I wanted to open a business bank account with Barclays Bank. I had banked with them for years. They had the business accounts for my companies and they had always been in credit. I had opened accounts before and it was just a friendly process, ask today – get tomorrow. So, I was naïve and living in the old world.
They said that since I hadn’t been identified recently there would be a new process to go through. So, they would start from the view point that I was Mexican drug lord and then work forward from that assumption. Let me just say at this point that this is not a diatribe against Barclays but against the madness of the system called KYC. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it at this point. Apparently, it stands for know your customer. It turns out that in Barclays KYC are a shadowy organisation who can’t be spoken to and who have to approve anything. They are based simultaneously in London, Manchester and Birmingham apparently.
So, on June the 29th I emailed my Relationship Manager, who knew me and my businesses well with the documents I thought were needed. I needed a bank account to pay the tax that was due. So, then they sent me a series of questionnaires to be filled in reconfirming everything they already knew about me and my wife.
Over the next eight and a half weeks I fill in over 120 pages of forms, send and receive over 80 emails and have a visit from my Relationship Manager and visit the local Barclays branch. Eventually the bank account was opened.
Understandably, I became extremely frustrated by this entire scenario – especially the continuous implicit assumption that I was corrupt in some way. However, it turns out that the experience I had was quite mild compared to the madness that other banks impose. The staff at Barclays were actually helpful as far as the systems stupidity allowed.
The Sequence Of Events
The people are:
DBH – David Hill – the author of this piece
Brian – Barclays relationship manager (name changed)
Paula – Brian’s helper (name changed)
Lisa– Head of a Support Team (name changed)
June 29 2018. DBH emails Brian to ask him to open a new account. DBH attaches the needed documents.
5th July DBH chases progress. Brian emails that it is with account opening team
10 July 2018 Paula emails forms for completion including personal identity forms.
13 July DBH Emails over all documents required. Paula rejects passport photos as taken from wrong angle. DBH mails new ones across. Paula accepts new passport photos.
Paula now sends across interactive account opening form which has to be completed and printed out before signing and the original returned to the bank
16 July 2018 From DBH - “I have now completed and printed all 74 pages of the application forms that you require – the last of which you mailed me this morning. I propose to deliver them to you by hand. “
17 July 2018 From Paula “I just wanted to let you know that I have sent off the account to the KYC team to be reviewed. Once it has been allocated and they have reviewed it I will come back to you if they have any questions I cannot answer myself and then I will escalate it to account opening.”
20 July Paula sends across an incorrect structure chart to be signed off by an accountant. The structure chart is completely incorrect. DBH resents the fact that an accountant needs to sign the form and that his word cannot be trusted.
Paula emails “Everything is still going along in the background don’t you worry,”
23 July DBH sends across correct structure chart. It needs amending to fit Barclays needs. DBH amends it
31 July DBH Asks for progress. Paula responds that they sent accountant a structure chart on the 25th and he hasn’t replied. They will not proceed without chart
1 August DBH gets confirmation that the accountant has completed structure chart.
Brian goes on holiday.
7 August Brian says he has escalated things internally and will do a dep dive
8 August Brian visits DBH house. DBH to sign a structure chart, emails his own wife that a box was ticked incorrectly on the mandate form as well as Barclays, and completes a statement. DBH also has to read a statement from Barclays on its structure. DBH does all of this – receives email from Lisa– they have produced another structure chart which now needs signing by the accountant again. The accountant signs the revised structure chart and emails across.
14 August Brian goes on holiday again. DBH enquires as to progress – is told by Paula. “Its been raised as urgent with the KYC team but it won’t be today as they have their checks to do.”
15 August Paula confirms that it has been sent to quality control that account should be opened tomorrow16 August Paula sends CRS identity check letter across which leads to more forms to be filled in. DBH fills in forms and tries to return them – they bounce
17 August Paula confirms account is now open. Paula asks if we want account adding to .net system (whatever that is). We do not use this system. All she needs is a form filled in. DBH wants account to be added to usual on-line banking.
23 August Paula says account cannot be added to online banking system. However, payments can be made by same day payment. DBH fills in forms and asks how to submit them. DBH is told they have to be delivered to Birmingham. DBH asks if he can do it at the local branch. Is told yes. DBH then attends local bank and spends 40 minutes explaining what is required with numerous phone calls to Paula. Forms eventually accepted.
DBH gets call from anti fraud squad asking if payment should be made – DBH confirms that payment can be made.
24 August Payment to HMRC made.
Everyone would applaud the idea of trying to prevent corruption and money laundering. However, the idea of treating every mortal on the planet as being corrupt until proved otherwise is madness. If a bank has known a legitimate business for decades then it is sheer folly to spend time trying to prove that they are not working illegally – especially since if they were money laundering, the checks carried out would be ineffective. The time, effort and money spent in doing all of this would be far better spent in doing sane things such as border controls.
So, if you want to open a business bank account be prepared to spend an age filling in forms with the same information time and time again. Any form you fill in will lead to another form or another information request. Any information request will lead to another form and so on. Eventually you may succeed. Bonne chance, mes amis!