Simon Carr: All I needed was a bank account

I was using a Mac. And their internet service didn't work on Macs ...
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The Independent Online

I had A business account in the Isle of Man. I am happy to say it was the worst business relationship I've ever had. I kept it open for a year only for the curiosity of watching things go wrong. That was the banking bonus.

Which bank is it? I'm not sure anything would be gained by naming it. They might even put in a 10-point improvement strategy and deny its customers the ongoing pleasure of a City farce. Suffice it to say it's a high street bank belonging to one of the larger banks that went so bust. They've had billions of tax payers' money. It would be amazing if they don't go bust again.

Where to start? The outgoing message on the telephone of my "relationship manager". This was to let customers know he wasn't at his desk but if we were to leave our number he would revert shortly. "Revert" means "get back to you". His message ended. But then he had neglected to press the right button in the right way and so left a full minute of ambient office noise before the beep. I told him about this but he didn't fix it for months. I never rang him again.

How about money handling? Obviously there was no question of giving an overdraft. But sending money around the world would be a speciality of an offshore branch?

They said the account number was wrong for a transfer I was asking for and asked me to check it. And actually, they were right, the account number had changed. But they sent the money anyway. And then sent another transfer for the full amount to the right account. And then they couldn't get the first lot back.

Maybe it would be better if I did these transfers myself through internet banking? They did offer that and offered to talk me through it. Quite a way into the tutorial we realised that I was working on a Mac. Their internet banking didn't work on Macs. You had to have Windows.

But then, couldn't I just organise these important transfers over the phone like everyone else did. No, that wasn't a service they offered. Security, you see. By email? Yes, the internet did reach that part of the Isle of Man. But they couldn't use it for transfers. They wanted to see my signature. Post was the ideal thing for transfers. Sending them a letter through the post, like it was 1865.

They did actually have a system for faxes as well. But they needed additional security. So they posted me a sheet of A4 with a hundred or so random numbers on it. Each request for a transfer had to have the next number on the sheet heading the fax. This was matched with a master list back at head office. It was a cipher technique favoured by the Borgias.

But this, my favourite exchange of all.

"Who's calling please?"

"My name is Carr."

"Yes, Carr, I'll put you through."

I miss them, actually. They turned my ideology upsidedown, those private, competitive, capitalist bankers – they made the NHS look like a profit driven, dot-com, private equity start-up.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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