A Calgary bank's efforts to implement a "new digital experience" has left a significant number of its members frustrated and angry — some of whom are threatening to leave the financial institution altogether.
Last weekend, First Calgary Financial told members it would begin upgrading its systems to enhance its digital products and upgrade security.
But some users, like Calgary resident Christy Thompson, said the changes meant she was unable to pay her bills and send e-transfers.
Receiving an error message while using First Calgary products, Thompson called the number provided but quickly ran into trouble.
"I've called that number every single day multiple times a day for four days now," she said. "I hold for up to an hour, hour and a half, then a message comes on and says they're having system issues and they're unable to take my call, then it hangs up on you."
Thompson said she has banked with First Calgary since she was nine years old, but she and her husband now plan to move all their banking investments and mortgage to another bank.
The bank had its own digital platform initially, but as part of its merger with Connect First Credit Union — the larger brand that includes First Calgary, among other credit unions — it moved to consolidate its digital platforms.
While the institution said the majority of its members are successfully using the new platform, it also acknowledged that "many have experienced frustrations."
"There were moments where [the upgrade] did overwhelm some of our systems, and certainly our contact centre was taxed to the max," said Wellington Holbrook, chief operating officer of Connect First Credit Union.
"The vast majority have signed on well and are enjoying the new experience, but some have had some struggles, and unfortunately have had those bad experiences."
Holbrook said he couldn't say exactly how many client accounts had been affected, but said he expected those with issues that still remain would be resolved in the coming days.
"We're on the good side of this challenge, for sure," he said. "We'll go out of our way to make sure there's no impacts they need to be concerned about."
E-transfers in limbo
Candice Yaholnitsky, who lives in Cold Lake, has had a bank account with First Calgary since she was around five years old.
She said she became concerned after she sent a "significant" e-transfer to her husband that has been stuck in limbo since Nov. 17.
"My biggest concern was not being able to communicate with anybody," Yaholnitsky said. "For five days, all the phone calls would get to an answering service, and then the call would be dropped."
Yaholnitsky and her husband became concerned as the days passed without communication, worrying that their money had been lost.
"He's been in overdraft and paying overdraft since Monday. Now we have concerns because our mortgage comes out on Tuesday — thankfully, we haven't had any other bills but if we did, we'd have NSF charges," she said. "And that's not typically what we have on our record.
"This year has been hard enough as it is with everything else that's gone on, so to have to deal with this on top of it has been quite stressful."
Yaholnitsky said she was finally contacted by a customer service representative on Saturday, who told her the situation was being looked into.
Thompson said her efforts to resolve her issues through customer service have largely been fruitless.
"Every point that I've tried to receive some kind of support or answer, no one picks up the phone. The tellers [at the branch] don't know how to help you," she said. "I understand it's not their fault, and I don't want to sit there and take it out on them.
"But we were not told this was going to be an issue."
COO says one struggle is too many
Holbrook said the company was working to rectify customer issues as soon as they became aware, adding that more than 25,000 members are already successfully using the new platform.
"Any member having a struggle is too many, as far as we're concerned," he said. "The vast majority of the time we're able to quickly rectify issues."
In the end, Holbrook said he thinks the new digital platform will serve to upgrade what members have been used to.
"We're pretty excited. A lot of our members have been asking us to bring them the most modern digital experience," he said. "And this past weekend, we did implement a very significant banking system upgrade which does just that."