It’s not easy to “Be with AIB”

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 | business, galway, jobs | 3 Comments

So, given the recent armageddon^H^H^H^H^H … err, turbulence in the financial marketplace, we considered it prudent to follow the old adage of not putting all of our eggs in the one basket. I figured it’s as easy to open a few bank accounts while we have all the documentation pulled together. For reference, if you are a limited company and you want to open a bank account you’ll need the following,

  • The certificate of incorporation for your company (some banks seem to require an original, some seem happy with a photocopy)
  • The memorandum and articles of association of the company (a certified copy seems ok)
  • For at least 2 directors, proof of id e.g. a drivers license and a copy of a recent utility bill for each of those 2 directors.

Finally, you’ll need to complete an application form when you go to the bank.

After some quick research on the internet to find the most local branches of our desired banks, we checked their opening times. This was our first surprise, most banks seem to only open at 10:00am. Or 10:30am for some banks on some days of the week. 10:30am? Since when did banks start working half days (they close again from 1:00pm to 2:00pm and again at 4:00pm, it’s like they don’t want our business).

First to our local Ulsterbank branch, one of the early risers, opening their doors at 10:00am. Clearly these guys want our money! Why Ulsterbank you might ask? No strong reason – their branch is nearby and I’d like us to put some of our eggs in non-Irish banks just to have a good mix (Ulsterbank is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland). The only downside to dealing with a non-Irish bank at the moment is that they only guarantee your deposits up to a maximum of €100,000 as per the Irish government’s recent announcement rather than yesterdays Irish government announcement which only covers Irish banks. In we go and ask to speak to someone about opening a deposit account for our limited company. We’re quickly introduced to a business banking person who takes us into his office, quickly explains our options and then proceeds to take the necessary documentation from us and copy it while we complete a nice minimal set of paperwork which asks us for sensible details about our company, the directors, what kind of account we require and so on. All told, I think it took as 15 minutes. The staff member thanked us at the end of the process and told us our account should be open by tomorrow morning.

Not bad, I thought to myself – clearly they value their customers and are interested in doing business with them.

Since we were on a roll, and we had all the documentation pulled together – we decided to also open an account with an Irish bank due to their recent success in obtaining the full backing of the Irish government (I’d have to start a whole new blog to discuss the wisdom of this, other than to wonder what troubled businesses will next be backed by the government … builders? Oh wait, they’ve committed to doing that already). The banks given unlimited coverage in yesterdays move by the Irish government include,

After a long strategic discussion (we checked which one had a branch closest to us) we opted to open our second account with Allied Irish Bank. They’re big, they’re guaranteed by the Irish government and they have lots of branches (and staff, I think I read somewhere before that AIB are by far the largest banking employer in Ireland).

So off we went to their local branch, wondering whether AIB would be even more efficient or whether they’d greet us with the smugness of a bank who’s just been given a large unsigned cheque by the Irish government. Opening their doors at 10:30am on Wednesday, AIB are one of the late risers of the Irish banking scene. We entered the branch, approached the customer service desk and explained that we wished to open a deposit account for a limited company.

“Do you want to do this today?” we were asked.

I wanted to open the account in the next 10 minutes if at all possible but I kept it to a simple “yes” to avoid any confusion.

After clarifying that we had all the required documentation, we were issued with a large lengthy application form to be completed in full (her emphasis, not mine).

I handed over our documentation to be copied – the same documentation that had sufficed not a half hour earlier at Ulsterbank.

“This certificate of incorporation is a copy, we need the original”.

“Why?” I asked.

“We just do”

As luck would have it, we had come prepared and had our pristine original. We handed it over to be reviewed and watch in horror as the AIB staff member proceeded to start stamping everything with a magic AIB stamp, including our original certificate of incorporation. This is a valuable legal document and there was AIB happily stamping it. I pulled my hands back from the counter, fearing where the stamping frenzy would stop and then demanded back our certificate of incorporation (my colleague wasn’t quite so polite and expressed his confusion as to why AIB had defaced our property).

“It has to be stamped” we were informed.

Anyone else that we have to present our certificate of incorporation to will be very impressed that AIB have stamped it – it harkens back to the days of bank managers being trusted … oh wait, they’re still elevated to such a position by the government.

After safely securing the return of our other documentation, our other identification was demanded. After getting the AIB staff member to promise not to stamp our drivers licenses (maybe the Gardai let your drive faster if you’re license has been stamped by AIB?) we handed them over to be copied and went to complete the form.

The first thing that struck me about the form was how much more detail we had to supply. The second thing that struck me is that the form had been designed to look pretty rather than be easy to complete.

I think we’d already spent more time with AIB at this stage than Ulsterbank had consumed, but we felt we must be there and must be within minutes .. or at least 24 hours of having an AIB account. We returned the completed application and received back our forms of identification.

“That should be up in about a week” we were told, in a tone of a voice that suggested we were lucky to be the recipients of such efficient service.

“What?” I asked, “we just opened an account with another bank and were told it would be up and running tomorrow morning”.

“Well, we have to run security checks on your identification and your company”.

“But a week …. ?” I asked?.

The staff member was having none of it. It takes a week to open an account with AIB and thats the end of the matter. Clearly if we didn’t like that state of affairs, we could take our business elsewhere. It’s not like AIB is stuck for cash – oh wait, all of the banks are stuck for cash at the minute, wouldn’t they be glad of your business? So, the Irish government can introduce a new piece of legislation for banks in about 24 hours while it takes one of those banks 7 days to create an account, into which we’ll be putting our cash.

I’ll let you know if we fail the security checks – but it’s clear to me now why at least one Irish bank needed to have the kind of guarantees that the Irish government has offered. They’re not getting business in the door because of how they treat their customers.

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