Friday, August 28, 2009

Banking Business

It’s all about business and competition.

C has to set up a bank account. The branch was packed with people and I wanted to faint at the sight of the queue. But we managed to get all our business done in less than one and a half hour’s time (including waiting time and fumbling about to familiarize with their procedures).

C set up an account, got an ATM card with a pin number of his preference with immediate effect, set up his internet banking and got a one-time access pin to his internet banking. All these done on the spot even though he’s not a local. He was able to purchase an USB key on the spot that would enable him to access his internet banking on any computers. There was also a staff there to demonstrate all the downloading procedures on the computer to him and she also helped him to register as a first time user. It was all a breeze.

I never knew to appreciate all these till my classic encounter with HSBC UK.

It was a simple request, in my experience, to open an account so as to deposit my cash at HSBC UK. Naïvely, I brought with me one huge stack of notes to the bank. I couldn’t even get to the counter before I was stopped at the door.

You have to make an appointment to get the form to apply for an account. (I tried my best to hide my shock.)

Could I get the form and fill it in straightaway and submit it to you now?

No. You need an appointment to get the form and to submit the form. The earliest appointment is one week from now. There are just too many Chinese students who want to start accounts with HSBC now.

Yes, I understand it’s the busy time of the year. (But this is a bank and it is not started overnight. You must have predicted it and done something to forestall it!? Setting up an account is the most basic thing for a bank to do!)

Ok. This is a different country and I have to be open-minded to all the differences that I might encounter. So I went back to the bank after one week—just to get the form. I was told to make another appointment to submit the form. Which is another one week’s wait. So I brought my stack of notes back to my accommodation again. I went back with the notes the following week to discover that I still have to wait for my debit card to be processed. Then I have to go down to the bank personally to receive my debit card before I can actually deposit my cash.

It took me almost a month to do a simple task—open an account.

Till now, I still find that it was amazing of me not to fly off the handle. I have never been this patient for my entire life. I merely switched off my logic completely and did not dare to question about the way the UK banks work at all. Else, I will go crazy.

I have the money at hand and I wasn’t even asking for a credit loan but I was made to feel like BEGGING them to take in my money!

So my notes worth of a few thousand pounds lay in my drawer of my little room for more than 3 solid weeks before they could be accepted by HSBC UK. And I really have to thank my lucky stars.

That was already the 21st century. Or was it?