I noticed a few months ago that one of my (Bank name withheld for now) products, an ISA (A British tax-free savings scheme), still had my old name on it in their correspondence with me. Not a problem I thought, I'll simply ring them up and put right what is obviously a clerical error.
The lady I talked to when I got round to ringing them up last week did not know the procedure, so put me on hold for a while while she consulted someone higher up the ladder. I was very surprised to be told when she came back on the line that they required a letter from one of my medical practitioners confirming that my name change is for gender reassignment and that is permanent.
That's right. Medical details to change the name on a bank account.
I was expecting that they would see the name change already on their records and make the change, or at worst require to see my statutory declaration. I explained that this was an unacceptable and highly unusual demand, that I was not prepared to comply with it and that they should follow it up with their diversity department as a matter of urgency. I was told that that was their requirement, and referred to their complaints department.
The next day I talked to a lady from their complaints department who explained that they had checked again and that the medical detail was a requirement imposed by the Financial Ombudsman (British government financial regulator) because the ownership of stocks and shares was a different matter from a bank account, or for example owning a car. I explained that I felt it was in contravention of the Equalities Act because a cisgender person changing their name would not face an equivalent demand – I likened it to a married woman being asked for a letter from her gynaecologist with her name change request. All to no avail I was told, so I asked for the demand in writing and the call came to a close.
I felt the citing of the Financial Ombudsman smacked of their making up their policy as they went along. Those stories of organisations you hear of using bogus Health and Safety or Data Protection rules as catch-all excuses to dodge their responsibilities came to mind. Sadly we transgender people are all too used to such things, we see them quite often used in our direction.
So on receipt of their written response I rang the Financial Ombudsman phone line and asked them whether they had any such requirements for a name change. Their answer was that they do not, as I expected.
As a result, I've put in a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. Such complaints are official business, so they will have to respond, any justifications will be investigated, and woe betide them if - as I suspect - they've played fast-and-loose with the Equalities Act.
In particular I asked them to consider the following points:
- Unnecessary and intrusive requirements such as medical demands for transgender people that are not applied to non-transgender people are likely to fall foul of the Equalities Act.
- An organisation should not be allowed to make multiple demands for name change documentation because of their opaque group structure. I am a consumer not a corporate lawyer, so as far as I am concerned all my (Bank name withheld for now) branded and sold products come from (Bank name withheld for now). I should therefore only have to change my name once with (Bank name withheld for now). If they lack the competence to manage their customer database then that is their problem, not mine.
- Citing bogus Financial Ombudsman rules brings that organisation into disrepute, and undermines consumer trust in the regulation of the banking business. This one I hope the Ombudsman will take especially seriously.
- Given that I can close this ISA and open another in my new name with the same money, the whole process is rather pointless. Just who are they trying to protect here?
It is likely that in time I will close the ISA in question and take my business elsewhere. However I feel that is is important that I pursue this action as I feel that unless they are required to examine their dealings with transgender customers it is likely that something worse will happen to another transgender customer in the future. Nobody else is going to close down this kind of activity for us, there comes a time when we transgender people have to do it for ourselves.