Have you tried to open bank account recently? Or even change one? Forget about how easy they say it is, it's almost impossible.
I've banked with my present bank for more than 20 years.They both hold my money and lend me money, have a significant amount of my savings within one of their subsidiaries, and I have not one but TWO dedicated advisors. Within the last year I filled in a form for their anti-moneylaundering requirements.
So when I phoned up and said I wanted another account for a small business venture ( no overdraft required) , I sort of thought it would just be an " account opening form" with a "signature example" requirement.
Not a bit of it.
A seriously hefty A4 envelope landed on my desk this morning. It contained a total of 7 different forms, together with a requirement to list all my personal assets and liabilities; in additon, they required originals of my driver's licence, passport, electricity ( or, to be fair, gas) bills , all to be taken to a branch, photocopied, signed and dated by me and the person who checked them.
Oh, and they would check the electoral register to make sure I wasn't lying about where I lived.
My natural reaction in these circumstances is usually to throw everything in the bin and go somewhere else, but I thought I would just check with one or other of my dedicated advisors.
He was very quiet on the 'phone when I asked him if I really had to fill all this out.
" Er, well, yes and no" he said. " If you can just sign your name I'll fill the rest in for you."
When I asked about the passport etc etc, I could hear his embarrassment down the line.
" Er well, you see, we have never actually checked that you are who you say you are. If you could possibly just take your passport into a branch that would be really helpful."
I sighed and suggested that surely the electoral register would do since I had lived for 14 years in the same house.
" Er, yes, well, the problem is you might actually be registered under a different name, whereas your passport will have a picture of you."
I gave in at that point. If these people were prepared to have me as a client for all these years without having a clue who I am, then I really ought to stick with them.
If this is what I have to do with people who have known me for nearly half my life, I hate to think what's required with a stranger. I suspect if I was an asylum seeker with no passport I could get an account just by putting a cross on a blank bit of paper.
Oh and by the way - I wouldn't bank with Barclays for now.