Santander Bank freezes transgender woman's account because she sounded 'like a man'

A note on the account? Here’s someone just trying to get on with her life and Santandar feel they need to treat her differently from everyone else rather than apologise and fix their systems.

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their system is not broken. It is working as intended whether you like/agree with that or not.

When faced with a concern about account security they freeze an account and ask for the customer to come in person to clear it up. The note on the account would prevent this particular issue (her voice somehow causes a red flag with an associate) from causing this to happen again…and it shouldn’t. No policy at any institution says “If the voice doesn’t match their sex/gender identity flag the account”…the policy is “If you have any concerns flag the account and escalate the situation”.

The execution is the issue.


Fix their systems how?

The only thing I can see that would have avoided this would be if they paid no attention at all to what a caller’s voice sounded like, which seems like a bad idea from a utility perspective if only because the number of trans people who are likely to get fucked over by this is almost certainly smaller than the number of fraudulent callers who’ll be caught out by it.

Now, the secondary issue of this happening repeatedly even after a note has been made is a much bigger problem, and does indicate a broken system.

I think you’re zooming in on this particular event too much as an encapsulation of their policy. It’s not simply “subjective interpretation of gender” per se, it’s “the voice I’m hearing is sufficiently divergent from the norm for people within this demographic that it raises questions”. I’d expect them to be equally suspicious if someone called for the account of “William St. John” speaking with a heavy German accent.


second time I’ve used this in as many seconds.

As I stated above the policy I GUARANTEE is literally written and trained to associates as “If anything causes you concern, flag the account and escalate” and unfortunately I would state that the account note should be enough to prevent that specific thing from being an issue for her. That is the part of this that is broken for the company and is an easy fix…“Hey associates…READ THE GOD DAMN ACCOUNT NOTES”


Some places are starting to use actual voice-prints now, which should work for most folks in Ms Reis’ situation.


I must say I do like pulling out my id at my local branch and having it waived off, “We know you!” :blush:

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Exactly. And this isn’t always a perfect foil to bad customer service, but it does usually eliminate many of the pain points that can lead to bad CS.

In the end, I can stand by any financial company doing what it can to protect my assets from fraud. I cannot however stand by when they themselves ignore reasonable demands…like ya know…reading the account notes. I mean that is WHY THEY ARE THERE! Flags on accounts are not just red flags…we also have green flags too.

Like “Oh Mr. Q, I see here that you are also part of our executive services list. please hold a moment while I transfer you to a rep from that group who is personally familiar with your account.” Finance companies do things like this for all levels of customers. It’s a matter of training and ensuring associates follow those procedures.


All companies can, and should, do this. Among my various business interests is a service company. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s a good team, and I have had customers tell me they know they could get the work done cheaper elsewhere but they wouldn’t get the same level of CS.

I disagree. Discrimination based on gender identity is no better than discrimination based on race. Some people believe they can tell the difference between a white American accent and an African American accent. Imagine if they took it upon themselves to freeze the accounts of a black man for sounding what they regard as “white” over the phone. It’s a bad policy and, as Rob said, it’s also a bad security measure as it relies on the prejudices of the listener, not the reality of the caller, and is therefore a vector for a social engineering attack.


I disagree knowing full well what their policies look like that the voice was a specific security issue.

Again. Policies are that “any” issue that causes concern triggers the red flag for fraud. This was not a target at a trans person or the community unfortunately.

But by all means believe what Rob is stating on a blog vs the person with 18 years experience.

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I think you are confusing “personal anti-transgender animus,” with “institutional tacitly anti-transgender policy.”


And I think you are confusing security policy that can and does adversely affect every both positively and negatively as something that somehow punishes this woman more.

Again…the Santander rep could have had multiple concerns that caused the red flag. If Ms Reis merely pauses too long in answering a particular question, or fumbles through documents while on the phone…those are just as likely to cause the firm to say “We are locking the account until you come see us with visual identification”.

And again…embarrassing and humiliating for her I agree, and if the voice issue was the only issue a simple flag on the account to notify a representative ahead of time would solve the issue. And the fact that the Santander person who spoke to her in person said “This might not stop it from happening again” is unacceptable because that is exactly what the note on the account’s purpose is.

Which is again while I will state…the process of protecting customers assets from fraud is not bad or broken…the customer service involved with executing that process is.

I feel very bad for this person plight (which is something I’ll never be able to understand or relate to in a meaningful way).


  • This a a relatively newly accept state in Western society (transgender acceptance)
  • It’s the finance industry. Things move incredibly slowly and for a very good reason.
  • The actions weren’t directly politically, sociologically motivated; they were a security measure aimed to protect the VERY important property of a client

Sure, she called in to make notes of all this previously. BUT: finance industry, huge company, “new” scenario for someone who likely was never trained to deal with the situation.

It’s fine to get upset about the state of affairs but I think the complexity of the whole situation (this is a difficult, complicated set of changes to make [training, backend systems, policies]) needs to find it’s way into the discussion.

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With the two banks I had experience with just weren’t aware then made them aware and have done everything they can and doesn’t happen now with no notes on my account well notes about me being TS, it might say do not block account based on voice I don’t know.

I assume it’s just a post-it stuck to the monitor’s bezel. If an employee interacting with your account doesn’t happen to be sitting at that workstation then oh well

The Gender Recognition Act was voted into law nearly 15 years ago. I know that the UK banks have adapted to more recent changes, so Santander have no excuse for this.

Another problem that comes up for trans people is banks insisting that they can only change the account name with a gender recognition certificate, which is illegal (no one outside certain parts of government has a right to demand to see a GRC) and not changing the account name can actually cause a gender recognition certificate application to be refused (In theory at least, as it can be used as evidence that the individual is still identifying as the gender assigned to them at birth. In practice I don’t think it has ever happened.)

The banking industry still has an institutional transphobia problem.


It really sucks that people have to go through that shit to use those banks. It really, really does.

However: I want to believe that it’s not an intentional slight against a group of people’s because it’s simple against thier entire business model. Banks want money. They don’t care how they get it so long as it’s legal. I imagine that some of these hurdles are related to some legal requirement OR somehow related to some backend system that also some how gets arbitrarily associate with some other legal requirement, etc. Etc.

It isn’t legal. That’s the point.

They have a legal requirement to not do this shit.


Dude, if they’re doing it out of malice or contempt then they are big dummies. That’s all I’m saying.

It’s entirely possible.

It doesn’t need active malice or contempt. Institutional transphobia is like institutional racism. The Macpherson report defined institutional racism as.

The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.

Compare that with the illegal demands being made of trans people.