• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 4:26am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 4:06am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 4:06am

The trouble with 'special treatment' from the banks

It can be a pain dealing with the procedures some financial institutions put you through


Mike Rowse has lived in Hong Kong since 1972, and is a naturalised Chinese citizen. He spent 6 years in the ICAC from 1974 – 1980, then 28 years in the Government as an Administrative Officer until retirement in December 2008. He is now the Search Director for Stanton Chase International, and also hosts a radio talk show and writes regularly for both English and Chinese media.

There are days when I strongly suspect I have been singled out by the financial services sector for special treatment, and then there are 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 read on to discover that what they in fact meant was that 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 another letter beginning with "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 change my nationality once, in 2001, but did that lead them to suppose I might make a habit of it?

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, and that 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. I think I did.

Some years ago, I bought an annuity from the insurance arm of a bank. The point of an annuity is that you pay a big sum upfront, then at some point in the future, 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 the source of funding for future premiums would be. 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?

Mike Rowse is managing director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at Chinese University. mike@rowse.com.hk



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This article is now closed to comments

Should I be sending the bank a pro forma instead of vice versa?
Do that, please, and let us know what happens!
Hahaha! What a bunch of jokers.
"We apologize for the inconvenience caused" is another of the English language's least sincere expressions.


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