Gibraltar has a lot of things for a small place. What it doesn’t have is a lot of banks.
Or rather, it doesn’t have a lot of banks for plebs. If you have a couple of hundred grand to plonk in a current account then there is Lloyds TSB International, Jyske, Hambro, Schroeders, and various others.
When I first arrived there was NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Barclays. One could open a current account with these. Within certain parameters of course. RBS told me I needed to be a resident first.
Barclays on the other hand, would waive the residency requirement if one could stick a suitable wedge in a deposit account.
I never did find out what NatWest required. Patience, presumably, judging by the lengthy queues out of the door on occasion.
First RBS went. Then Barclays announced it was closing its doors to ordinary customers, although it would keep some sort of service for clients with mega bucks. At this point, NatWest stopped taking on new customers.
So, we have all the Barclays customers and any other new people without a bank. But wait! The Gibraltar government steps in to announce a new local bank. Trouble is, setting up a new bank takes a bit of time.
Barclays extended its proposed closing date into this year, presumably to time in with the new bank setting up.
The new bank started giving appointments for clients. There was a HUGE Internet form to fill out before one could get the appointment, although to be fair, it was next day appointment service. But, it was miles away. Well, twenty minutes walk away for a person without a rubbish ankle. Apart from anything else, there was no option for Ms on the form. What sort of antiquated thinking is that?
Fast forward to the end of May when Barclays closed its doors and the Gibraltar International Bank opened for business in rather tastefully restored premises.
First appointments for new accounts? Mid August!! A couple of days later, that had become September. And that woman was running a business taking hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds a day. Last I heard it was January, and that was a few weeks ago. Could be February or March by now.
Ever tried going back to a cash economy, cancelling all your direct debits, having to pay bills on time in person, not having the safety fallback of a debit card on journeys so needing to carry sufficient cash for emergencies? Having to open new building society accounts to draw out cash but can’t use it like a current account? Nightmare. Absolute nightmare. Let alone Barclays giving us the wrong closing balance as they didn’t check a cheque in transit so we ended up having to repay them money. Which then incurred charges because it was overdrawn, although they eventually disappeared. Just as well. They wouldn’t have got paid.
Banks are an evil necessity. Although after living surprisingly painlessly in a cash existence for some months, I am thinking maybe they aren’t necessary after all. No PIN number. No card to lose. No bank to visit to draw out cash or deposit cheques/cash.
In the UK cheques were due to be phased out by 2018, but opposition to this, not least by older people like me who really can’t remember 21 million PIN numbers or secret codes for this that and the other, put the nail in that coffin and it seems they are to remain. For now.
The earliest cheque in the UK dates back to 1659. So they’ve been around for 350+ years.
In 2008, 45,000 trees were cut down to produce cheques. It’s always good to know the government is concerned about trees isn’t it? Let’s cut to the chase. Getting rid of cheques would be estimated to save banks £200 million by 2018 and large companies and the public sector would save £750 million. So much for tree hugging.
Maybe bringing back cash should be an option. Although it’s not quite so easy to track what people are doing. We wouldn’t want that, would we? After all, it’s still the biggest currency option according to this table:
From UK Parliament files.
Back to the new Gib bank. The government has been criticised for turning part of a cultural complex into a bank. Ever since I’ve lived here, the beautiful Georgian building used originally for military purposes has been run down and neglected. Now look at it.
Even more importantly, it’s just across the road from me. Like all governments, this one makes some arsey decisions. But, setting up a bank, for a population of 30,000 people, refurbishing a historical building and keeping it in daily use, is to be applauded. Let’s hope it lasts.
Boo to Barclays for withdrawing from Gibraltar, boo to NatWest for refusing to take new clients. Boo to banks generally really. Nothing new there eh?