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Banking follies

2008-06-17 22:37:34.932946+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

A few months ago, I set up a business account with Wells Fargo. We'd grown dissatisfied with our previous bank, our mortgage is there, and we were thinking about moving all of our banking over there, just to make one login for everything. There was a little confusion when I signed up, because Bank of Petaluma had just been acquired by Wells Fargo, and the staff didn't yet have everything ironed out. But I got the account set up, deposited two checks, really liked the way the ATM deposit receipt gave me scanned images of the checks, life was good. I was even able to use the online banking stuff.

And then at some point, the on-line banking started giving me:

Please try again later. Wells Fargo Online® is temporarily unavailable.

For that reason, among others, we decided to move our personal banking to Redwood Credit Union (RCU). After a few weeks of "Please try again later. Wells Fargo Online® is temporarily unavailable.", I decided to move my business account as well. So I opened an account at RCU, and they called me back and said "Would you bring in supporting paperwork? Your EIN looks to us like an SSN." So I did.

Today I went over to Wells Fargo to close out the old business account, and I discovered just what sort of disaster they'd managed to create. Somehow they'd gotten my EIN as my SSN, and associated that across the mortgages in such a way that it just tied their system in knots, which was the real cause of the timeout message. It's taken two visits over there to get things somewhat straightened out. Really nice pleasant staff dealing with some really bizarre and byzantine systems. Because we're moving our banking, we needed to cancel some automatic payments, and the hoops we had to jump through to get the right places to send money to were beyond comical.

Among various interesting things I've learned (the primary one being "screw identity theft from strangers, be careful of giving your personal details to Wells Fargo"), the interesting thing to me is that the databases between those two financial institutions are linked such that a screw-up between my EIN and my SSN on the part of Wells Fargo can propagate over such that RCU gets a warning that my EIN appears to be an SSN.

As I said, I don't think this was a people failure, I think this was a systemic failure, and I think it'd be fascinating to see more of those systems than I glimpsed today.

[ related topics: Privacy Currency Databases Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-17 23:02:00.161746+00 by: meuon

At some point, all banking data is transfered, kept, sorted or processed in a way that will fit a transaction onto a punch card, maybe two.

Utilities are just as bad, I'm working with one that runs a large.. LARGE.. utility with a front end of FoxPro apps and tables. I had to ask: How often do you have to re-index and rebuild. Answer: We stopped having problems when "John" started coming in, every morning, at 6am, to do that before the CSR's open at 8am.

The e-Learning world can be just as bad. A -large- customer of -N- can only get their debugging info and logs as Excel Spreadsheeets. AS the key information is often expressed both urlencoded, as well as with actual carraige returns and line feeds.. the debug XLS's are worthless.

The entire business application world is made of duct tape and glue. Banking is no exception.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-17 23:32:18.983463+00 by: ebradway

The real problem is the idiots at the IRS decided that SSN and EIN should be in same format. Probably had to do with some field limitations in their databases.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-18 00:45:38.507911+00 by: meuon

Yeah, it had to fit on a punch card. :)

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-18 20:11:08.380869+00 by: petronius

Well, dammit, your EIN does look like an SSN.