Power of attorney blocked by major banks

23 July 2018

Banks are making life difficult for people acting as attorneys and are often inconsistent in the advice they give, according to research by Which?.

In a poll in May of almost 2,908 Which? members who have used power of attorney services over the past three years, the consumer group found that one in five (20%) attorneys said banks were particularly difficult to deal with when registering a power of attorney.

This compares with almost one in 10 (9%) who were critical when registering their power of attorneys with private pension providers and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Yorkshire Bank was rated as the worst bank for registering as an attorney, with nearly a third (32%) claiming its service was poor. HSBC and Co-op Bank were joint second, with 27% saying the service was poor at each bank. More than one in five also rated all three banks as below average for communication.

In contrast, building societies performed better, with Yorkshire Building Society’s service coming top in the poll and rated highly by 85% of attorneys who used it. In second place was Nationwide Building Society, with 76% rating its service as good, followed by Coventry Building Society at 75%.

Which? researchers found that banks were restricting attorney’s access to accounts, despite the fact that they are entitled to the same access as the donor.

Post Office Money, Tesco Bank and Virgin Money each refused to give attorney’s access to online banks accounts, while Nationwide refused to issue an additional debit card for attorneys.

Poor advice over the phone

Which? also investigated 14 big banks and found that staff often gave inconsistent advice over the phone to attorneys registering their powers, limiting attorney’s access to accounts. 

It criticised HSBC and TSB for offering poor advice. Callers were told over the phone that they needed to register the power of attorney in person when this is not the case.

HSBC and TSB also told attorneys they would not have access to the donor’s online banking accounts even though they are entitled to the same access as the donor. 

The consumer group singled out Halifax, Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander for praise, as these were the only banks to have a specialist power of attorney team whose advice was mainly accurate and consistent.

Sarah Jackson, Yorkshire Building Society’s director of customer services, says: “Customers are often under a huge amount of personal stress when handling power of attorney matters so it’s important we do everything we can to help.

“We have a specialist team that deals with power of attorney registrations and they take great care to handle the cases sensitively and efficiently.”

Harry Rose, editor of Which? Money, adds: “Attorneys should not have to jump through hoops when dealing with banks, and should be able to rely on banks for accurate information and advice.

“Banks need to ensure staff are fully trained on power of attorney and have in place an efficient registration process for attorneys.” 

Moneywise has contacted Yorkshire Bank for a response to Which?’s survey. A spokesperson at Yorkshire Bank says: "We always strive to maintain a high standard of customer service so it's disappointing to see these results. We are actively looking at how we improve our service in this area." 

Find the full ratings below:

Bank Percentage rated as "good" when registering initial authorityPercentage rated as "poor" when registering initial authority
Leeds Building Society73%0%
Yorkshire Building Society85%3%
Skipton Building Society68%7%
Coventry Building Society75%7%
Nationwide Building Society76%8%
Virgin Money69%11%
TSB Bank70%12%
Aldermore Bank56%13%
Tesco Bank57%17%
Lloyds Bank63%18%
Bank of Scotland59%19%
M&S Bank47%20%
Barclays Bank61%22%
Post Office Money51%23%
Co-Op Bank57%27%
Yorkshire Bank61%32%



In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

First Direct are awful. I have tried to register my power of attorney with them ready for when it is needed, for over TWO YEARS now!! They are appalling which is unusual for them. Both my sons have provided them with information, but it is still not enough!! I am still alive to vouch for them!!!!I will be moving my main accounts away from First Direct after almost 30 years because of their unwillingness to get this sorted out. I have given up.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My experience with First Direct has been dreadful on this issue. I am shocked that although I have legal rights to manage my mothers account that this bank is able to block that legal right. This should not be permitted.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Is it necessary for wives to obtain LPAs my husband is suffering with Parksons?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Put poa to one side, I can’t even get access to my accounts even have been into the branch. They have no concept of service, e.g. I was told 1.9% for a tracker isa was “normal” (shame on NatWest who have now lost a *customer*!)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was 63 the last time I reviewed my will. The Solicitors advice, "There is no need for you to take out a LPA, you are young and fit enough." Surely it is time for a review of the whole end of life strategies so that everyone can have appointed Guardian/s to act on their behalf. The Guardian/s remit should ensure the welfare of person/s they are acting on behalf of and the new strategy should grant them the power/s to do so. Any legal issues and fees should be government funded out of the inheritance tax windfall.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The scope of this offering of research by Which? is pitifully poor... It is so narrow as to be pretty much insignificant, with little data to offer other than a spot of positive press for Yorkshire, along with a few generalised vagaries suggesting that room for improved customer service on this matter might be worth considering... This is column inches that is not news..... not least for those who have suffered years of unimaginable stress and upset (by the very nature of the requirement to register an EPA/LPA in the first place), only to be treated with such profound mistrust to the point of feeling criminal in desire and obligation (for our sins...) to honour the best interests of our loved ones who (btw) are already in a very dark place...The degree of ambivalence and woeful lack of procedural and legal understanding of PoA's, let alone empathy for the circumstances at play behind the scenes is pretty much universal in the financial sectors, local government, utilities, and the TV licence people are in a league of their own..I feel confident, based on experience, in estimating that many of those customer service advisors et al that attorneys deal with are arguably under thirty years of age give or take... including the branch manager of a Nationwide branch in west London who would benefit from performance management of a disciplinary kind... The notion of losing capacity in their worlds probably amounts to a big session down the pub on a Friday night after work.They can be forgiven to an extent... for their ignorance and being... well.. ill-trained.. They are young... However, those that pay them should consider the fundamental fact that an ever litigious society of increasingly older people who once had faculties and the nuance to prepare their LPA's in the first place, have a right to feel secure that matters out of their control are handled in their best interests by those they trust.And woe betide anyone who is tasked with probably the most onerous responsibility of a lifetime who is responsible for a divorced, foreign born national parent domiciled in the UK for 50 years plus. Of course matters 'post death' - funerals, executorship, notification to all the above where powers of attorney were registered in a fog of time and more, is even more onerous..Few countries inside and outside the EU have anything remotely close to that which represents powers of attorney in the UK to unpick, translate and negotiate.. eg your proof of identity... (France...)There are bad people with bad intention... the protection of the vulnerable is paramount.. but these organisations, as a matter of principle and respect for the majority of attorneys and those who have entrusted them, should get their ships in order, their facts right and employees trained to deal with PoA's. Tip of the iceberg...

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sadly, have experienced the opposite to this report where banks have made it too easy for a POA to access the donor's money where they've transfered huge sums of money direct from the donor's account into their own named accounts under the declared written statement they "were doing it to avoid the donor having to pay too much IHT when they die" which in itself is illegal but seems to count for nothing.The matter was referred to the OPG, who have been investigating for nearly 7 months and still we don't know where the money has gone and nor have they taken any action! - Probably because they're snowed under with POA complaints/investigations, which I understand have doubled in the last year.Meanwhile the dementia ridden donor, whom still has enough about them to ask several times every day, "where has my money gone?"So there are two sides to the story and personally I'm in favour of Banks who make it difficult to siphon off donors funds!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

HSBC made a complete pig's ear of Power Of Attorney - in his last months my late father-in-law (who was, by then, living with us ) gave power of attorney to his daughter (my wife) and his son; This was carefully done and we registered the power with HSBC and his two building societies. In his last week (he was seriously ill and fading) my wife had cause to try to access his account. The counter staff were adamant that he himself had to come into the branch to verify that attorney was valid. The senior that we insisted be summoned backed up their claim. We left very disgruntled. On reaching home we called the Premium Customer help line (his account was Premium) they refused to speak to us about his account - despite our quoting the letter acknowledging Power of Attorney |( which we neglected to take to the branch) On the ordinary help line we got a call centre in India - as you can imagine we could not make the agent understand the smallest scintilla of Power of Attorney - no such reference on his script. Pretty much enraged at the total obstructiveness of the whole HSBC bureaucracy we gave up that day - the next two days were consumed with looking after my father-in-law - then it was the weekend & he died on the Sunday,It seems that if you follow the bank's own advice they still put barriers up at local level due to poor training and awareness.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have had no problems with banks over my power of attorney for my 86 year old mother however, the pensions protection fund have been very unhelpful and insist of a full copy of the power of attorney paperwork, 5 years after power of attorney was granted. No other body has been so unhelpful.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Completely agree with this article as my experience has been the same. So few bank staff know about power of attorney and the term "mental capacity" is banded about with no real understanding of what it means. With an ageing population, banks and building societies need to undertake training to ensure more of us don't have similar experiences.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Nationwide have just terminated my online access to my Mothers account 4 ½ years after opening it in person with her (and my PoA) in a branch! 6 out of 9 of their staff I have spoken to (including one in their PoA team) have all said I should be able to access it, but their complaints team say I can't and its final. Another bank to fail its customers and make it difficult for attorneys to fulfil their responsibilities.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Reading the article on power of attorney and banks. Well 2019 and still Nationwide is lacking in respect of help for a person with PA. In 2016 they were identified as one of the few banks refusing additional cards. They said then that they would be looking into this. Three years on and I can only believe more accounts with a nominated PA and still no further forward to providing additional cards to PA's. I find this shocking and extremely frustrating. Had to laugh mind you as I can have an additional cheque book!! Can't remember when I last wrote a cheque. Shame on Nationwide!!

In reply to by Julie (not verified)

Had the same issue with HSBC! They don't understand power of attorney unless you have lost mental capacity (my relative hasn't). Worth a formal complaint as I did this and got £50 compensation and them finally sorting it out.

Enduring Power of Attorney

Santander had no safeguards to protect my mum's accounts. My brother registered as her PoA (Enduring- joint & several). His first transaction was £2000 in cash followed by a cheque for £6000 payable to himself. Over 3 years he withdrew £40,000 in cash and made a transfer to his bank account. When I complained to Santander they said he had effectively become their customer and could do as he liked with the money. Financial Ombudsman said it was not up to Santander to 'police' my mum's accounts. The response from Santander and the ombudsman is shameful. HSBC told me to report to the police the unusual, possibly fraudulent transactions on my mum's account, including a forged cheque. HSBC refused to co-operate with the police investigation and said there was no evidence of fraud. Ombudsman said transactions were consistent with previous banking history despite use of a newly ordered visa/debit card, payments from an invoice finance company used by my brother's business, transfers to his business account, visa payment of 1p to his business, a/c overdrawn for the 1st time in mum's banking history, cash always withdrawn at ATMs even when mum was in hospital, visa payments in places mum never used and a direct debit set up in my brother's wife's name but using mum's bank details for payment. Shame on HSBC who refuse to discuss the case with me but I will not let it rest- someone is responsible for almost £70,000 being taken by my brother and he has not been asked for an explanation.


First Direct have my life as difficult as possible for me despite having the the power of attorney set up for my son

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