I posted last week about a banking situation that had me all hot under the collar. In an effort to continue naming and shaming (and hopefully drive improvements in the process), here is part two.

This morning I received a check from a US client. The client in question is a $5 billion per annum business – not exactly a shaky bet. The check itself was written via JPMorgan Chase, last time I looked a fairly stable bank.

Previously I’d been told by branch staff that depositing foreign currency checks had to be done in person – I therefore dutifully traipsed the 15 minutes or so to the branch, filled out the very old fashioned deposit slip and took it to the teller who told me…. that they couldn’t do it. Apparently (and in very technical language);

We can’t bank US dollar checks because of the American thing… the dollars.. the bank… Sorry

I kicked up a stink (collar very hot by now) and the poor teller went and got her supervisor who told me that;

Well you know, with all those US banks falling over we don’t like doing checks… You could send it back and ask them to pay you by wire. Or we could hold the funds for thirty days and charge you [lots of] fees for doing so…

Luckily the week before our “business banker” has met with us in an effort to “understand the business better”. I told him at the time that we didn’t want very much from our bank but, when we asked for something, we wanted it dealt with quickly. The teller tried to phone the business banker who was “on leave” today but luckily the mention of his name made the teller jump a little and she graciously offered to cash the check “but only this one time” but would hold the funds for a minimum of thirty days.

Now I understand that local banks are shy of failed banks and that they’re scared of left holding the can. But to refuse at point blank to serve a customer, and only deal with their concerns after they jump up and down and demand service, is pitiful. Yes the client in question should have paid by wire and yes sometimes a withholding period is needed to ensure that a check cleared but, notwithstanding any of that, we now have a particularly unhappy customer who is left somewhat demoralised by claims of the bank to “partner with their customers”.

Ah well, maybe a business banker might see this and respond… oh I forgot, they don’t use the interwebs….

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Oh dear.

    Reminds me of last year when one of the biggest US insurance companies had to send us a cheque because they couldn’t do international transfers online.

    Excuse me…..

    In our brave new world of immediate online action it’s hard to imagine how banking can be so hard.

    But banking is an old business steeped in arcane practices…..remember when it took 3-5 days for a cheque to “clear”. Naturally your account was debited immediately…and the funds lived in purgatory for a few days….in the dreaded monetary ether.

    The online smarty pants are giving things a hurry up but why shouldn’t we have instant transfer of funds?

    I want my money!!!

  • Actually back in the old days it did take 3-5 days to clear. The bank tellers from the different banks used to all meet on the street each morning and swap cheques deposited the day before. They would then return to their branches and process the local cheques and send the others off to the corresponding branches. It did actually take 3-5 days to make a round trip if their was a problem.

    Now of course there should be no real problem with international cheques – The bank should simply take it but put the funds on hold until it is cleared in the US. It does take 3-4 weeks but hey at least they should accept it. If you are a good customer of high standing then they may even waive the hold on the understanding that the deposit could be reversed and you would be responsible for the funds.

    It ain’t rocket science!

  • Hi Ben,

    Here’s a BNZ issue – even with their flash (suspiciously familiar)looking new website, users still aren’t able to change payee details on the fly. Any changes to payee reference info requires you to go to the “Modify Payee” page, make the change and then go back to the payment process.

    When I made the suggestion for the second time (first in 2007) they promised (for the second time) they’d “consider it for the next release”. Nice looking site – crap functionality.

  • Yes, what gets me going is the interminable fees, always fees, when we ran the motel we often had some cash to bank, under 2k was about a $5 fee over 2k was $20 in fees, WTF you would think the more cash coming into a bank the more they would ‘reward’ a customer. understand your anger!

  • My sister used to send herself cheques home from the UK to avoid banking fees but after being told by her New Zealand bank (National) that they could no longer process sterling checks unless she had the balance in your NZL account matching the amount on the cheque (she didn’t, NZD was required to pay bills, student loan etc) she canceled her account.

    Their excuse was the same as your BNZ excuse and in both cases it is a nonsense. Last time I checked (and I work in wholesale banking) JPMC New York was tier one name.

  • Last time I checked, BNZ was the only local bank (albeit Aussie owned) that provided multi-currency MOTO merchant accounts.

    Thus, a substantial number of NZ businesses are stuck with them in order to process USD payments without going through a third party processor. Oh, the irony 😉

  • PS. Has daylight saving arrived early this year ? (VPS/wordpress set to UTC-11 ?)

  • @Michael – I predominantly work out of the US so my machine is set to PST, hence the blog posts showing up that way…

  • Speaking as the Chair and former GM in the personal banking world, I would have to say that international cheques are one of the scariest things for a manager to see passing from a customer to a teller. I banned them. It gets very ugly when the US bank dishonours the cheque 60 days after the customer leaves the branch. They can do it, the money disappears and if you think you’re squealing, wait until you hear the squeal of a bank customer who is asked to pay back funds drawn on a dishonoured cheque. The net result, 99% of the time, is that the bank loses big time.

  • Banker's aren't allowed on the interweb unless the computer says they are!… but we all know a bank computer is 98% programmed to say NO, kind of like a Gaming Machine 🙂

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