Your bank account has been frozen!


Madinah newspaper

“Your account has been frozen. Please provide us with the required documents to update your data.” Customers of the Arab National Bank were surprised to receive this message recently, including yours truly. The freezes and messages came without any warning. In fact, it is well known that the bank’s customer base is largely made up of retirees and the elderly, people who served their country for decades, only to find themselves unable to access their accounts.

The freezes were initiated on accounts that did not have a mailing address. And while the bank was swift to freeze accounts, its staff and branches were ill-prepared to handle the number of customers who lined up to update their account information. There is obviously nothing wrong with the bank wanting its customers to provide it with accurate and updated information. However, it could have looked out for its customers by perhaps gradually rolling out the requirements so its staff would not be overwhelmed. But to suddenly freeze bank accounts before the weekend and then force customers to wait in lines for hours when branches opened on Sunday shows poor planning and irrational thinking on the part of upper management.

When I showed up to update my address at a branch in Al-Samer district, I was greeted by a single employee whose colleague had been absent for the past three days due to the death of a relative. The large crowd outside this branch was the reason I ended up at the Tahlia St. branch where I met a bank official and officially complained. I showed him the text message I received from the bank and explained how I, like countless others, was a victim of a system that did not appreciate the business its customers brought or acknowledge the pain and inconvenience such recklessness caused families when members were unable to access their own bank accounts.

Finally, I would like to ask the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) to investigate this very disturbing and truly puzzling matter. Any humanitarian consideration of their actions on consumers is almost nonexistent and banks simply treat customers as assets as if their lives and feelings have no value at all, something which must change.