Money Matters

There are days when I strongly suspect I have been singled out by the financial services sector of the economy for special treatment, and then there are the days I am certain of it.

There was the bank I used to patronise which sent me a letter beginning with the words "In order to serve you better…". I found the introduction very soothing and read on to discover that what they in fact meant was unless I deposited a very large sum in my account they weren’t interested in serving me at all.

Needless to say I switched all my accounts to a competitor and all went well for the next three years, until the day I opened a letter beginning with the words "In order to serve you better…" and my heart sank. Sure enough, they weren’t planning to serve me any more either.

There is an insurance company that writes to me 12 times a year to ask if I have changed my nationality, or any other personal data. I did indeed change my nationality once, in 2001, but did that lead them to suppose I might make a habit of it? Or is it that I have a dozen life insurance policies with them, and the computer asks me automatically on each policy anniversary.

Talking of know your customer – because that is the cover name for these exercises – a well known bank wrote to me recently inviting me to fill in a 20-page pro-forma about a company I own. Since the vast majority of the questions did not apply to my case, I wrote a simple letter back explaining that I was the sole shareholder and sole director, the sole authorised signatory of the bank account etc., another person’s involvement with the company had ceased several years earlier as we had informed the bank at the time.

Not acceptable, the bank wrote back, our regulator requires us to periodically check all these things so you must fill in the whole pro-forma, which I duly did.

So the bank now knew all about me, right? Except that two months later it sent me two ATM cards for the company account, one for me and one for "the other director". I could scream. In fact I think I did.

Some years ago, I bought an annuity from the insurance arm of one bank. The whole point of an annuity is that you pay a big sum up front, then at some point in the future – if you are still alive – the bank starts to pay you a monthly sum. At least that was my understanding until the bank started to write to me every year asking what would be the source of funding for future premiums. When challenged they said this was necessary to comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

Bearing in mind that the future flow of funds will be from the bank to me, and bearing in mind the record of this particular bank I rather suspect some of that money will be coming from doubtful sources. Should I be sending the bank a pro-forma instead of vice versa?