Monday, September 03, 2007

Banks... we love 'em... NOT!

Well, I went to the bank this morning, picked up the user id and pin for both directors and one digipass... yes, you did read that right ONE Digipass. They didn't send two! Oh well, at least we can start using the internet banking. Back to the office, phone the bank [yes, because you cannot do this at the bank] and then the tedious security questions... and at last my internet banking is working.

Go to my trusty mac notebook, open Firefox, go yo the website and type in userid and pin [having verified that what at first sight appears to be a unsecure login is in fact a secure login left appearing to be unsecure to catch the unwary]. And... it doesn't work! No, Firefox is not supported on the mac.

So I tried Safari. Got further, and if I looked it at 'view source' and copied the URL from the Refresh meta-tag... hey presto it worked. Since more and more people are abandoning Microsoft Internet Explorer, I have no idea why there are so many badly written websites around that use the 'features' that make IE dangerous to use. Oh well...

Next, phone HSBC. The company credit card didn't work last week. First time I was trying to use it. Got the interminable press * for this, press 1 for that and... yes a wonderful option 'Please enter your date of birth...' I did. The disembodied voice said 'This is not the date of birth we have on record, please enter you date of birth...' I did the same again. I got the same reponse. Am I in an endless loop, can I get out? Ahhh... suddenly I get a 'If you are a business customer, please press 1 to continue'. I do that. I wait. I listen to boring tinny music. I wait. I listen some more.

Eventually a human being comes on the phone. Ah, I will try to find out why it is blocked, please hold while I talk to the relevant department. I wait. listen to boring tinny music. I wait. I listen some more. Thank you for holding, I will now transfer you to the Credit Card Department. I wait. I listen to boring tinny music. Somebody on a distant line [are they in India or Timbuktu?] says that Yes, your company credit card is blocked. [I knew that, that's why I was phoning!] Eventually he finds that because I hadn't used it the bank had blocked it [so that when I did want to use it it would not work]. Great. Please can you unblock it? No, you have to do that at the bank. I can't do that, I'm in Cyprus and the bank is in Wales. OK, can I FAX a request to unblock it. Yes, that might work, I will find the FAX number for you.

Now, there's one more thing. The card I have runs out at the end of October [even though its blocked] and I would like a new one now, not in two months time as I am traveling. No problem sir, but you have to do this at the bank. I can't do that, I'm in Cyprus and the bank is in Wales. OK, can I FAX a request for a new card? Yes, that might work, you could try that.

So now I have to type a FAX, sign a FAX and send it to the bank... but wait a moment. Excuse me sir, but did you know that there was also a deposit account attached to your bank account and that since you have quite a bit of money in current account you are actually losing interest? No, I didn't know that. What is the account number? Yes, I can tell you the account number no problem... Can you transfer some from the current to the deposit account for me? Yes, no problem, sir. [Hmmm... why was the thing I hadn't thought about easy and what I really wanted to do impossible?]

One final thing, I want internet banking set up please. You have to do that at the branch, sir.
I can't do that, I'm in Cyprus and the bank is in Wales. You can download the forms and send them to us. The url is You only need to send us the first five pages when you have printed it.

The form reminds me of the new e-tickets for aeroplanes... you know, the ones to save paper. If you've not had an e-ticket, it works like this: The old tickets used NCR paper, approx the equivalent of 1 or at most 2 pieces of very thin A4 paper cut into approx 1/4 size of A4. The new tickets you have to print out yourself and printed on 4 pages of 100 gsm printer paper. I estimate we are now using 4-6 times as many trees for the new e-tickets than the old paper ones.

Anyhow the HSBC form is 10 sides of A4, of which actually I only need to return two pages not five pages. So I have completed the form and then scanned it and sent a scan copy to my co-director in the UK for him tom complete and take to the bank. Aieee... no, for some oddball reason the files I sent print out 4 times size and won't fit onto an A4 page [they did here!]. So... I have to take them over with me at the end of the week and hand them over to him on Saturday... yes, that means another week is lost.

I wonder how much cheaper a pair of shoes, a motor car or my weekly shopping bill would be if banks were actually efficient and I didn't waste so much time trying to get them to do simple stuff. I think I may have spent approx 1 man month on these extra banking things over the last year-and-a-half... that would be a net extra cost of approx 2000-3000 in a commercial company, maybe more... multiplied by [say] 1000 companies in Cyprus with similar problems that makes 2-3 million pounds lost to bank inefficiency. I dread to think what the costs are worldwide.

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