Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Back with more Tatrabanka ranting - the Calculator

UPDATE Jan 22, 2008: I have corrected the text below to make it clear that I have no information that someone paid bloggers to praise the Tatrabanka 'calculator'. What I meant was that I saw several favourable reviews of the device, which seemed as if they were paid for without any disclosure of the nature of the deal and found a blogger (linked to below) who felt the same way.

A representative of the PR agency, which carried out the calculator's PR campaign emailed me saying that the agency simply provided the device to bloggers for testing. My contacts confirm this.

I apologise to Tatra Banka and its PR agency Neopublic Porter Novelli for the unintentional insinuation - it seems that unlike me and synopsi.com, the bloggers praising the 'calculator' genuinely liked it.
What better way to get back to blogging in 2008 than with more ranting on Tatrabanka - my bank. I am being forced to use an immensely impractical 'calculator' to access my internet banking under the pretext of making my transactions safer. Tatra Banka is the first in the Slovak market to introduce this ingenious 'card&reader' solution - they brag about it all over and even apparently paid young and naive Slovak bloggers to 'review' it and say how great it is. and have provided the device in advance to young bloggers who have given it pretty good reviews. So what if it makes a few clients angry?

Anyway, as soon as I realised the details of this evil device I've come to call the calculator (it looks like one, with buttons and a screen, but of course no calculator functionality) I called Tatrabanka's Dialog phone line and gave the poor soul on the other end of the line an earful - I asked them to pass my complaint on to someone in charge and received no response. I also visited Tatra Banka's website devoted to promoting this ingenious solution and submitted a complaint through their form (no response). Hence I am unloading here.

I believe Tatrabanka has a special position among sophisticated clients in Slovakia (although I have no hard statistics on this). Having started from scratch in the early 1990s after the end of one party rule Tatra Banka used to be very different from the post-Communist banking dinosaurs.

It had a fresh, blue image, young friendly faces and a functioning internet banking platform. Having a Tatrabanka account is almost de rigeur among web savvy Slovak companies for these and other reasons. At our company when we send out invoices about three quarters of our clients who are all web-aware have Tatrabanka accounts - a network effect must be at work here, since having an account in the same Slovak bank reduces bank transfer time from two days to instantaneous.

I have been banking with Tatra Banka since 2000 and after a brief and aborted experience to switch to Unibanka (now Unicreditbank) Tatrabanka remains the only bank I use (not count the ING Konto, a super and unmatched savings account). Ocassionally I get frustrated with them but usually a trip (or two) to the branch resolves matters - that's what puts them apart in my mind from other Slovak banks I've had experiences with (there were many - Ludova banka, Slovenska sporitelna, Vseobecna uverova banka, Unicreditbank).

Enough of an introduction. Right now, Tatra Banka has made me very frustrated - they have made a move that directly inconveniences me and makes their award winning internet banking unusable for me.

Over time authentication procedures for Tatra Banka internet banking have evolved - from using a Grid Card to sending a code to my mobile phone by SMS on login. For payments no additional authentication was required. However, to get over a daily transfer limit of Sk 100,000 a SecurID was used - a small credit-card sized token displaying numbers on a LED display.

SecurID had its disadvantages - notably the one Daniel found where once you used the number for a payment you had to wait up to a minute for a new number to appear for your next payment even if you were fast enough to enter two payments within that amount of time. Nonetheless, a satisfactory solution for my needs. I carried it around in my wallet and used it to make transfers whenever needed and wherever I needed.

Then, suddenly a few weeks ago I pulled my SecurID out of my wallet to find the LED display cracked - fair enough after carrying it in my back pocket for several years.

Enter the Calculator

Tatra Banka no longer issues SecurIDs - it is now pushing its new, market leading solution, which is much safer, much more overhyped and much more bulky. You get issued a card reader (made by Swedish Todos), size of a credit card but five times thicker. Why does this make me angry?

The 'calculator' cannot be carried around in your walet because it is to bulky and fragile. Unless you carry a purse you must keep it in one location - at home or at the office. I bank at Tatrabanka both privately and with the company so I would like to use it at both locations but the bank will only issue one of the little miracles to me.

The 'calculator' makes you work harder - to enter a payment you must type in the account number and the amount to generate a verification code. This is a hassle - account number often have 10+ digits and it is bad enough to have to type them in once. Of course, this would be no big deal because you can turn the use of calculator on and off - you can keep it off unless you need to exceed the SKK 100,000 per day.

But here comes the catch: once you turn it on for authorising individual payments it will automatically become the method of authorisation for logging in to the internet banking and it CANNOT be turned off anymore. In other words, once you use it you are stuck either carrying it around or stuck without access to your accounts online.

According to a press release of the calculator producer the calculator "in the future will be the only authorization tool for all its banking channels". Well let me tell you: this is not a future I look forward to and I will start looking for a bank that cares a little more about the comfort of its clients.

P.S. Apparently I am not the first to notice (link to blog in Slovak) that the 'calculator' is a hassle and that someone apparently paid bloggers to rave about it without disclosure. although several Slovak bloggers have given it highly favourable reviews at launch time without stating explicitly whether or not they have been rewarded for their efforts.


Lidija said...

I am so confused. Can you explain what these card readers are and what they're for again... I've never come across anything even remotely like it...

dusoft said...

Lidija, well, you know - USA with the cheque system :-)

You use grid card for internet banking authentication or one time SMS code that is sent to your mobile Sometimes you even have special small device called SecurID - see image:

The newest thing is sth. like SecurID card, but it comes with the slot you can insert your credit card (or debit card) into. This will ensure only the person that own both the credit card AND the card&reader can use internet banking. But it's pretty lame how the whole system works as Andrej described it.

Anonymous said...

Just for your information - Barclays Bank also recently introduced very similar device:

lidija said...

Thanks, Daniel. Sorry to harp on this but what do you then do with this card reader? Plug it into a computer or, as my far-fetched imagination was having it - it's wireless? I don't know of any hardware authentications in the US for internet banking. OK, so it's so big and a hassle to carry around, I agree, but why would you carry it around with you? Unless you carry a laptop all day (or am I incorrectly biased against the people who use desktops)? Does it work with smart phones?

dusoft said...

Lidija, you actually, don't plug it anywhere, neither it is wireless. It is just a standalone device that will generate one time code on its display to be then typed into your internet banking...

Pretty frustrating as I could see. Fortunately, I have SecurID. Gotta secure it, otherwise I could end up as Andrej :-)

Tatra Banka Internet Banking said...

There's got to be a better way than issuing devices to everyone. No one wants to deal with the hassle, and they have to pay money to deal with the extra customer service issues, which might exceed fraud costs anyway.