Trust Bank prides itself on being Singapore’s first digital bank, forgoing physical branches for an entirely online experience. A “digitally-native” platform, it uses “the best and latest technology to deliver a world-class customer experience and cutting-edge security”.
But as I recently discovered, all those buzzwords mean very little when something goes wrong and you can’t get hold of a human to sort things out. In fact, digital banks may present a special circle of hell when it comes to troubleshooting problems, since you’re absolutely helpless if the app doesn’t want to play nice.
I thought I’d share about my recent experience getting locked out of my Trust Bank account – a problem which might affect you too, should you be upgrading phones.
My Trust Bank misadventure
I first reported this issue on the night of 22 October, and on 25 October at around 1.45 p.m my account was finally unblocked. I can’t say whether it was the natural order of things or whether this article got matters expedited, but one thing’s for sure: a 2.5 day lockout is far from ideal.
The CSO wasn’t able to share what triggered the block beyond “security reasons”, so I’m still in the dark as to whether installing the Trust app on a second device is what caused the problem, or whether the fact I was overseas at the time had anything to do with it. Proceed with caution.
At the end of the day, I realise it’s a process issue, and process issues get fixed. Digital banking is obviously the wave of the future, but it’s things like this that make people hesitant to make the switch.
It all began when I traded in my Pixel 6 Pro for a Pixel 7 Pro (I know, I’m a sucker for the upgrade cycle). I installed the Trust Bank app on the new phone, but was unable to sign-in. I tried it on a few other Android devices as well, without success.
I assumed the system was under maintenance, but the issue persisted for a few days. Finally, I called up Trust Bank (mercifully, it does have a call centre, which is more than I can say for Instarem!) and explained the problem.
The CSO informed me that because I hadn’t uninstalled the Trust Bank app on my previous phone (I simply did a wipe before handing it over to the retailer for trade-in), I was now locked out of my account as a “fraud protection measure.”
I didn’t quite follow that logic, actually. Even if tokenisation is only supported on one phone, the usual procedure is that installing the banking app on a second phone simply deactivates functionality on the first, not lock you out of your account entirely. It seemed a bit extreme, like nuking a baby seal, or wearing crocs outside of a healthcare setting.
In fact, I’m not even sure that’s an accurate answer. As per Trust’s own FAQs, switching to a new phone should be as simple as downloading the app and setting it up again; no access to the previous device necessary.
In any case, he told me he had raised a request with the relevant team, and my account would be unlocked within 24 hours. Shortly after the call, I received an automated email.
It’s never a good sign when a “digitally-native” company can’t do proper mail merging, never mind the fact that this was probably the wrong template (I don’t think changing your phone warrants filing a police report, unless perhaps your upgraded model is a bubble tea straw).
The 45 business days timeline sounded a bit much —British Prime Ministers have been sunk by icebergs in less time — but I decided to give
Truss Trust the benefit of the doubt, since it was in all likelihood a poorly-composed form letter.
24 hours passed and I was still locked out of my account. So I called back, and despite calling at 6 a.m, waited on hold for an hour, listening to the same pre-recorded message over and over.
“Our friendly customer team is still busy at the moment, please bear with us and we will attend to you as soon as we can. You may also access our in-app digital services to fulfil your banking needs. It has all the good stuff!”
Well, no I couldn’t, actually. The app was completely useless to me at the moment, because it offered no functionality to customers who were not signed in.
“Our customer care team is doing their best to attend to you. Alternatively, you may like to ring us later and we will do our very best to serve you then.”
Trust Bank does have a live chat feature, but you can’t use it without being logged in to the app, so that’s another chicken and egg problem.
And I haven’t even got to the best part yet. After holding for 65 minutes:
“Thanks for calling Team Trust. Bye!”
I swear, that “bye” had a tinge of malice in it. The line disconnected unceremoniously, reminding me why digital banking might be overhyped.
I called again later that morning and was eventually connected to a CSO who asked me three security questions. I told her I didn’t know the answer to the last one (ironically “when was the last time you logged in to your account”), but she must have decided 2 out of 3 was good enough and powered straight on.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t offer anything beyond “Have you tried uninstalling and installing the app again” (at least I wasn’t asked to restart the phone; that might have sent me over the edge), and when that didn’t work, she told me she’d need a screenshot of the error message, and it could take another 1-2 business days to get a resolution.
I asked her to arrange for a call back by 5 p.m to provide an update, which she agreed to. So naturally, no one called.
Fortunately, I have no actual money in my Trust Bank account. The only thing at stake are my NTUC vouchers. But if I did, I can’t imagine not having access to my funds for such an extended period of time, and with no physical branches to fall back on, I’d be completely handicapped.
Being locked out of your account means no fund transfers, no bill payments, no online card transactions (the physical Trust Card is completely numberless, so you need to consult the app for the details). If you haven’t set up a PIN in the Trust app, you won’t be able to withdraw cash from ATMs either. If you lose your physical card, you won’t be able to lock it without waiting on hold for a call that may or may not be answered.
It’s what happens when an app becomes a single point of failure.
Based on my experience so far, I’m left scratching my head as to what exactly digital banking is good for if you can’t even get the digital part working properly.
If anything, it’s a reminder that it’d be wise not to jump on the digital banking train entirely. Physical branches might conjure images of boomers rushing down to open fixed deposits, but they do have their uses. A digital bank is only as good as the app, and when the app goes AWOL, so do your funds.