Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fair weather friends

Banks are no friends to small timers like us. Every transaction costs you money. Their service attitude is generally the same all over the world. Some are more Shylock than others, though.

In Singapore, you feel insulted by the interest rate they offer you. But they are generally pretty efficient. In Malaysia, some are outright daylight robbers. Tellers in Australian banks are most knowledgeable about their products. After your transaction, you are usually asked, "can we do something more for your today?" But don't count on them to have ready cash if you need large withdrawals.

My wife is forever chasing better interest rates. She thinks the stock prices are too high and property bubble is about to burst. Where else to make your money work, especially with the real rate of inflation we are experiencing today? Banks of course!

Some of her fixed deposits in AmBank were due for renewal.

'Can I enjoy the rate just advertised?"

'Sorry, that is for new funds," she was advised.

Hong Leong Bank and Public Bank appeared to offer similar rate. She decided to try out Public Bank.

'Oh, you have to open a savings account first, bank in your AmBank banker's cheque and wait for it to clear before we can open FD accounts with us.'

'How long does it take?'

'Two days.'

Waiting for two days for the banker's cheque to clear? As if AmBank's cheques cannot be trusted?

'Oh, we treat all cheques like that.'

I suppose, this bank just wants the money as a source of cost-free fund for two days!

No deal; she proceeded to visit Hong Leong down the road.

Hong Leong in SS2 looks like a government office. (Many government offices in fact look much smarter now!) The visitors chairs are so pathetic there. There was only one 'consultant' manning the investment desk and she had to handle a few customers in one breath! And there were so many papers to fill.

* * *

Aren't Hong Leong Bank and Public Bank the best rated banks in the country, at least in terms of share price? I told a friend who has a daughter working in Hong Leong Bank about the conditions of its SS2 Branch.

'My daughter has to go to office at 6am in the morning. She normally doesn't come home before 9:30pm."

Apparently, the staff there have to do two persons' job. No wonder these banks are laughing all the way to - where else? - the bank of course!

* * *

Foreign banks are not much better. Standard Chartered is a case in point. Like all banks, the roll-over rate is lousy. (Banks don't need customer loyalty!) My wife decided to take her fixed deposit out to bank into another bank. She was advised that it would cost her M$5 for the bank to issue her a cheque to return her the money.

What? I need to pay for the money you owe me?

Yes, of course.

Upon my advice, she asked for the matured FD with interest to be paid in cash. It took the bank almost half an hour to assemble and count the money. Of course, it has to be counted in front of us.

She was also worried; would it be safe for us to walk around with the money?

But principles are principles! No two way about it.

We later found that all day light robbers in Malaysia behave the same!

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