Money Transfer

Why, why, why do the banks in this country insist on staying put in the dark ages?

I make regular payment from my Norwegian bank account (student loan instalments and misc other tidbits). I have to occasionally top that account up to avoid them coming after me with crowbars and bicycle chains. Visiting an HSBC branch in Clerkenwell today I asked about arranging a money transfer to Norway at regular intervals. This wasn't possible, they said, because Norway was not on the list they had of countries you could set up standing orders to (and by the way, this would have costed me 9 pounds a time).

What can I do instead then? Ah, each time I want to make a transfer I could call their phone banking service and give them all the details necessary to set up the transfer. All the necessary information. Each time I wanted to do a transfer. No thanks. Well, actually I could live with this if I could do it over Internet. Adding insult to injury however I can't arrange to do this over the Internet, nor at a branch but only by phone. The least secure option. Oh, and by the way this costs 21 pounds per transfer.

That sucks, I say (in a slightly more polite wording). Why can't I at least record the information of the transfer with you once and just phone up, authenticate myself and say "Go" whenever I want a transfer to go ahead? "That wouldn't work", they say. And why not? "Because you wouldn't need to transfer the same amount of money each time."

I'm sorry? You've seen me for the first time in your life 2 minutes ago, you don't know anything about me, not even my name! This is not how service works, you see. I'm the customer, so I tell you what I want to do and you tell me if it can be done or how I can best accomplish something similar.

Up until now the best way around British banks' stupidity on this matter I've found is to withdraw a sizeable amount of money at an ATM when I happen to find myself in Norway, then walking directly into a branch and paying it into my account. This works. I find myself making fewer and fewer trips there, though, so this is not going to be a workable solution. It also relies on me having a healthy balance at the time I'm over there, which is a bad assumption to make about vacation time. Airline tickets tend to strain the budget.

I guess I get so worked up about these things because I know it doesn't have to be this way: having money transferred here from my Norwegian account (with Nordea if anybody's interested) was a breeze. When my student loan arrived I just logged into my online banking account and set up the transfer to my UK account. OK, so there was an additional fee. Oh, and I needed some extra codes to identify the foreign bank and country, but all that information was available on their site. The important bit is that I didn't have to talk to any humans and I could set it up in my own home at any hour I was comfortable with. This has been possible for at least 4 years, so it's nothing new; maybe in 6-7 years British banks will follow. They will of course claim that they are the among the early adopters.

Posted 30 January 2006 Copyright © Stig Brautaset