How Banks Manipulate Your Customers: The Tricks of Financial Sellers


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In the last financial crisis, people around the world demonstrated against the machinations of banks. Especially as a small investor, it is important to find out about the lousy tricks and persuasion skills of banks.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.

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Banks delete video clips

A WISO documentary entitled “The Bank Always Wins” was about the tricks with which banks unsuspecting people, especially pensioners, brought their savings and wealth. The video on YouTube was shortened by a few minutes because of a legal dispute between ZDF and Stadtsparkasse Bremen

But how can it happen that banks bring people for tens of thousands of euros by pushing them into an unsafe investment?

Cleverly manipulated

The answer is: clever sales tactics and targeted manipulation. In the following, I would like to demonstrate how such a conversation works and how the banks react to complaints using my own example.

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For in March 2008, half a year before the Lehman crisis, I was forced into a doubtful investment in a consultation. Although it is only a small part of my money and also my losses will hopefully be limited.

A surefire business?

A fact remains, however, that the investment turned out to be anything but the promised good business. A smooth lie, then! And: the trained bank adviser used targeted manipulation mechanisms that made me sign the conversation protocol as well as the contract.

But in turn: In March 2009, I received a letter from Citibank, now Targo Bank, asking me to give me a 50 Euro credit if I went for a consultation. That sounded good: 50 Euro - and I wanted to take care of my investments in times of high interest rates anyway.

Just a few crosses ...

Supposedly, one is particularly susceptible to manipulation, if one believes to be immune to it. That's how it happened to me. I had been dealing with Postbank's somewhat dubious investment products shortly before, and I thought I was ready.

It started with the risk profile, which the consultant created for me in the conversation and according to which I am indeed safety-conscious, but lean towards a few experiments. As a naive consumer one is inclined to underestimate the importance of a few crosses - you know that, yes, if any surveys are made.

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The bank secures itself!

The results are also contradictory: It is true, for example, pension funds and non-pension funds are crossed (probably because I had already heard), but also at the same time that I had made corresponding transactions had never.

Nevertheless, the Bank does not refrain from invoking any later complaints that my investment was the corresponding profile.

Sales tactics

The consultant was not a somewhat blatant salesman, but clearly trained in building a personal relationship: He looked nice, like someone you like to chat with and trust. And in the first place honey was smeared on my lips during the entire consultation:

And that is that I am, yes, a little risk and the corresponding financial investments presumably to belong to the club successful Geldanleger. Who does not like something like that? In the same way, the FDP yes at the last Bundestagswahl their promoters lured.

Product Information schön geredet

The product that was sold to me is called Alpha Express Bond. And the friendly banker explained it to me: You invest an amount. On the deadline is looked at whether the DivDAX, that is a stock index, the 15 Companies the DAX with the highest dividend yield, is higher than the DAX (which is the stock index with the 30 largest and top-selling companies).

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The whole thing runs maximum 5 years. For every year there are 11% interest. So if the DivDAX is above the DAX after one year on the first cut-off date, 11% interest will be paid out. If the DivDAX is below, it will run for another year and interest rates will increase by 11%. After five years you could possibly get 55%.

Details concealed

But, the friendly bank adviser said, it was completely unlikely that 15's best companies were performing worse than the 5 for years. Sounds synonymous somehow logical. What the bank adviser neatly concealed: It is only a castrated DivDAX without dividends (more precisely is in this FAZ article described), the plant is not so good.

And: The whole plant was completely risk-free, since one would get the full deposit so, if after 5 years would nothing with the dream interest. There was no mention of the expenditure charges and the loss of interest (ie real losses).

Banks do not go bankrupt!

And the fact that the investment was not covered by the deposit guarantee fund of the Federal Republic of Germany was trifled: Half a year before the Lehmann bankruptcy, it was said joval: "It is completely unlikely that one of the world's largest banks will go bankrupt."

When I started to complain, first in a personal conversation, then in writing and by phone, the bank kept on repeating the same excuse: I had been sufficiently informed about the risks, which can be taken from the advisory protocol.

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What does the bank say about complaints?

Representative I quote at this point from the eMailthat Peter Herkenhoff, Press Officer of TARGOBANK AG and Co. KGaA sent to me on 24.11.2011:

In the meantime my colleagues have sent me the documents. This shows that during the consultation in March 2008 we classified you as a “balanced” investor based on your risk profile and your experience […]. Accordingly, the maximum risk share in your case could have been 55 percent. In fact, your risk share was 0, because you have purchased a capital protection product that will be repaid at maturity at face value - less the front-end load.

This is not the case as already stated.

I also understand from the documents that our adviser has informed you of the risks and the operation of the Alpha Express bond; In case you should not have the documents at hand, I have attached the original product flyer again. In it we explain in detail on page 6 (below) the differences between the DivDAX price index and the Dax performance index. And in the Risk Notice on page 8, we explicitly point out that there is no guarantee that the DivDAX will perform better against the DAX during the term of the bond.

Whereupon the conversation was not expressly referred to, the bank staff being fully aware that I had not read the passage in question!

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This risk is offset by very attractive return opportunities. In fact, the term of this bond is almost two years, and you and all other investors have the opportunity to earn a return of 2.4.2012 percent and 2.4.2013 percent on two additional key dates (44 and 55). If the bond is not repaid prematurely, even if the DivDAX Index lost to the DAX by as much as 4 percent, you can still earn 55 percent of earnings at maturity. Incidentally, in the worst case, you will receive back the paid-in capital (less the initial charge) as desired. And minus a corresponding inflation equalization!

What does BAFIN say?

In 2009, I had already applied to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht, BAFIN) with my complaint. Nils Philipp wrote to me at the 28.04.2009 that he gave me the right, that in my risk profile no knowledge of complex products are documented.

However, without prejudice to the fact that in the product flyer the risk of the investment is being drawn up in detail and that he can not understand whether the bank consultant has informed me about the facts or not.

The customer has the burden of proof

In other words, the institution that is supposed to oversee the banks can only do something for the customer if the latter can prove completely that he has been pulled across the table. Or in other words, the bank always wins!

For who is already recording consultations?

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Ombudsman civil court and handling money learning

At the end of his letter, Mr Philipp advised me to raise an ombudsman, who, however, would not settle if the agreement of witnesses became necessary, for example because the statement is against the testimony.

Another option is a civil court: however, legal representation is difficult because the entire product is subject to English law. The consultant had also failed to respond to this. Since all of this seems rather cumbersome, I have learned from this experience that I have to deal more intensively with the topic of investment.


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    For me, your blog is one of the best HR and career blogs ever. If not the best ever!

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    How banks manipulate their customers: The tricks of the financial sellers: Since September people have been protesting a ...

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