“There have been a lot of clients with this problem,” explains one bank manager. “We are currently desperately making phone calls, because from now on we have to start shutting down the blocked accounts, which is a much more complex operation.”
Given the magnitude of the job in hand, some lenders have subcontracted support teams for their bank staff.
Banks have moved on to more complicated cases, involving accounts that cannot be closed on a “mass scale”
The government gave banks a five-year period to collect the documentation, but as the deadline approached lenders had to rush to get the job done. An extension on the final date was requested, but not granted.
The most common client with an unclaimed account belonged to seniors. “It’s possible that many have already passed away, but their families have not let us know, and as such we cannot list them as deceased,” one bank employee explains. In former savings banks, many foreigners holding accounts failed to hand over their documentation, “because they had a close relationship which allowed them to work together [with the bank] without handing over their documents,” they admit at a lender that has merged with a large savings bank.
Banks have not closed all of the accounts at the same time. “They started by cancelling the accounts which had negative balances and that were inactive,” they explain from a major lender on the condition of anonymity. “Then those that held €5, then €10, up to €100… and then the level was raised above €1,000
After that banks moved on to more complicated cases, involving accounts that cannot be closed on a “mass scale,” given that they are more difficult to deal with. For example, there are joint account holders, who in many cases have been identified. Or there are accounts that have bank cards, insurance policies or pension plans associated with them. “It’s a very slow process,” they admit at one lender.
In some cases there are accounts “with very large balances” that have been abandoned, as odd as that may seem. And what happens with the unclaimed money? Sources from one major lender explain that they will be held by the bank for 20 years. “If the account holders reclaim the funds, they will be returned, obviously, after proper identification. After that period, the money will go to the taxman.”
English version by Simon Hunter.