Polly’s withdrawal request
As part of her employment, Polly is a member of her employer’s superannuation scheme, managed by Schematic Management Limited. In late 2015, changes to Polly’s salary meant she was going to have a week without pay.
Polly contacted Schematic Management to request a withdrawal from her account to cover her for the week without pay and, at the same time, some plumbing work she needed carried out at her home (a total of $4,500). Schematic Management said the funds would be deposited into her bank account within 3 to 4 days of receiving her withdrawal application form.
Polly arranged for a plumber to carry out the work at her home. She also spent a bit more on Christmas presents than she would usually, thinking she had the extra $4,500 available to her. On the morning the plumber arrived, Polly received an email from Schematic Management advising she would not be receiving the $4,500 because her circumstances did not qualify for a withdrawal. This caused Polly embarrassment as she had to tell the plumber to leave because she could not pay him.
Polly complained to Schematic Management but as it could not be determined what the staff member said on the day Polly called, Schematic Management was not prepared to accept responsibility for Polly’s situation.
However, Schematic Management said that if Polly could provide an invoice/quote from her plumber, it would speak to the scheme’s trustee about releasing funds to cover the plumbing costs. Schematic Management also acknowledged that the situation would have been stressful and caused inconvenience.
Polly asked FSCL to investigate.
FSCL starts its investigation
Polly said Schematic Management had given her the distinct impression she was going to receive the $4,500, and was given no reason to believe the funds would not be released. Polly said the staff member she spoke to did not say anything about the withdrawal application being subject to the trustee’s approval.
As far as Polly was concerned, she was told by Schematic Management she would be receiving the $4,500, she relied on that incorrect advice, and now she did not have access to the $4,500.
Schematic Management’s response
Schematic Management said that when Polly’s withdrawal request was first assessed, the trustee decided she did not meet the ‘exceptional circumstance’ requirement under the trust deed for funds to be released. However, because Polly understood at the time she was going to be receiving the $4,500, and engaged the plumber, Schematic Management had been able to negotiate with the trustee a release of the funds on a one-off basis.
Schematic Management also apologised for not providing consistent information to Polly and for not resolving the issue with her sooner. Schematic Management also said that although it could not be determined what was said during the original telephone call, it was going to undertake training with its client services team.
Schematic Management’s response resolved Polly’s complaint and we discontinued our investigation.
Lessons to be learned
The first point of contact between a customer and a financial service provider is crucial. Staff need to have sufficient training and enough knowledge to ensure they do not unintentionally mislead customers. This complaint also highlights how complaints are beneficial for an organisation – they highlight where improvements can be made to practices and policies.