. He found that he “lost” P4,000. Upon checking the next day however, Santos noted that this was rectified. But as he faced the bank teller at a BPI branch in Julia Vargas, the teller had told him the P4,000-error was still present.
Unsure as to how to handle the situation after Santos asked for an explanation, the teller called out the branch manager. Upon double-checking the system, the branch manager told Santos that the error was indeed rectified.
“Nakaharap sa kanila yung monitor so I have no way of knowing pero sinabi yung manager na ok na - ito talaga yung balance niya na hindi na babawas,” said Santos.
(The monitor was facing them so I have no way of knowing but the manager said it was ok – that was really my balance and nothing was deducted.)
Afterwards, Santos requested a withdrawal, which alone took another 20 to 30 minutes. Adding more difficulty to the situation, Santos, upon request for proof the transaction, was told by the manager that no receipts were available.
Instead, a makeshift withdrawal slip was given to Santos, who noted that the document was a mix of digits and terms that were obscure and difficult for an average client to understand.
When asked if he would be willing to share an image of the makeshift withdrawal slip, Santos declined as he was unsure which information in the document was considered sensitive and did not want to risk compromising his account.
Meanwhile, many others continued to express worry over the unknown status of their accounts.
Aizza Usugan, who opened an account with BPI recently, said: "This is my first time to get an account with BPI. It made me nervous of course because from now on, I'll be getting my salary through BPI."
Customers also grew impatient as BPI’s systems and operations remained crippled across a second day. (READ: 'Nagkakalkal ako ng barya': Clients vent over BPI glitch)
"Yesterday they said on their Facebook page that they would fix everything within the day. Now, what's placed on their Facebook page is just that they will resolve this accordingly - no timeline given. So we were worried and actually thinking that it was really just a press release that everything was actually fixed last night. We were thinking they're going to stretch it until over the weekend," said Manay.
Cruz, along with her friends, asked questions: "Did we become bankrupt? How long would it take to fix this?”
Added worries from clients was the question as to whether or not the glitch might have been a hack on BPI’s systems.
BPI President and CEO Cesar Consing sought to apprehend these concerns, stating the glitch was “not a hack at all” on the banks’ systems in an interview with ANC on June 7.
BPI's clients, however, remained wary.
"They denied this was a hacking issue but I'm 50/50 on it. They're saying it's an internal error but this massive? We really don't know," said Manay.
Santos, after explaining his ordeal, also expressed the same concern. "This is really a blunder. It doesn't make sense. (It’s) hard to accept at face value because there are many inconsistencies," he said.
Customers, worried about their money following the incident, mulled over the possibility of opening accounts with different banks.
“Given this incident, I'm really considering leaving. Kahit anong bangko, sa situation na kailangan mo ng pera or something, mahirap kung nafocus ka lang sa isang bangko. Dapat may Plan B or another bank. Bali mag-diversify ka para indi ka ma-hostage (sa isang bank),” said Santos.
(Given this incident, I’m really considering leaving. With any bank, in the situation that you need money or something, it’s hard if you’re focused only on one bank. You should have a Plan B or another bank. Instead, diversify so you’re not held hostage by one bank)
Manay also said, "It's disappointing because it's BPI. It's not some bank. It's BPI. Expectations are high.”
Despite this, several customers noted that should BPI fix the problem completely by the weekend, they would stay with the bank.
Jerome Dimaculangan, who has accounts open with BPI and BDO said, “I have no worries with BPI. BPI is BPI; it's still a strong company. Hindi siya basta-basta. (It's not just another company)”
Likewise, Marco Ferdinand, who also waited in line for more than an hour said, "I would stay. This is the first time this has happened, anyway."
BPI announced at around 9:22 pm via Twitter that it was reopening its automated teller machines, online banking services, and mobile banking services, though told users to expect some hiccups due to a high volume of traffic.
BPI is owned by local conglomerate Ayala Corporation, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, and Singapore's GIC Private Ltd. (READ: How investors view BPI's system glitch)
It is the Philippines’ 3rd largest universal bank in terms of deposits. Total deposits reached P1.44 trillion while total resources hit P1.73 trillion as of March 2017.
The bank also reported a net income of P6.3 billion in the first 3 months of 2017. It had 821 braches spread throughout the country, including 35 kiosk branches and a network of 3,061 ATM and cash deposit machines. –Rappler.com
*Not the real names of Cruz and Santos, who wished to speak anonymously.