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JM | Jul 7, 2022

Audrey Hinchcliffe | SPANGLISH! The new language of banking

/ Our Today

Audrey Hinchcliffe, CEO and founder of Manpower and Maintenance Services Ltd (MMS) Group. (Photo: Contributed)

The unfortunate situation of scammers inserting themselves into banking transactions has driven banks to take steps to protect their clients.

This is commendable, except when your account is locked down because of movements even with legitimate transactions via RTGS.

Accounts are locked down without the knowledge of and notification to the account holder. I am sure I am not alone with a recent occurrence which drove me to write this article. Try navigating the system to get information – when a card is rejected at the supermarket, at the ATM and worse at the pharmacy when out of medication. 

In trying to make enquiry via the phone number provided, I landed in the clutches of someone steeped in Spanglish. Much as I have studied Spanish and can manage a simple conversation, when I encountered Spanglish in order to seek help in getting access to much needed funds it complicates matters. I could truly manage patois with some accents in parts of Jamaica, but Spanglish is something else. After nearly an hour and getting nowhere I hung up the phone.

BPOs and call centres have taken over the back operations of businesses internationally. But here I am in an English and patois-speaking country trying to get information from a Spanglish speaker.

In case you don’t know yet, Spanglish is “a hybrid language combining words and idioms from both Spanish and English”.

I am aware that business outsourcing gravitates towards English-speaking countries, but an English trying to do business in Spanglish. Something is wrong with this scenario. Take, for instance, I am being asked for “error code,” and all I hear is “area code”.

 As for the name of the first person who took the call, the language got the better of her, so she brought on a co-worker who promptly changed my name from Madline to Mangling. To be put on hold for upwards of half an hour is the norm – then some other Spanglisher comes on to start the interrogation all over again. I wondered if my bank was trying to protect my account from a scammer, and, mark you, the account was not breached, but I became an alien to my money. This cannot continue. If not a regulator, who will spare clients from this torture? No wonder the scammer is smarter.


It is the understanding that a bank does not have a staffer – English or patois-speaking – on hand to simply call a client, to verify identity since they have on record everything about you except what you had for breakfast that morning. To proceed to lock down an account while addressing suspected scamming, even with proven internal transaction, cannot be the way to treat clients – personal or business. This is a shortcut, which is causing reputational damage. With the low level of trust in this country, it puts the debtor at risk, with the excuse that finances are in lock down. This is not COVID, it is your reputation, even your life.

To tell persons who live from pay cheque to pay cheque that they can’t get paid because their money is locked up in a bank is no different from a kid saying, “the dog ate my homework”. 

Prove it that you are not a liar, now that lying has been normalised. My bank does not have a right to put me in a position to be seen as such.

Another sad fact is that banks fail to realise that clients are not all at the same level of education and intelligence. As for those ATM eating cards, with no bank in sight to go into for help, makes the days of banking in thread bags and under mattress seem more attractive. I am fully in support of technology, but what of the poor suckers who are not savvy?

Ask the person next in line for help, that person may well be the scammer who had no difficulty preying on the unsuspected but is now finally invited to clean out your account. Much easier than cloning a card. Person to person rocks. As for Internet banking, that is for another time and place. Your ID is no longer your ID that you have not changed. So, Mr and Mrs Regulators and Bankers, as you sit in your C-Suite and plan strategies, the fees you are squeezing out of us your clients not being reflected in the service you are delivering. It lacks a human face.

Clients and scammers are now in the same boat, but the scammer is better equipped for access to funds. Spanglish hijacks the client’s access.

For ease of access to your money the choice is the mattress, under the rug or in the freezer. Name – ‘Anywhere Bank’.

More Time!

  • Audrey Hinchcliffe is CEO and founder, Manpower and Maintenance Services Ltd Group.


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