In Malta, the MFSA decided to conduct mystery shopping on local banks in 2018. The goal of the exercise was to collect the original experiences from a personal visit to a bank aimed at opening an account. The exercise was supposed to allow the supervisors who posed as real customers to test bank processes and services in real-life situations. In fact, the experiment showed that many of the banks’ operations in Malta and Gozo did not respond to the EU regulations related to the process of account opening. The main point that was in breach of the rules was the fact that the clients did not receive sufficient information about the variety of services offered by a banking institution. The outcome of the exercise was the MFSA’s decision to repeat the operation to see whether any improvements took place.
After the experiment in 2019, the MFSA acknowledged significant improvements in the level of services compared to earlier findings, yet the regulator introduced more enhancements that needed to be implemented.
The latest exercise conducted showed that the option of Payment Account with Basic Features (PABF) was offered to the customers in addition to other available account types when a client arrived to open a new bank account. The aspect of bank services was considered a big improvement compared to the findings of 2018. The supervisors also noted that they had noticed the MFSA promotional information in visible places of the branches, a helpful detail for both clients and bank representatives.
The 2019 exercise demonstrated that branch representatives were in a better form when it comes to informing customers about PABF. This showed that the additional training and the introduction of supporting materials took place. Some credit institutions actually took the initiative to create their specific tools dedicated to providing clients with sufficient information thanks to additional leaflets about different accounts, tariffs, charges. Nevertheless, the regulator had found some weaker spots that needed to be improved.
Although the exercise was considered a positive experience in general, some weaknesses from the 2018 experiment reoccurred the next year, as well. Let us present a summary of them.
Knowledge and training level of branch representatives
Some cases during the exercise demonstrated an insufficient level of knowledge shown by the branch representatives. Some employees responsible for the distribution of products offered by the credit institution failed to explain the basic aspects of banking functions such as works or transfers while communicating with a customer. This point is viewed as a key one in the circular published by the MFSA.
Most of the representatives did not offer written information considering the fees applied by the credit institution. The tariff information on the bank’s products and services was only provided upon the client’s request. In addition, the MFSA pointed out that the Tariff of Charges must at clients’ disposal on the bank’s website.
Information on the PBAF
The latest experiment showed that the payment account with basic features was presented much more clearer in many branches, still, some of the credit institutions only offered it after it was mentioned by a client and in some cases failed to provide correct information about the PBAF, for example, some representatives could not correctly inform customers about the minimum / maximum balance requirements or the time of processing.
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