I have just started work as the part-time clerk and responsible financial officer to a parish council and, as such, am a signatory on the council’s bank account and need online banking access.
The council bank accounts are with NatWest, where I happen to be a personal customer of almost 40 years’ standing.
However, they have taken this further by insisting on adding the council’s business accounts to my personal access, mixing up the council’s payees with my own and making my security codes the only way for me to access the council’s business accounts.
Natwest told a customer her personal and employers business account must be in same place
They will also only accept one email address so I either have to have the council’s banking emails sent to my personal email account, or my personal emails sent to the council’s email account, neither of which is acceptable.
Is changing from NatWest seriously the only way I can have my personal banking separated from my employer’s?
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: This has been a very frustrating experience for you.
When you joined the council, NatWest insisted the parish’s business account be attached to yours with all information for both available in the app and online.
As the only employee of the parish, you have been trying to separate the bank accounts for weeks.
You say having both accounts in one place is tricky to manage and so contacted NatWest to find out why they couldn’t be separated.
You outlined numerous problems with having a business account and a personal account in one place.
This includes the system being open to abuse, as it would seem to mean any employee who is a NatWest personal customer and needs online access to their employer’s NatWest bank account must do so through their own personal login, giving access to large sums of cash.
You add it wouldn’t be so bad if there were tabs in the online banking for personal and business, with everything separated, but when you log on either on your phone or laptop you see all your accounts and the council’s together.
When you go to make a payment from the business account, the first choice it offers is to transfer money to your personal accounts. In addition, whichever account you’re trying to pay from has everyone mixed together in the list of payees.
For example, your own HMRC payee and the council’s HMRC sit next to each other and it would be very easy to pay the wrong one – leaving either you or the council out of pocket.
A NatWest customer may be forced to change banks if two accounts cannot be separated
It also means that when you set up your work laptop, you must put your personal banking information on it to be able to access the council’s business accounts.
As such, you rang NatWest’s business banking department to ask for your personal accounts and the council’s business accounts to be separated but were told this is not possible, as this is the only system NatWest operate.
You say you asked if you should have claimed on the application form that you were not a NatWest customer, but were told the bank would have found you on its system and linked the business account anyway.
NatWest advised the only option would be to remove online banking access for you from one of the accounts, so you would either be unable to use online banking for your personal needs or be unable to carry out your job.
Understandably, you do not want this as you need online banking for both.
You made a formal complaint straightaway, but the complaints department simply told you if you did transfer your employer’s money to your own account it was not the bank’s responsibility.
This is Money contacted NatWest to ask why it does not allow customers to separate accounts.
A spokesperson for NatWest replies: Our online banking service is designed to display our customers’ personal and business accounts together for ease of use and convenience, and this feature is made clear in the terms and conditions of the service.
We appreciate that in instances where customers have authority on community business accounts, they may require an alternative solution, and we are working with customers to provide this.
Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: NatWest added it doesn’t believe there is a security issue in your case, as you have authority on both the business and personal accounts.
Prior to a payment or transfer being confirmed, NatWest said there is an on-screen prompt to review the payment, therefore customers can correct any error prior to finalising a payment.
However, this is still open to error and, as previously stated, abuse of power.
As it stands, you have exhausted the NatWest complaint system and it is clear the bank is firm in its stance.
Whilst one option still available is to complain to the Financial Ombudsman, it will likely take months for a ruling – and one that might not even work in your favour.
As frustrating as it might be, it seems perhaps the only way to resolve this situation is for you or the parish to move banks and deposit your money elsewhere.
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