22 September 2013

YOU can because you are a foreigner.

Anyone who has ever tried to use a bank in Ukraine to send money to another country will know the automatic barriers that you encounter from bank staff and the ‘system’.

Recently I needed to send some money (privately and not business related) to the UK. I was lucky to be provided with all the details of the account including full name, address of the bank, the IBAN of the account, the branch sort code etc. but I did not have the SWIFT code of the bank. Within the EU we use the IBAN for all transactions to make life easier, but here in Ukraine an IBAN is not recognised. I knew this already and thought I would ask the bank to find the SWIFT code.

The young banking assistant who was ‘helping me’ simply stated that she could not complete the transaction until I supplied her with the SWIFT code and handed me back the documents.
I immediately adopted my ‘I am the customer’ attitude and I pointed out that she could easily look up the code from their system or from a web site. But she informed me that I would have to do this. Anger took over and at that moment I saw the branch manager walking past and immediately called him over and explained the situation and ask him WHY the bank was expecting me to do all this work even though the bank would be charging me a large fee for this transaction. Was he really expecting me to leave the branch and go and use my laptop to look up the information myself and then return to the bank? Plus I then went into a tirade about customer service. He was embarrassed enough to start looking up the SWIFT code himself on the nearest computer and he found it within a few minutes.  He then ‘instructed’ the young banking assistant to help me complete the transaction.

The banking assistant then pointed out that I could only send the money in EURO and not GBP. I said that’s OK no problem. She asked me ‘’How do you know it will be OK, I think I need to check’’. I said TRUST ME it WILL be OK do not worry about it, the EURO will be automatically converted to GBP when it arrives on the account. She failed to understand that banking in other countries could not be the same as in Ukraine. I then asked the manager to come back and speak to me again and kindly requested him to ‘’TELL HER to just do the money transfer and stop looking for reasons not to do it.’’(This is natural in Ukrainian mentality. Not to do something)

He did as I requested and the transaction was sent on its way.
Sometime later I was explaining this little problem in the bank to one of my Ukrainian friends who immediately replied ‘’Oh well you can talk to people like that because you are a foreigner, we could never do that.’’ I understand what she means and I know that a Ukrainian customer would not have challenged the bank or have even asked the manager for help. This attitude is not good in my opinion. Ukrainians need to be more proactive and stop accepting the status quo in business and general life. I will return to this subject later.

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