Wednesday • 2011.05.18
President’s Choice Responds
Yesterday afternoon, I was contacted by a representative of PC Financial, in response to my previous blog post entitled President’s Choice Financial Discriminates against Transgender People.
At 3:41, my mobile phone rang, the caller ID read as a 1-888 number associated with PC Financial (the same number I call when I do my telephone banking). I was greeted by a very friendly-sounding woman’s voice on the other end of the phone, who identified herself as Vicki, a manager at the Fredericton Contact Centre.
Before I continue, I want to state that Vicki was respectful, courteous, and professional throughout the entire call, and I was careful to respond in kind. I was not recording the call, but I took some notes and I will recount the interaction to the best of my ability.
Vicki addressed me as Ms Christin Milloy: this is the first time anyone from PC Financial has ever called without asking for “Christopher,” and it was a refreshing change. She began by asking me to confirm my Postal Code and birth date for identification purposes. It’s worth noting that they were apparently able to identify my customer account before calling, presumably based on my last name and the similarity of my old name, and perhaps also based on the information I revealed in my earlier blog post about my portfolio.
On behalf of PC Financial, Vicki communicated to me an acknowledgement that the experience I had at the pavilion was very unfortunate, and that PC is apologetic that I had been subjected to “an experience like that.”
Vicki’s explanation, by the way, of why PC Financial maintains such cumbersome ID requirements for their name change process in the first place, is related to the fact that PC Financial had to develop a single policy which was suitable for application across all of Canada (“in every province”). Apparently having stricter criteria allows them to satisfy that requirement. I am not clear on how or why this is true, but I did not probe the point any further.
She told me that her job responsibilities include working on a team she described as “Name Change Handling,” which is responsible for “accommodating exceptional name change requests,” such as mine. She outlined a special process her department can use for name changing when a customer does not have all of the ID which is normally required to fulfill PC’s unusual name change policy; but she was careful to explain that this process is only for “exceptional cases,” and is not available for all customers, nor is it documented on their website. When I asked why it is not documented on their website, she informed me that the information was deliberately omitted in order to prevent non-exceptional cases from asking to be accommodated as special requests.
The special process involves faxing a declaration, and some of the ID documents which I do have, for her to process manually. Overall, the process as she outlined it does sound very reasonable (it is similar to the regular name change processes used by other competing banks for all their customers which I presented in my previous post). She said this special process is in place specifically in order to help people in “exceptional” situations like mine. I did not probe further the meaning of “exceptional,” but I would conjecture that in addition to transgender clients without new ID, Vicki’s department probably also handles special case requests like refugees, perhaps people whose homes have just burned down, or possibly (hopefully) women who are working to escape abusive situations, etc.
I told her I am pleased this department exists, and that I am grateful that she intends to help solve the problem of the improper name on my customer record, but I expressed renewed concern: despite my making six recent contacts with PC Financial customer service representatives regarding this issue, by email, in person (at the pavilion), and by phone (which on at least one occasion was escalated to the CSR’s supervisor), and further despite the fact that I clearly identified my transgender status during all of the non-email communications, I was never once informed that there is a special accommodation process available for “exceptional cases” such as mine.
I quickly formed the impression that this special department exists, at least in part, to specifically assist trans people in changing their name at PC, in order to solve the problem represented by PC Financial’s needlessly stringent name change policy continuing to perpetrate systemic indirect discrimination against transgender people. If so, then this department forms an important part of the accommodation process which is required by the Human Rights Code of Ontario. Unfortunately, my experience proves that this accommodation process is clearly not yet properly accessible to those protected individuals which it is intended to assist. I shared this thought with Vicki, and expressed my desire to help her in whatever way I could to implement a corrective measure of some kind to ensure that no transgender customer in the future ever has to experience the same discrimination which PC Financial had just apologized for subjecting me to.
At around this time, Vicki renewed her regrets on behalf of PC Financial. She then offered, “In recognition of (my) time and for all the trouble (I and my partner) had been put through,” to make a conciliatory deposit of $100 into my chequing account. I told her it was a generous offer, but I declined. I told her this has not been about money (I can afford the cost of new ID when I really need it). Rather, I am committed to finding resolution on behalf of all people in situations similar to mine. I told her that there are many trans people who, perhaps not having access to the resources I do, “might simply have given up after being told ‘no’ on six separate occasions,” leaving their potential crisis unresolved.
As an aside, upon further reflection since the call, I believe next time I speak to her I may suggest that in lieu of a conciliatory deposit to my account, PC Financial might wish to consider making a charitable donation to a group such as Trans Youth Toronto at the 519 Community Centre, or the Supporting Our Youth program operated by the Sherbourne Health Centre.
Vicki assured me that my experiences with the PC reps who failed to help me are not intended to be the standard practice; that a series of apparent failures in communication had occurred. She told me the reps “should have” known to put me in contact with her department. If that is the case, I proposed, then to that end, a permanent resolution to this issue must involve making certain that PC Financial’s front-line CSR’s are made aware that this “special exception” process exists, and that they are aware of whom it is intended to help.
I then suggested a series of measures PC Financial may wish to consider taking, to that end.
I suggested that a memo could be sent out to all telephone and Pavilion CSR’s, and that this topic should henceforth be included in training materials for future CSR’s. Vicki said she would pass my suggestion on to corporate, and I committed to following up with her about this at a later date.
I suggested, “what about posting information about this special process on the website?” Vicki said this approach would lead to too many “non-exceptional” customers trying to take advantage, which she seemed to think would be unacceptable to PC Financial.
I compared this statement with the philosophical concept which underlies the standard of due process in our legal justice system: that it is better, in principle, to allow ten guilty people to go free, than to allow one innocent person to be punished unjustly. I pointed out to her that this is precisely what PC Financial’s name-change policy has been doing: punishing innocent people unjustly.
Following that, she did also assist me in briefly discussing another (completely unrelated) topic pertaining to my and my partner’s banking with PC (which I only mention here in the interest of full disclosure).
We finished up the conversation by exchanging contact information, and I committed to following up with her again to discuss the options for potential resolution further, once PC Financial had had the chance to review them.
Once again, I want to point out that Vicki was helpful, polite, friendly and professional, and I enjoyed speaking with her. She seemed genuinely interested in, and concerned about, the points I raised. She even made me aware of her vacation schedule over the next couple of weeks, so I would know when she was available in the office to be contacted. Given the promising positive response so far, and the feedback I have given Vicki, I am very hopeful that President’s Choice Financial will be able to quickly effect the changes necessary in order to make the accomodation policy accessible to those who require it.
I will continue to post updates to this situation as it develops further, until I can confirm that PC Financial customer service reps at various Pavilions and on the telephone are properly equipped to help transgender customers quickly and effectively navigate their name change process with the bank they rely on. Thanks to everyone who has read, shared, and commented on this important issue. Please stay tuned for further updates.
UPDATE – Please see my follow-up post, PC Financial Takes Partial Steps to Correct Transgender Discrimination, More Is Needed