How My Grandma Almost Got Duped

By Garry Wilmore @

08 Apr How My Grandma Almost Got Duped

I was accompanying my grandma to the bank to open a new fixed deposit account. She wanted to open a new joint account with me so that I can handle the money on her behalf.

A service staff approached us while we were waiting. She sat us down and checked that my grandma had 3 accounts with the bank. Since all were mainly savings and fixed deposit accounts, she advised her to start an unit trust investment plan under my name, as my grandma was too old to qualify. Hello? My grandma was 81 years old and the service staff had the decency to circumvent the regulation and risk-profiling just to earn commission? There are too many black sheeps in the financial industry.

I clarified that the money was not for me and my grandma only wanted to keep it in fixed deposit, If only she had listened to us first, we could have avoided all these unnecessary conversations. I sensed that the staff is very scripted to their sales process and they do not even seek to understand the clients’ needs. To a person who only has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The highest paying commission is not always the solution for everyone. Not everyone wants to beat inflation. No, not for my grandma.

What were your experience with bank staff? Good or bad?

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  • Henry Tiong
    Posted at 11:17h, 09 April Reply

    Just shared your article, thanks for sharing your experience.

    I guess for people like ourselves with basic financial know-how, it is good to not only focus on securing our own financial future but also ensuring that we help our loved ones out as well.

    Hmm…seems like it’s time to have a discussion with my elderly folks to ensure that they know what to avoid given their risk profile at their age.

    Retirement financial-planning shouldn’t be so scary. 

    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 13:50h, 09 April Reply

      Yes! We need to play our part to learn and pass on financial literacy!

  • Brendan Yong
    Posted at 11:29h, 09 April Reply


    That’s the same experience with many people we met in our course of work. By the way, she is of “vulnerable investor” definition, and would need a translator who passes “Customer Knowledge Assessment”

    It’s not uncommon, I’ve one case that a 55 year old who just took out his CPF, was sold a 15 year “savings plan”, where the sales pitch was again “beat inflation”.

    The product recommended would have only yielded 1.2%pa (due to insurance cost), matured only when he was 70. To top that off, this client of mine, had a disability that affected his mobility and health.

    I immediately asked him to free-look the investment, fortunately, he was able to get back the money.

    The problem about banks dispensing this type of advice is:

    1) Counter Staff are expected to ask those questions to solicit more revenue for the banks. Most do not know what they are doing, and do not know their recommendations will hurt the customer.

    2) Bankers have to meet sales targets for different product categories. Especially towards the end of the month, it gets a bit desperate. “Savings Plan” aka endowments also have high revenue “points”, which is preferable to just a deposit (very low revenue).

    3) Bankers are either (A) not aware they are giving bad recommendations or (B) aware but do it anyway to meet sales targets.

    4) Bankers typically do not stay in the same bank for long. Thus they do not have the concern for long-term needs of the client. In the past, they can even get away with “misrepresentations” and “customer complaints” by changing banks. Fortunately nowadays, there is a RNF code, which tracks them from bank to bank.

    I’m not saying that all bankers are bad as well. There are some good ones as well (especially those that stay long with the bank with little or no complaints). As consumers we just need to be more financial literate ourselves, and know our rights: what good recommendations mean, how to interpret recommendations and recourse for wrong recommendations.

    A good place to start is

    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 13:56h, 09 April Reply

      Thanks Brendan for your sharing. Your points are valid and explained the agenda of the bankers well.

      It is not just the fault of the bankers, the renumeration structure does not align to clients’ interest.

  • James Tai
    Posted at 11:33h, 09 April Reply

    Hi Alvin,

    Yes it happen to my mother too. I think is around 5 yrs ago she was 66 yrs old and she don’t understand English at all. She show me that she open a account with DBS bank and suppose to give her around 5% interest annually. I am so angry when I see all the signed document given to her by the relationship manager. It was not a fixed deposit or any type of capital guarantee account. It was a insurance endowment plan! The next day I accompany her to the DBS branch at Parkway and demand to see the branch manager. I bluntly told the branch manager angrily that the Relationship manager is try to cheat my mother’s hard earn saving so that she can earn a higher commission. Of course the branch manager try to defense the relationship manager and the way they sell the product to my mother. I listen and but in the end I tell her off and say they it is very uneithical and unprofessional for a bank office to be so irresponsible and selfish. Fortunately there is a 14 days grace period to cancel the insurance endowment plan. If any of you encounter this, you should demand to see the branch manager and give them a good scolding. Remember, the bank objective is trying to get money from you and not giving you money. The reason is simple they need to answer to their shareholders.

    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 13:57h, 09 April Reply

      Thanks for standing up against the bank! I applaud your courage.

      Not like me. Only have the courage to blog about the issue but not make life more difficult for them.

  • Numbers
    Posted at 20:33h, 09 April Reply

    Alvin and those who encounter this fraud,
    should take note of the name, bank, date and time, and products mis-sold or tried to mis-sell, and report it to MAS. This is to deter and take serious action against too many of these unethical bank personnel out there.

  • YS
    Posted at 11:28h, 11 April Reply

    Hi Alvin,

    Just 2 years ago, my 60 year old mum was at the bank looking to deposit her monies into her SRS account, for her tax and retirement planning. Despite my numerous attempts at offering to assist her to invest her monies in her SRS account, she was non-committal and decided to leave it passively in the bank.

    When she went for her annual top up, a banker spoke with her, convinced her to invest into some unit trusts. Without checking with me, she bought them on the spot, effectively giving the banker a handsome 5% commission charge (approximately $500). Imagine my anger when i knew about it! Come on, the commission charges ain’t even that expensive on other brokers when you’re buying individual stocks!

    Posted at 16:58h, 22 April Reply

    I was an ex-RM with a local bank and all my colleagues practise the above-mentioned ‘bad things’ without batting an eyelid. In fact, you are scorned upon if you don’t twist and turn and bring in revenue for your team.

    After-all, as a listed company, all staffs have the mandate to bring in the highest profit to our shareholders. And guess who are these shareholders? People like yourself!

    And where do we get these profits from? People like yourself! HAHA

    We have fancy names (bankers, RMs, financial advisors, financial consultants, senior-this-and-that, etc) but we are nothing more than a hard-pressed salesman wanting to live in a house bigger than yours. The only differences between us and the sim-lim-square balding salesman are that we have more budget to dress better, we talk like Warren Buffet, we install Bloomberg on our mobile phones and speak as though every financial product will skyrocket.

    Some of us don’t have much academic qualifications. I have a colleague who did ITE and one who possesses a private diploma as her high qualification. Are we very financially qualified? I don’t think so! But guess what? We talk like we are!

    We still thrive and can drive a better car than yourself. You know why? Because we have an awesome mouth and we pretend we are good enough to handle that $500,000 of yours. We show you nice financial charts and hide under our big bank logos to disguise our competence.

    I will let you into something. We may not necessarily need to tell a lie; we tell you half truths to the point which-by even if we are ‘caught’, you have yourselves to blame for misinterpreting.

    During the sales meetings, staffs who bring in the highest revenue are celebrated regardless of work ethics. Our only concern: we want to milk you or your grandmother’s fixed deposit funds VERY dry.

    Notice my caustic language? The work ethics was so disgusting beyond comprehension I had to go.

    Would you like to guess which organization I worked for? HAHA

  • ning
    Posted at 20:14h, 26 June Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories! The staffs at the bank usually tries to recommend me some ways to grow my money but luckily my mum helped by saying that I needed it for my studies so they did not press on further. Im still trying to be financially literate by reading blogs and books right now:X do you have any recommendations for me? I am currently looking for jobs related to my course before trying to apply for uni next year as I just graduated this year but got rejected. I do have some savings as I started part time work from 16 while studying but it is only a few thousands:X
    Do you have any advice for me?
    Thank you so much!

    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 10:53h, 27 June Reply

      I believe you are already ahead of your peers as you are keen to take charge of your finances.

      You can start from blogs and books, and it is good to read widely, authors having differing opinions about money.

      But do not take everything that is written as truths. Question everything.

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