Today I went into HSBC bank in Melbourne to open a bank account of the most basic kind on offer. I didn’t expect much, having tried two or three times before to do the same thing in the UK, without success. On those previous occasions, they raised objections within a minute or two of my saying what I wanted, and proceeded to reel off a load of bureaucratic hoops I’d need to jump through before they’d make any effort themselves.
Sure enough, the bullshit started quickly on this occasion. They asked for my passport, then my UK driving license. They said they needed the latter to confirm my address in the UK, even through I am resident in Australia (with a proper visa). They asked for proof of address in Australia, which I gave them in the form of an invoice from the serviced apartments company from which I rent my flat (which is all inclusive, so I have no utility bills). At this, the assistant pulled her face and asked if I could get somebody from my company to confirm this address. I said I could, but the letter would come from me as I am the local representative of the company, and I set up the accommodation myself. She pulled her face a bit more and went off to speak to her manager. After a few minutes she came back with the expected “I’m sorry, but we can’t…” and invited me to write a letter to “HR” – who in my case live in Perth, have never met me, and could no more vouch for my residential address as they could the contents of my pocket. I in turn invited them to call up the serviced apartments company and verify I was living there, but was met with another, wholly expected, “I’m sorry, but we can’t…”. Even grudgingly accepting that there is a requirement to go through bureaucratic bullshit to open a bank account, it really grates that certain banks – HSBC being one of them – expect their customers to be the ones to negotiate it, instead of them. Who the fuck is the customer, here? So with that, I gathered up my documents and announced that I’d passed six or seven banks on the short walk from the office to HSBC, and I’ll try one of them.
So I did, and entered the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. I chose them because their merchant terminals generally accept my Credit Suisse Maestro card, whereas most others don’t (but that’s a subject for another post). After a brief wait for somebody to see me, I was sat in a room opposite a helpful young lady on a computer and within 20 minutes I had a bank account number and details of how to access it online, with the password sent via SMS to my mobile phone. Nobody asked to see my UK driving license, and I wasn’t asked to write letters to mythical HR departments a continent away to verify I hadn’t forged the invoice and was lying about where I lived. Simply my passport, visa information, and contact details and away we went. I was impressed.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why competition is good. If one provider is shite, chances are a better one will exist nearby. In a country where competition is badly missing in a lot of areas, its presence in the banking sector cheered me up considerably.
Incidentally, the reason I tried HSBC first was just to verify if they were as petty and shite as the other occasions I’d try to open an account with them, largely for the purposes of providing blogging material (bank-bashing never gets old around these parts).
And also incidentally, I noticed that all the people I dealt with in both banks were Chinese, and I don’t mean second generation. The only “Australians” I saw were showing the customers which Chinese girl to go and speak to. Read into that what you will.