I came across this amazing story by my friend Tammy about her experience with Citibank Singapore when I logged on to my Facebook account today.
She has been so exasperated by this she says she has lost three years of her life. Here's the story in her own words (Her version on Facebook, meant for her friends, is more colourful):
"In my 40 years, I have never been driven to such exasperation by any one organisation as I have in the last six days by Citibank.
"It all started when my husband and I decided to buy a place in Melbourne. Our obvious financing choice was Citibank. It's a global bank with Aussie branches and we bank with them a bit. It all made sense.
"The home loan process started with a guy being attached to us. This banker whom I shall not name, was a nice guy but he didn't seem to know anything about the product he was selling.
"He came with a loan document for me to sign and couldn't even answer simple questions. Eg: why is there a 10% foreign exchange buffer on the loan amount if the loan is to be converted to Sing dollars at point of disbursement anyway? Er..... let me check, was his answer.
"Anyway he left soon after. Months went by and I decided I had better keep tabs on what was going on. My concern was that things were not in place for effective disbursement of funds when settlement was due. I was repeatedly assured that all was well.
"Settlement, we were told last week, is due on 1 Dec 2011.
On Friday, 25 Nov, Citi sent an email with attached loan facility documents which required our immediate signatures - in front of a notary public.
"I asked why these were not sent earlier and was told it was because of our Australian lawyer's fault. But the documents did not come from, our lawyers - it's from Citi's lawyers...
"Anyway we got the documents signed. But I noticed that the loan amount seemed lower than what I remembered. I did my calculations and asked the loan officer why it did not translate to 70% of the purchase price. She did not know and said she would check.
"Hours went by and at about 4pm on Friday, she came back to say the amount was right....and that the loan was lower because valuation had been assessed to be much lower than the purchase price.
"You can imagine our shock. Citi had not bothered to inform us about this. I was livid to say the least. If I had not checked, the settlement date would have come and gone and incomplete settlement would have been made. Who then would have been liable? Penalties would have to be paid and we may even lose our property - all because of shoddy Citi processes.
"To add insult to injury, Citi asked that we pay for valuation costs. We refused to on principle. Citi finally agreed to waive the charges.
"The problems did not end there. I was to find out that Citi was holding AUD30,000 against the loan amount as stamp duty payment - even though the Australian authorities had yet to ask for it.
"More importantly, the property was bought off the plan which meant that stamp duty was much reduced - estimated at a mere AUD800, give or take.
"I asked Citi what right it had to ask for AUD30,000 to hold in trust when the stamp duty was not payable to them anyway. What more, the amount they were asking would not even earn interest.
"I saw no reason to give them the money when there was no documentation to show that stamp duty would be AUD30,000.
"Citi's answer: it is needed because without payment for stamp duty we can't register the property and that is collateral against the loan.That is mind-boggling to say the least. No other bank has this as a requirement. Why does Citi feel it needs to nanny its customers.
"Obviously when stamp duty is due, payment will be made. Why does Citi need to hold an amount 30 times the actual amount just so it can feel "safe"? "
Looks like Citi has a lot of explanation to do. Watch this space.