Friday, July 21, 2006

Canadian Banks...from a Swiss perspective

I know many people in my family and friends were expecting more pictures and comments from my past weekend in Montreal with my cousin or more "touristic" kind of posts. But today I really felt like sharing with you my banking experience in Canada.

Since I arrived to Canada, I opened an account with a random Canadian Bank. Which I choosed just because it was closer to my house and office. Everybody told me that anyways they were all more or less the same. Since then, I kept telling to my boss how funny that Bank is compared to what I am used too. Maybe you will come from Switzerland, shut up... but no... I think that my vision about banks have always be the one of a serious place, where the costumer is the king, and where you should feel confortable because you are leaving your money the more professional they look, the most chances they have to keep you as a costumer. After my tale, you will be able to tell me if you share my vision...or if I am too Swiss. Am I?

The fist thing that surprised me when I walked into Scotiabank, was how people who work there were dressed up. From those who are at the counter, to the security to the managers. Everyone in Switzerland is usually very dressed up.
In my Canadian Bank, counter people were dressed in a sporty way (even wearing sport shoes), without make up, very easy going.
Maybe appearance is not all... but I guess that when I entered in a bank like that I was very very surprised... If the bank does not have enough money to pay its workers enough to get nice clothes...are they really such a good bank? It's all in the subconscious I guess, but you feel that when people are less dressed up...specially in a bank, they look less professional.

When I opened my bank account I had to present two pieces of ID (Swiss Passport and Swiss ID card), I had to tell every detail about how much did I get as a salary, where did I work, my boss name and contact, etc. Which is fine. Then I received a "welcome card" from the person who took care of the opening of my nice!
After a couple of months however, I lost my debit card (bancomat), then I blocked it by telephone and when they asked me if I preferred to receive the new card at home or if I wanted to go to the bank and pick it up instead, I chosed the second option...because it was faster!

Then I went to the counter and explained my problem. The person in charge, also dressed in a sporty way, asked me for my two IDs. I was not expecting to be asked for both of my IDs (they already ask you for a lot of security questions). Then I did not have my passport and I gave my Swiss ID and my Italian ID... the lady had a stranged face, and asked "don't you have any Canadian ID?".

I am a foreigner, I arrived here a month before (which was all in the informations I gave and they entered in the computer when I arrived) and I am not Canadian. How was I supposed to have a Canadian ID? She looked puzzled.

She did not know what to do (I suggested her to check the number of my Swiss ID with the photocopy of the same ID that they had in their files...since it was the same I presented to open my account). It was like a slow motion movie. She clicked around in her computer several times, without really knowing what to do I guess. After a while of keeping me waiting she said "I don't really know what to do now"

I was the one puzzled at that point! Was she supposed to tell me that??? Was I the costumer or a friend of her? Wasn't she supposed and ask to her supervisor instead??? Then she finally decided to get up (slowly of course) and go ask to someone. When she came back, she made me sign on a random paper to check with my signature that they had in their files. Ok, it worked. But isn't it more sure to check my document number, with my picture, instead of making me sign? I always made my parents' signature at school... it someone wanted to copy mine, I am sure it wouldn't be so difficult after all!

The thing that surprised me the most is that by phone, without checking any ID, without seeing my face or anything, they would have send everything by mail. But with my face, my document and everything in the bank...they needed a LOT of time to fugure out what to do. Very reassuring from a bank!

In Switzerland, when you use the e-banking system you can go online, upload the data of the person to which you want to give money (to pay something, or to give it away if it is your family, or whatever). So, I wanted to do that in order to pay my rent.

However, once on line, I discover that here work in a very very different way.

First of all concerning the security of the system. In Europe, each tyme you want to get on your e-banking you need a password, another password and a security number (which before you had printed on a page, where you picked up each tyme a different code, and now every costumer has a little machine, some kind of calculator, that tells them each time what security number to use). Here...things are simple. You go online, you set a password and you enter. That's it. (I am lucky I don't have that amount of money, and I can't use money that I don't have on my account. So I don't risk a lot).

Once I logged on, I discovered that I could not just simply transfer money into another account! Why to make things simple when you can complicate them? In Canada, if you want to transfer money you have to digit the account number of the other person and the email address (what if it is an older person whitout email address?), the person will receive an email with a secret question and will have to reply with the secret answer, then the money will go into its account. Anyways I was not able to do this, because when I organized the whole thing, the e-banking system asked me for another password (which I did not have).... so I gave up and paid cash!

Afterwards I went to the bank to ask if it was possible to pay through a monthly automatic payument into another bank account. The reply was NO. The only way to pay someone that is not a phone company or something like through checks. The chipest checks you can use are 25 dollars. What if I don't want to buy 25 dollars checks? pay cash. logic. In the land of credit cards, where people do not carry cash any more...the only way to pay your rent, if you don't want to pay for your checks (because you don't use them a lot), is CASH. :S

Until now, every "experience" and "cultural shock" I had with my Canadian Bank... I took it with a bit of irony and humour. "They are a funny bank", "they do banking for fun, not as a business", "they are amateurs"...those are some of the things I used to tell myself and the others... until I tryed to open a credit card with them.

Almost a month ago, I went to my bank to deposit my monthly check. At the counter, the lady asked me if I wanted to open a Credit Card.... actually I needed a Canadian one. So I accepted.
She booked me an appointment for July the 3rd. Smart. I realized on saturday that July the 3rd was the first Monday after Canada it was a holiday: which means Banks are closed.

I tried to call and I had to dial an infinite number of numbers: "if you want service in english, press 1", "if you want bla bla bla, press 2", "now, if you have the direct extension number press it", etc. etc. At the end I got to the voice mail of the lady which whom I had an appointment to discuss about my credit card. In the message she said that she was in holidays until July the 4th. So I left a message, explaining the whole situation and leaving her my phone number. Two weekd passed by and I did not receive any answer (she was the one who sent me a welcoming card at the beginning). As a costumer, I would prefer less welcoming cards, and more costumer service when needed.

However, I gave them another chance. I went back to my bank and I scheduled another apointment. This time with a different lady (I guess in the bank there are just women, usually from visible minorities, because they can pay them less....but this is just an evil though, I don't have proves of what I am saying). This time it was a very genrle chinise lady. She asked me again for all my information (even though they had it already uploaded in the computer... I wonder why do they bother in uploading the info, if then they ask everything again). After this, she also asked me a piece of ID, which she photocopied (again???? do they have a collection of photocopies of the same ID every time I go there???).

Then she asked me to come back the day after with the prove of my monthly salary (even though since March I have always deposited the same checks in their bank) and my security number (code that you need if you work in Canada). It's funny because when I scheduled the apointment, I asked if I had to bring something along, so that I could bring everything the first time, without the need to go twice to the bank... of course they did not tell me what to bring so I had to go back the day after with those documents.

The next day I brought my proves of salary from March and April (I knew I had to bring May and June...but I did not find them). So I brought my working permit which lasts until september next year. I thought that would be a sufficient prove. Apparently it wasn't because they called me by phone and asked me to fax them the new ones. Which still makes me laugh.... as they could check on my account all my monthly revenues.

This morning, the gentle Chinese lady calls me back and tells me that, as I am staying just a year in Canada, I will have to open a saving account and keep there 120% of the credit of my credit card. Meaning 600$. Now I was puzzled again... is that logic to keep in my bank more than one third of my monthly salary just for the sake of it? Knewing that other trainees (Lukas for example) had no problems opening their Credit Cards. :S :S

End of the story: I will soon change Bank and see if also other Canadian Banks are in such a desperate situation. ...

UBS: I miss you!!! :'(


At 11:13 AM , Blogger Carissa )i( said...

I shall never complain about UBS again I guess :-)

At 11:16 AM , Blogger Chiara's wonderful world said...

Hey Carissa!

Thank you for readind this really long post!

Yes! You are right... I never thought I could miss UBS so much!


At 8:47 PM , Blogger Dunk Broom said...

Unfortunately, the Canadian banks are NOT all the same... you really have to shop around to get the kind of service you want, I find.

At 4:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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