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Weird encounter at the bank

GC and I want to travel a little, maybe go to Newfoundland or New Orleans or San Francisco…anywhere, really. But when we have money we don’t have time, and when we have time we don’t have money, and sometimes we have neither. So we decided to start tucking a little bit of money away each month in a joint travel account.

Our appointment to open a joint account at the RBC Royal Bank was…peculiar.

We explained to the accounts manager what we wanted to do.

No problem, she said. She’d just create a new account for me, set up GC’s profile, and then make the account joint.

She then proceeded to pull up my account information and swivel the computer screen around to face GC and me. There was a list of my accounts and balances.

“Oh,” she said, almost as an afterthought. “Is it okay if he sees this?”

Since he’d already been looking at it for 10 seconds, what could I say?

“Okay,” I said.

I’m not particularly private about my financial information. I’ve always been a little puzzled by people who guard their financial information like it’s some kind of state secret, or who keep their salary a secret from everybody else. But I know there are plenty of people who would freak out if someone at the bank showed their financial data to someone else, so I was pretty surprised when she did it. Especially since she already knew by then that we aren’t married and we don’t live together.

But then she went even further. After setting up the joint account, she asked if I’d seen My Finances, which is an online Royal Bank tool for tracking one’s money. I said I had looked at it, but I didn’t use it.

She then clicked on it and showed GC and me exactly how much money I make, how I spend my money, and how much my net worth has decreased over time. We watched as bar charts and pie charts of my personal financial data materialized at the end of her cursor. How often I take money out of the ATM. How much my mortgage payments are. Etcetera.

As we left the bank, GC said “Did you think that was weird?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“It was like she was snooping through your financial information right in front of us,” he said. “I felt like I shouldn’t be looking.”

I keep thinking about how I should have said something to her before things got that far. But then it would have seemed like I have financial secrets, which I don’t, and it would have been awkward.

What would you have done?

14 comments to Weird encounter at the bank

  • That is really odd. Here in the US, we are so paranoid about our information that I have a mental image of her being shot from above by laser beams for such a breach of your privacy.

    In all reality, I think I might not have said anything (like you, I have no financial secrets) but would have felt very uncomfortable. I would probably write a letter to the bank manager expressing my discomfort.

  • sassy

    Moved my accounts to a different institution.

  • I’d write a letter to the bank, reminding them of the sensitivity and privacy of the information they’re dealing with. People who are creating a joint account do not necessarily want all of their financial information shared. In fact, for many people, a joint account is set up to partition a certain portion of your finances to a shared account while maintaining separate personal accounts. I think that there are also probably restrictions around the information they can access in your account. If it’s not relevant to your transaction, they should not be accessing it. I think they also need to review their standards on obtaining consent to share information. Asking if the other person in the room can see your banking information, after it has already been opened and right in front of this other person, is not acceptable.

    You could also follow up with the Privacy Commission. I suspect that the proper handling of banking information would fall under Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

  • Malva

    I hope someone from RBC sees this blog post. :)

  • Dan

    You’re first mistake is dealing with RBC or any of the big 5. Try a Credit Union/ Caisse Populaire, and see how you, your info and your money should be treated

  • kayT

    It would not have occurred to me that it was weird. If I was opening a joint account with someone I would not care if they saw my account. Plus, she asked you if it was ok for him to see it (albeit a bit late) so from then on she was doing this with your permission. But maybe I am the weird one.

  • megabytes

    Definitely weird, and I wouldn’t have said anything either. It’s one thing to just not talk about certain personal details (financial or otherwise), it’s another to have to state out loud that you’d prefer that your partner not hear/ know something. In my experience, when a bank messes up it’s time to move to another bank – they don’t tend to learn from their mistakes.

  • Mikatana

    I think I would have said something right away. But, I might be overly sensitive about it…I keep on getting told how I can not have access to certain information in my husband and mine joint accounts based on whose social security number is listed first. Since, my husband travels for work, I am often the one left dealing with money issues and often get frustrated at getting access to stuff. Then, to have someone flaunting the UNASKED for info would have set me off!

  • Kathy

    Odd – and yes, she asked, but too late and in front of the other party. Even saying you don’t want him to see your accounts could be weird for both of you, and in some relationship, might cause a problem. I think that it was probably just a case of thoughtlessness on the part of the teller, but if I had the energy, I might let the manager know so that mistake is less likely to happen again.

  • Carmen

    These things always catch me off guard and then I either forget to react or over-react. She should avaolutely not have turned the screen for GC to see and should not have taken the opportunity to go through your portfolio with a second person there. Lesson for all of us.

  • Carmen

    Dan, I have dealt with the caisse populaire . They assume the role od parent and treat their clients (especially women) as if they were irresponsible children.

  • Julia

    Well I think it is great that you have started this account, never mind the circumstances. I totally get the money/time conundrum. As for travel destinations… that is half the fun and half the agony – choosing! We have similar dilemmas and have to set priorities, in terms of what we want to get out of the travel.

  • I’d call that very odd.

  • Gillian

    Hope you’re not paying banking fees (any at all). If you are, you’re in the wrong place. Yeah, I’m in Ottawa too.