–Engage

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Designing a name change — part 4,937 (really, the last part)

Well, now that we did the big 4 it was time to work on the more mundane crud of my financial and personal life. In my first installment I gave a pretty intense and long list of everything that needs to be done in this regard and since there is so much, I’m definitely not going to go into the detail that I went into before. I’m just going to highlight a few examples of the good the bad and the ugly …


As a reminder, what separates all of these institutions from the ones before (the big 4) is that these only require a copy of my court order while the big 4 require a certified embossed copy.

Banking & Investing

For me, I have two different types of primary financial institutions, my checking and savings accounts is really my bank, but I also think of my investing account as another equal institution.

My bank

You would think that after years of dealing with marriages that banks would have these processes pretty down pat. And I guess in a way they do, but in another way they don’t. For my private accounts this would have been easier, but still required a certain level of human intervention that I found quite striking in our digital age. No possibility to do this by mail, and no possibility to do this by fax.

Aside:
I still can’t believe people’s fascination with the “wet” signature. This is why a bank won’t accept a fax. They have to have a real ink signature on file. This obsession is what keeps digital progress from moving forward. We have to figure out a personal electronic way of authenticating our identity otherwise so many of the advances of e-commerce over the last 10 years just will come to a halt sooner or later.

The key to the banking system seems to be centered around your “signature card”. Since you are signing checks (yea, like I write those any more), they need to have a signature card on file and it has to be a live wet signature. If this was only about me, I’d have to say that my bank would have been fine. Every time I walked in there, I barely waited in line if at all and the people behind the counter were very helpful. Where it all goes batty is that because I have a joint checking account I had to bring my wife with me. I guess for most people changing their name, they usually are creating the joint account when they get married so they are doing this anyway.

What makes this so funny for me in particular is that my signature is a mess and while the shape of the scribbly chick-scratch is slighly different, I dare anyone to look at my old and my new signatures and tell me there is a real difference.

Ok, so they need to have the wet signature. I’ll deal with that anachronistic sentiment for the time being, but the rest of the process was also very manual as well. A person behind a desk sat there and literally had us watch her change all the fields on all of our relevant accounts. What? I mean it is good to know it is all done, so maybe that is nice, but it did feel like a big waste of time to me.

Oh! one last thing about this bank (notice I’m not stating any names), is that I couldn’t do my IRAs and my regular banking at the same time or even with the same person. Now I’m sure this is because an IRA is official a brokerage account and has some SEC regulation tied to it that my checking and savings accounts don’t, but my bank does such a good job linking them all electronically you would think that there should be a way to do this all in one swoop of a key stroke. But no. Alas, I had to come back twice and watch a 2nd person change my information on their computer screen.

Brokerage

This on the other hand was like a billion times better. It had the one flaw that I couldn’t fax in paperwork, BUT on the other hand I could have done the entire thing without speaking to a human being. I went to my online account, went to my profile. Next to my name was a link that said “update” or “edit” or something like that, and on the next page, was a list of forms that I could choose from with clear enough descriptions that I knew exactly what to do … well almost.

They did package a group of forms together. I knew which ones to download but it wasn’t clear if I was to send all the forms that I was downloading or just the part of the form that was completely relevant to me. This little laps in confidence meant I had to enter the world of the Voice Response System on the phone. It didn’t take too long, but still, took more than was actually necessary.

At the end was a human’s voice who told me that it was really simple. Send only the relevant form + the copy of the court order and t would all be processed in a week or so. In fact 1 week to the day later I checked online and voila! my name has been officially changed on both my private and my join accounts. Very nice indeed.

Frequent Flyer Programs

Gosh! I really wish I only had one of these, but alas I have 5 of them. If you must know Delta, American, United, Continental and Northwest. Since I BARELY fly Northwest I haven’t even bothered with that one. But the others I did. None of these had a form to fill out. They all required a personal letter with your account number and a copy of your court order.

There were 2 basic experiences here:

1. From the web site I was told exactly what to do in an easy to find Q&A area. Unfortunately for this one the fax # they gave kept failing on me, so I had to mail it in.
2. Then there was the site that kept teasing you with the hope of finding the information, but it was never there so I just gave up and got on the phone, went through the IVR system just to be told a fax # or address to send it to.

Credit Cards

I only have two of these.

They both required me to make a phone call. The first one seemed like it was going to be soooo easy. And maybe it would have been if I waited a bit longer after I got my social security card stuff done, but they SSA told me that it would only be 24hrs before my information hit the digital system, so I felt a week later wouldn’t have been a problem. Well it was.

If all was good, they look up my SS# in a computer and if the new name is listed Voila they would just change it on the spot on the phone. Me? I was told they were going to send me papers to fill out to my address. I have still never receieved these forms. So now that it is about 2 weeks later, I’m going to try the phone method again and see what happens. If nothing else, I’ll remind them to send the papers again.

The other card had a horrible phone system. Took me forever to get to a human being. Then when I did, it was quite simple. Write us a letter and mail the letter and a copy of the court order to us. I still need to follow up with them to find out if everything went through. I do know I have been having problems using this credit card in the last few days.

Work

Wow! what a hassle! You would think that people get married all the time and that women change their name enough (still) that any company would have a policy of name changes. Nope! It seems we are still small enough (under 300) that this is pretty rare and there are no standard processes for dealing with this. Many of our systems are not designed to handle a name change, i.e. if I had a username in our expense management system as “dheller” and I wanted all of my usernames and IDs to be the same, as in “dmalouf”, sure we could make the change, but it would mean deregistering the old account and creating a brand new account.

It would seem that this very basic concept of having a background system level ID instead of a user generated ID is not all that well understood SO!! you can’t actually CHANGE the username. You can change all the information around it. Meaning I could have “dheller” as the username and have the name on the account by David Malouf, but I can’t change ther username itself. This means that I have to maintain 2 accounts for the time being, until I finish what is going on in one account and can fully deregister it.

Then there are the more systemic IT issues that also seem a bit antiquated, such as the fact that my Windows domain ID for some reason is not tied to my ID for our VPN or for our Lotus Notes accounts. So basically every system is completely done separately.

The last thing I need to do though from an IT perspective is change the name on my security ID/Badge.

Other word stuff like insurance and 401k seem to be done very easily from our HR group. I’m surprised that is the case with the 401k but I haven’t heard anything from them yet. I also haven’t heard from my insurer.

Personal IT

I have done all of my e-mail accounts and created a new Gmail account since the address itself had my old name in it. What’s been interesting is that for most this has been a way that I’ve told the world about the name change. One day they received e-mail from David Heller and the next it says David (Heller) Malouf. I get a lot of questions like, “What’s with the Malouf?” from people all the time.

Stuff yet to do

There isn’t a lot to do still, but enough that all this name change stuff is on my mind. Some like my alumni association are just phone calls I haven’t made the time to get to yet. I’m sure others will come back to haunt me later.

Conclusion

The whole process has indeed been interesting, but I feel it is worth it. This process being timed to the period of starting a family with my wife has really made me think about the level of commitment I have to this relationship, and while it is quite scary to think about it that way, it is also energizing to realize that this is really what it is about for me, and that I really do feel recommitted to her and us like never before. It is indeed amazing.
(sorry for ending on such a sappy note.)

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