A good bank is hard to find

In Ireland, you can’t open a company bank account until you have your original Certificate of Incorporation (and getting that took far longer than I ever thought possible). Once you have that, you then need to persuade a bank to let you open a company bank account with them. Even when you’re not asking for either a loan or an overdraft, you still need to chat with the bank manager before they’ll let you put your money in their bank.

I tried AIB first, but they wouldn’t let me get to the chat stage until I filled out their multi-page form and provided my business plan. All I want at this point is a place to lodge a cheque and to transfer in money so the company can set itself up, so there’s no meeting of the minds on the need for them to see my business plan, and since my business plan is still in the draft stage, there’ll also be no meeting of the bodies for a while yet either.

So I went to the next street over and tried Bank of Ireland. I thought I was onto a good thing when the bank manager agreed to meet me without first asking for my business plan, so we made an appointment to chat the next day. Unfortunately, I said 3:00 PM and the bank manager put 1:30 PM in his diary, so I ended up spending 50 minutes waiting in the bank lobby for the bank manager to be free. I left without seeing him once I’d finished reading the application form, the terms and conditions, and all the business account marketing fluff that I could find..

Did I mention the forms? Multi-page forms wanting to know everything about the company and everybody associated with it. They don’t, quite, want to know how many dental fillings you have, but they do, for example, want to know how many dependent children you have. It’s more information than you would have to provide if you were applying for a job, and if you were applying for a job, it would be discrimination if they based their selection on the sorts of information they’re asking for just to open a bank account.

Reading the terms and conditions is always fun, though harrowing. I was expecting to see “Overdrafts are repayable on demand.”, and I’ve read enough T&Cs to come to expect something like “The Bank may at any time, without notice to the Customer, set off and apply the credit balance in any current account toward payment of the debit balance on any other current account.” but I was surprised by the total, and I mean total, lack of comeback “Where the Customer authorises the Bank to act on instructions received by telephone, fax, or any electronic system used by the Bank and capable of receiving instructions”. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not you instructed the bank that it should or should not accept such instructions, whether there’s any possibility that it could be a forgery, or even if it’s just a scratchy telephone connection, it seems the bank can do whatever it sees fit and you’ve agreed to pay the bank’s costs for doing it.

The other eye-opener, or eye-waterer, is the schedule of fees and charges. On top of the fee just for the bank account to exist, there’s seemingly a separate fee for every possible interaction with the bank, and just in case there’s some possible interaction that they didn’t think to slap a charge on, there’s a per-hour Account Administration Service Charge for “a service for which there is no standard charge, or else the nature of the request is such that it would incur exceptional workload.” If you’re lucky, they might even tell you about it before they’re going to charge you it, but they seemingly don’t have to.

After the temporal dislocation at Bank of Ireland, I then went down the street to the National Irish Bank. They were kind and courteous, and wanted to photocopy everything in sight. There wasn’t time for me to talk to the bank manager that day, but nor did they hit me with their version of the form that day. I was to receive a call from the bank manager, but it’s now over a day later, and I haven’t heard anything.